Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about three of The 7 Crucial Marketing Secrets Every Pool Builder Should Know. Namely:
  1. Buying a swimming pool is a big deal
  2. To the average homeowner, you look just like everyone else
  3. Your online image is a lot more important than you think. 

Let’s move on now to what is perhaps the most contentious marketing advice you're going to hear: Yes, there are benefits to using social media, but chances are you’re doing it WRONG.

The reason I say "you're probably doing it wrong" (and the reason it's so contentious) is because there is a ton of misguided advice out there when it comes to social media. And chances are that's the advice you've been given. You've probably been told:

  • "Social media is everything.
  • "You should be tweeting!" 
  • "Everyone should be blogging." 
  • "If you're not spending at least two hours a day on social media, you’re totally missing out."

I'm certain that the above advice — wherever you heard it — was well-intentioned. But here's why I unabashedly say it's misguided and may not be the best advice for you, on the surface, anyway. It requires a brief (15 second) history lesson.

Social media pretty much took the marketing industry by storm about five years ago. It was new, it was different, it was evolving, it was exciting, it was unknown. It was all the rage. And starry-eyed marketing disciples soon started chanting, "Social media is the future of marketing!" 

Yes, well, close, but not quite. They should have said, "Social media is in the future of marketing." Social media is indeed here to stay for an untold number of years, and it certainly plays a role in marketing, much like testimonials and yard signs. But it has not replaced the core fundamentals of pool marketing, which include:

  • Having a good story to tell. (Good marketing demands that you have something good to say and that you say it well.)
  • Maintaining an Internet presence. (You’ll need a website if you want any leads besides referrals.)
  • Having a low-risk offer to entice future buyers to reach out to you now. (Your website needs a "call to action.")
  • And you need some sort of "drip marketing" or other automatic follow-up system to stay in touch and nurture those prospects while they continue to spend months or years thinking about their options. (You need to tell your story often.)

Social media can certainly play a supporting role to the above fundamentals, but it is not likely to displace any of them.   

RELATED: The Do's and Dont's of Digital Marketing 

On the other hand, here's one reason why social media might still play a huge role in your marketing future: Google loves social media. (For the time being, anyway.) So even if no one goes to your Facebook page and no one listens to your tweets, you still might benefit from social media activity, because Google may boost the organic rankings of the pool builder who is more active in social media.

Ironic, isn't it?  You don't have to really be active in social media; you just have to make it look like you’re active, and you'll get your reward of better search engine rankings.

And that's why I should throw out this little yellow caution flag here. Bogus social media activity is a lot like bogus backlinks and bogus content. These are all naughty methods of gaming the system. And as you probably know, Google has devoted itself to finding people who are gaming the system and punish them with their world-famous Google penalties.

That's why I recommend that if you are going to get involved in social media, do what makes sense.

And what makes sense depends totally on what you sell. That's why I have identified specific strategies depending on whether you are a builder, retailer or a service professional – because the strategies for each are different.  

Here then are my recommendations, based on which line of business you’re in:

A pool builder should: 

  • Create a Facebook page and post daily updates of all your different jobs in progress. If they're okay with it, tag your homeowners in the photos you take of their backyards. (That will send a notification to the homeowners, which should then naturally inspire them to like and share your photos with all of their friends.) I explained this in more detail in my blog post here.  
  • Do the same thing with Google+. (Click here for more advice about how you should utilize Google+). 
  • Create a Houzz account and post your very best project photos. (It’s also perfectly fine to do this with Flickr and Pinterest, but it won’t have near the power of Houzz.)  Click here for more details on how to use Houzz. 
  • Create and proactively manage an account with AngiesList. (Note – I didn’t say advertise with AngiesList; I’m just talking about setting up your free account.) More detailed advice about what to do with AngiesList here
  • Update ALL of your online accounts (including the ones mentioned above, plus Yelp, Merchant Circle, YP.com and many more) with accurate and interesting information about your company. This includes good-looking photos and nice videos, if you have them. 
  • Make sure that all of the great videos that you posted on YouTube and elsewhere are ALSO on your website. After all, if a video is so great that it's worth posting on your YouTube page, then it's worth posting on your website also.

 RELATED: Home Sweet Houzz

Some things pool builders shouldn't do:

  • Don't try to sell anything on social media. In fact, you really shouldn’t even brag on social media, because it’s a turnoff in print just as much as it is in person.
  • Don't encourage people to leave your website to go visit your social media pages. (They may not come back.)
  • Don't waste time with Twitter or Instagram, unless, of course, you are so incredibly popular in your market that you have at least 100 potential local pool buyers who are already signed up to receive your tweets and messages. (And by the way – If you’re a pool builder who’s figured out how to get future pool buyers to sign up for your tweets before they've even met you, and you’ve actually found many interesting things to tweet about, then I’d like to meet you, congratulate you, and buy you a beer.) Otherwise, all you're doing is tweeting to your friends, family, coworkers, and probably some of your competitors.

Retailers:

  • Retailers are the one exception where you might actually want to promote items for sale through your social media – especially Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. That’s because your followers are most likely loyal/repeat customers who in fact are interested in what you sell. And if you’ve got a unique product coming in or special sale coming up, then your loyal customers would probably be delighted to hear about it. 
  • Retailers should also update all of your online accounts as described above. 

RELATED: Social Media – Let Your Customers Do the Talking

Service companies: 

  • Truth be told, the best thing a service company could do is send regular emails (yes, good old-fashioned emails) to all of your customers and prospects on at least a monthly basis, and use them to share good advice about proper pool care. 
  • Service companies can also potentially use Twitter to stay in contact with their clients.  But you should recognize that (1) a 140 character tweet isn’t going to be nearly as effective as a non-space restricted e-mail, and (2) in most cases, your tweet is just going to direct them to a webpage or e-mail anyway. Thus, if you think you need to tweet, then you should first make sure you are sending out salient emails, and then supplement those email blasts with tweets.

Some final social media tips for EVERYONE:

  • Don’t expect miracles from your social media efforts.
  • If you subcontract your social media posts, don’t expect to have very many followers. (Most people can sniff out the disingenuous nature of hired puff posts.)
  • Don’t get political. Unless, of course, your goal is to disenchant fully one-third to two-thirds of your target market.
  • If you haven’t figured out how to make Twitter work for you, then don’t expect Instagram or Pinterest to work for you either. (Again, the secret is “you have to have followers.” And if you have followers, why not just send them an e-mail?)
  • Remember that – like any other form of advertising – social media is only going to reach one segment of your target market. You should ideally use multiple media and venues to reach the majority of your target market.

Okay, that’s quite a list of do's and dont's. But I hope it puts you on the right track of how to properly manage your efforts in the social media arena. If you’re still hungry for more social media advice, you’ll find more on one of my previous blog posts here

One thing I haven’t gotten into yet is how to take advantage of all the other free online directories and websites that can help send new prospects your way. I will cover those in my next blog post.