As a group, contractors in the heavy construction industry arrived late to the social media party. And while most of us have taken the plunge by now and created company pages on the major platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter), the results are mixed, to say the least. Here’s a breakdown of the lessons Hubbard has learned along the way of our mostly positive, occasionally frustrating, and always intriguing journey into online media.
First, a story. Early on in our efforts to create content for social media, many of our own employees wanted to know why it was important to advertise or promote our operations. Those who asked, brought up a very valid point: why market online when the majority of contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder anyway?
Our answer at the time was not a good one: because everyone else was doing it.
As it turns out, there are many very good reasons for contractors to promote themselves on social media, winning contracts just happens not to be one of them. That’s important to understand and accept from the start: for contractors bidding on public and private work, no number of likes will ever result in winning a contract—at least, not directly.
The answer, then, to the fundamental question about social media for contractors, is that we aren’t marketing to project owners. We’re marketing to project users. For Hubbard and companies like us, that means the public and our own employees.
What Social Media Does:
- First and foremost, social media puts a face and a voice to your company. The content that you post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms is the public expression of who your company is and what you’re about. That includes building roads and bridges, but more importantly it includes your values. Things like safety, community, environmental responsibility. Social media provides the most effective and wide-ranging platform to show the public your good side.
- Social media builds loyalty: When used correctly, social media is a terrific platform for celebrating your employees. Employee accomplishments such as earning a safety certification or completing an OJT training, or team successes such as completing a project milestone or winning a project award, or even a simple thank you to your employees for everything they contribute to the company—all of these are perfect content for social media and contribute tremendously toward retaining employees and recruiting new ones.
- Social media can mediate potential crisis: As contractors, we do everything we can to mitigate risk and prevent accidents related to our industry. Should an accident occur, however, maintaining active social media sites can help protect against negative press. For example: an accident occurs on a job-site and the local newspaper reaches out for comment. Or better yet, they don’t. Instead, a reporter enters your company name into an online search to get information for their article. An active social media presence can ensure that the top search results include information you want them to see: your recent safety achievements, awards for excellence, or internal training courses. If, on the other hand, the only search result is a negative online article about traffic delays caused by another one of your projects, guess what’s going to be reported.
What Social Media Doesn’t:
- Earn Your Company Business (at least not directly): Unless you are selling a product like asphalt, emulsion, or raw material directly to customers, as a contractor there is not a direct line from social media advertising to increased business. That said, an active and professional online presence does contribute value to private projects and even high-profile DOT projects. As the world continues to become more digitally connected, public perception plays an increasingly important role in all major infrastructure development.
- Compensate for Other Aspects of Your Company: Although social media is an effective tool for shaping a company’s image, it does not take the place of best practices. In other words, it is only as effective as the business it’s representing.
Quick Tips for Getting the Most from Your Company Pages:
- Consistency over Frequency: if the most you are capable of posting is once per week, that’s fine. Just stick to that schedule. Consistency, in the long run, eventually builds momentum.
- Allow Comments: It’s better to respond to a negative comment than to block all comments from your followers. Social media is a communication tool, and strong communication goes both ways. Mean-spirited, vulgar, or threatening comments should be deleted.
- Share News from Industry Partners: Social media helps form community ties, even if only online. Engaging with industry partners, even direct competitors, with likes, comments, and shares can go a long way toward strengthening our industry overall.
- Be Professional, but Have Fun Too: While it’s important to put a professional face forward, remember that companies are made of people. Allowing the human element to shine will go further toward building your company image than any number of lifeless advertisements.