The role of social media for HVAC companies is sometimes hard to pin down. Many business owners see it as an opportunity to build their company’s top-of-mind awareness (TOMA). Some hope to actually generate referrals and leads. And others simply want to establish their brands out of the fear that others will tar their reputation online.
It can be difficult to draw a direct connection between the number of Likes on your Facebook page or followers on Twitter and leads, conversions, or referrals. So how do successful companies use social media effectively? Let’s look at one of the most successful service companies in the country: Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning in Chicago.
Four Seasons boasts a mind-blowing 14,845 Likes on Facebook and often has dozens of Facebookers “talking about this”—that’s users actively sharing, liking, commenting, etc. on Four Seasons-related stuff. The company has built a large, highly engaged audience that actively promotes their content. That’s an accomplishment for any organization, much less an HVAC company.
A Social Media Polar Vortex
The recent “polar vortex” that froze most of the country provided a terrific opportunity for a company like Four Seasons, and it’s a great example of what it does so well. The vortex was a nation-wide event, affecting not only all of Four Seasons’ customers, but Americans across the country. In addition, it hit right in the sweet spot for any HVAC company, generating a ton of interest in heating-related content.
This can be a curse and a blessing for companies like Four Seasons. An increase in leads is obviously great, but as any business owner knows, there’s a point of diminishing returns. If weather, time, or other constraints prevent you from following up on those calls, a business boon can quickly turn into a boondoggle.
As usual, Four Seasons handled the situation deftly. At the beginning of the cold snap, a January 6 post warned against the dangerously cold weather, linking to a local news station’s forecast. The company also included its phone number. The post generated three Likes.
The same day, however, Four Seasons followed up with a post calling the demand for service “beyond extreme” and promising to work “around the clock” to help its customers. Crucially, it included a few quick tips for addressing emergency cold situations, like keeping faucets running to prevent frozen pipes, resetting your furnace, etc. It ended with a pledge to help “each and every person who calls.”
The response was significant—40 people Liked the post, 16 shared it, and it drew eight highly praiseworthy comments from customers. Customers vouched for the company’s concern for its patrons, dedication to service, and hard work.
The next day, Four Seasons posted a piece of advice that hit the sweet spot for many Chicagoans. It explained that most Windy City furnaces are simply not designed to handle the record low temperatures and that a service call wouldn’t help to address the issue. The post killed two birds with one stone—it probably reduced the volume of calls for the company, which may have been overwhelmed. It also generated a ton of goodwill because Four Seasons was essentially turning down the money that would’ve come from these fruitless service calls. The post garnered 65 Likes, 48 shares, and three praiseful comments.
Four Seasons’ approach to the polar vortex event is a study in how to rock it as a service company in social media. The company took advantage of a highly public event to provide both highly shareable information—like the explanation of Chicago furnaces—and generate a lot of goodwill for Four Seasons. David Meerman Scott calls it newsjacking, but it’s more than that—Four Seasons was speaking directly to its customers and skipping the media entirely.
The important thing to remember about social media is that your only power is setting the parameters of conversation. You can’t make people talk about it, and you can’t make them say what you want them to say. Far more than on your website or blog, you have to speak directly to your customers, in a way that engages them. Event-based social media is a kind of shortcut to generating that conversation.
You can learn from the Four Seasons example how to burnish your own company’s social media marketing. What major events, weather or otherwise, generate conversation that relates to your business? And how can you involve your company in the conversation in a way that can generate goodwill and, of course, leads?