n 2002, the social media phenomenon as we know it started to take its form with the launch of Friendster, which helped build a rich online community between people with common interests. Ten years later, fueled by a new generation of smartphone-equipped consumers, a plethora of social networking sites dominate popular culture today. As it stands, Facebook currently boasts 955 million users and more than 42 million fan pages; LinkedIn has 150 million users; 140 million people are on Twitter; and YouTube averages four billion views per day.
Still, a great majority of installing security companies have yet to embrace social networking as an approach to market to current and prospective customers, with very legitimate reasons for not entering into the social media realm. For most companies, finding the time to manage a social media page with an already full schedule seems like a daunting task. Others might think that social networking is not oriented for business-to-business communications. Lastly, many wonder how they can leverage the power of social media to generate business that results in the greatest return on investment (ROI).
Despite those concerns, there are still plenty of reasons for security firms to jump on the social media bandwagon. For example, as costs increase to advertise in the yellow pages and more consumers stop relying on phone books, electronic security contractors must find a way to get exposure without a heavy price tag. The answer for many could be social media.
To help electronic security contractors become active and effective on social media, SSI contacted a more than a dozen industry professionals with a keen grasp of managing a successful social media marketing plan. Learn best practice tips for handling social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Choosing What Works Best
Before diving headfirst into social media marketing, company executives must determine the message they want to convey to their clientele, according to Kristen Simmons, managing partner of the marketing firm Lightswitch, which consults with businesses in various industries to improve the customer experience.
“The most important thing a company should have is a strategy,” she says. “A lot of companies are changing their tactics before they really think of an approach, and that’s not good. Think about what you want to get out of social media.”
That’s exactly what the higher-ups at Atronic Alarms of Lenexa, Kan., did when they decided to cross the social media threshold in 2009 to boost traffic to the company’s Web site. Realizing that social media could possibly overtake radio and television in terms of advertising, the firm’s marketing and graphic design consultant, Megan Ragan, researched different sites to see which would work best for the business.
Before engaging in social media, Megan Ragan, marketing and graphic design consultant for Atronic Alarms, researched many social networking sites to determine what would work best for the firm.
“In the security industry, you don’t want to come off as a fly-by-night cheese ball, so I researched everything,” Ragan says. “I got my hands on everything that I could read because there are a lot of personal social media sites versus what’s good for business. That helped me to determine what networking sites to focus on.”
Similarly, San Diego-based SDA Security’s Megan O’Neal also sought to learn what worked best for the company when she joined the team as marketing communications coordinator in September 2011. Being a recent graduate of UCLA with very little knowledge of the electronic security industry, O’Neal studied how other businesses in the trade managed their social media accounts to see what did and did not perform well.
Simmons believes that all business organizations should imitate O’Neal’s method. “Be knowledgeable about the conversations that are happening in your industry,” she says. “Look at what the people are saying about you and your competitors. It’s amazing how many companies don’t do that.”
After researching the numerous social media platforms, some companies still might be overwhelmed on choosing the best outlet to start with first. For those who are hesitant, Brian Plant, founder and CEO of eFish Marketing, a Los Angeles-based Internet marketing agency geared toward security alarm dealers and monitoring companies, suggests Facebook as a jumping off point.
“For security companies, Facebook is a great place to start because there are already so many of their existing customer base and potential customers using it,” he says.
Branding Your Facebook Profile
In March 2012, Facebook launched the new Timeline format, which essentially revamped profile pages of its users. Among the changes, users have the ability to upload a cover image (815 X 315 pixels), a profile picture (180 X 180 pixels to 32 X 32 pixels) and customize apps to engage visitors. Timeline is an excellent tool for marketers — if they know how to use it. Unfortunately, the majority in the security industry are not using Facebook to its full potential, says Plant, who manages the social media presence for a handful of security firms.
“It’s amazing to me how many security companies don’t even have a cover image on their Facebook profile,” he says. “It’s so important to have a compelling branded image. Additionally, all business information needs to be up to date and accurate, such as the history of the company and where it’s located. There also needs to be a link that points back to the company Web site.”
When choosing a cover image, it’s crucial to select art that focuses on the market your business is trying to reach. For example, if residential customers are your target audience, it’s best to use a photo of a happy family outside of their home. If your goal is to grow recurring monthly revenue (RMR) through the commercial market, use imagery of a building surrounded by business professionals.
For Provo, Utah-based Vivint Senior Digital Marketing Director Chad Solis, it’s vital to have actual people in the images to create a dynamic environment. “You want to have people there to make it feel inviting, so there is a strategy on the types of imagery that we use,” he says. “We want to show the company to our customers.”
O’Neal concurs, noting that whenever she changes her cover image, it displays on the news feeds of SDA’s fans, which ultimately bring in new users. Importantly, O’Neal makes sure not to change the cover photo too often, as it might confuse users. “If you’re constantly changing your cover image, it gets a little crazy,” she explains. “There will be no consistency with the page, so I phase it out every one or two months.”