AFSA Member Companies in the Age of Social Media
The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) has some of the best and brightest in the industry. Our members are forward-thinking individuals looking to connect with their fellow AFSA members, their customers, and their friends. In this digital age, one of the very best ways to stay connected to anyone is through social media. Far more than just a place to post photos of your latest vacation, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn can be invaluable tools that help you grow your customer base and stay in the minds of those customers with whom you have already connected.
If you are an AFSA member company that is just starting to build a social media presence, it can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Start by taking a look at companies like yours around the country that are already using social media to connect with their customer base. ABCO Fire Protection in Cleveland, Ohio is one contractor member company that has harnessed social media to its advantage. Alex Garrote, marketing and special projects manager at ABCO, runs the company’s social presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. He sees social media as the perfect way to give ABCO a voice. “[It] helps form part of our brand identity, which plays a role in setting us apart from our competition,” says Garrote. “Our voice is primarily used to inform our social media followers of what is going on at ABCO, news about our industry, and news stories that relate to what we do.”
Often the first question that is asked when a company is first starting out on social media is: “How often should I post?” You want to connect with your community and customers, but you don’t want to overwhelm them. While the general wisdom states that a maximum of three posts on Facebook per day and a minimum of five tweets on Twitter per day are recommended, Garrote has found that posting just a few times a week allows ABCO to maintain a consistent voice while also providing timely, valuable content. “We purposefully try to avoid posting things just to keep our feed going,” says Garrote. “ABCO’s Twitter exists primarily as another way for people to find us, and a way to distribute our content in a bite-sized form.”
This is the generally accepted view regarding Instagram and LinkedIn, as well; a few posts a week is fine, as long as you are providing relevant content that engages your followers. Which begs the next question: What content should I post?
This is another opportunity to learn from your peers. Notice the kind of content that companies like yours are posting, and who is interacting with those posts – does one photo get more likes, shares, comments or retweets than another? Why might that be? Think about the photos, knowledge and tips that you have to share that your friends, family, customers, and the fire protection community might appreciate seeing.
Colonial Fire Protection Systems, Inc. in Rochester, New York is another AFSA contractor member company that is active on social media. Inspections & Marketing Manager Justine VanNostran runs social media for the company, and she regularly posts photos of the sprinkler installations the company does, along with hashtags specific to its work, such as #ColonialFire and #FireProtection. “We want to provide more insight into the world of fire sprinklers,” says VanNostran, “so we share pictures and stories to help people recognize the importance of fire sprinkler systems.”
VanNostran also posts fire sprinkler advocacy tools, and participates in larger hashtag campaigns such as #SprinklerGeek. The #SprinklerGeek hashtag is a great way for AFSA member companies to get involved in social media. It’s easy to participate – whenever you see an interesting sprinkler head, or a unique system installation, or if you’re ever out on a job and see something sprinkler related that you feel is worth sharing, snap a photo and post it to your favorite social media platform with the hashtag #SprinklerGeek. That way, other members of the fire sprinkler industry are sure to see it, and AFSA might even share it on its main pages.
Both ABCO and Colonial have found that social media has been a tool that has helped to grow their business. Garrote has seen ABCO’s social media presence become a differentiator in how its customers, competitors, and prospects see them, and found that it has helped them to connect with companies that they have partnered with in the past. VanNostran has found it has increased conversations about their company and their work, and has made raising awareness about life and fire safety easier.
It’s perfectly acceptable to start out slow. “You can always begin by sharing posts from other reputable, industry specific pages so you can stay active on your page and start conversations,” advises VanNostran. “But be sure to share their post, not copy, paste and tag them…that will hurt clicks to their pages. Then integrate posts about what your business specializes in, team shots, vehicles, etc.”
“Focus on providing great content,” suggests Garrote. “Also, don’t be afraid to let your voice show through and have a little fun with it. People want to feel they can relate to a company, to its values, and one way they do that is through a voice.”
As you get more involved in social media, don’t forget to follow AFSA! You can find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/firesprinkler.org, on Twitter at @AFSA, and on Instagram at @firesprinklerorg. Start engaging with your community today!