Facebook’s new Graph Search is still in a testing phase right now, but it will launch sitewide in the coming months. And when it does, your solar company had better be “liked” by your customers.
What is Graph Search? Very simply, it’s an internal Facebook search engine that will allow your potential customers to search Facebook for people, places, and businesses that their friends “like.” Plus, they can narrow the search to a specified local location, or nationally. More significantly, Graph Search lets you search for businesses that their friends like, too, so searches can be broader.
For example, say I’m looking for a solar installer in the San Francisco Bay area. In the current Facebook, I might ask my friends if they know a good solar installer in the area. If I actually searched Facebook, ads would appear in my stream or off to the side, and Facebook would bring me to a web search powered by Microsoft's Bing!
When Graph Search launches, I’ll no longer have to post on my wall to ask my Facebook friends for recommendations; I’ll already be able to search solar installers, and see the company pages that my friends like, if any. Plus, I’ll be able to see what solar installers my friends' connections like, and I'll be able to narrow that search to a particular city.
What this means is that your brand’s social currency is going to be more important than ever. So, you should be “liked” and “luved” on Facebook by all of your current and past solar customers. Plus, if you're a national brand, you'll need to be more local, creating separate local pages for every city you serve.
Whether local or national, the challenge is getting customers to like your Facebook page, either before or during, and after the sale — plus maintaining that relationship long after the sale. That’s tricky, because people don’t like to be spammed on Facebook. It’s a private social space, and assuming you did a good install, the need to be in contact with your solar company through Facebook becomes unnecessary. She's sold. The install is over. No more info needed. Unlike or ignore.
So, how do you get liked and keep the relationship going after the sale? Here are three brief strategies.
Strategy 1: Post your useful blog posts, infographics, etc on Facebook. Once again, the solar blog is an invaluable and far reaching marketing tool. If you tell prospects that they should like your Facebook page in order to get useful solar updates about local rebates, tax information, seasonal discounts, product updates, they have a reason to like your page, at least in the beginning. Your blog is the conduit to providing that information and posting it on Facebook.
Strategy 2: Build a community. It’s not enough just to post blog content and ignore your Facebook page. Your Facebook page is a little island community, and the people who like your page are… people. They’re not just interested in solar. So, when you’re posting content and news stories, expand your horizons to green subjects that families care about, such as organic food, energy efficiency, and electric cars. Ask your followers energy efficiency and recycling questions. Create polls. Also, have a personality, and of course, respond quickly to any solar questions. If you build the right kind of welcoming and interactive community, your customers will want to continue your Facebook relationship long after the sale.
Strategy 3: Build a referral program. I’m assuming that all of your customers love your company and sales people. If that’s the case, you may not need a monetary customer referral program, but I don’t think it can hurt, especially with family budgets being tight. So, if you have an established referral program, great. If you don’t’ have one, create one. Offer $300 to $500 for every closed sale. To be a member, ask new members to like your Facebook page. That’s the sign up process. Then, once a month, remind your Facebook followers about the program and its financial benefits, and when someone receives a referral fee, be sure to publicly congratulate these referral partners on your Facebook page.
Of course, each of these strategies takes time and work, but they're also relatively low cost. if you'd rather pay money and just advertise on Facebook, the company is also developing new ways to target potential customers with Graph Search, as well. You’ll also have a better idea of which ads are working and which aren’t, and you’ll be able to craft more specific messages to particular demographics.
Facebook really is the biggest popularity contest on the web right now, and it's important for solar companies to win that contest. So don’t ignore it. Instead, implement a strategy and…UnThink Solar.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” advises solar companies on marketing, communications, and branding. Want more solar marketing info? Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact Solar Fred through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.
The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.