Social media in the pest management industry (or about any industry you care to name, for that matter) isn’t going away. A look at the responses from PCT’s State of the Industry survey is enough to give you a good idea of this phenomenon, with Facebook being the most utilized social media platform.
When asked, “Which of the following marketing techniques do you plan on continuing, starting or stopping in 2012?” for social media, 18 percent answered “start,” 43 percent answered “continue,” while 39 percent answered “don’t know.”
How many answered “stop” using social media? Zero.
The usefulness and power of social media to get your business’s name out into the customer’s mind is something that can’t be ignored — and hasn’t been by pest control professionals.
It’s easy to be intimidated — many companies and organizations have established a presence on Twitter and Facebook, with thousands of followers and “likes.” Though it’s not something that will happen overnight, there’s little stopping even the smallest firm from building up a similarly muscular arm of its marketing strategy.
Scott Glaze is the president of Arab Pest Control of Kokomo, Kokomo, Ind., where he employs about 10 people. Glaze told PCT he tries to get his company’s name out there on every social media channel he can find. “It’s about branding your company. There are a lot of customers out there that aren’t our customers yet,” he said. “Hopefully when they see us, we’ll be the first one they think of when they have insects.”
While social media allows pest control companies (and everyone, for that matter) to exchange information at lightning-quick speed, Glaze said not to expect tangible results from a social media campaign to quite match that pace. He said building Arab of Kokomo’s presence on various social media outlets has been a steady process. “It’s not immediate gratification. You don’t just show up out there, and phones start ringing off the hook. You get into a comfort zone. You’re not blowing up (your customers’) feed, you put a few things out there,” Glaze said. “If they have any questions, they can contact you. Everybody wants to be where their potential customers are.”
Facebook's Impact. While social media was not the most effective, nor the most utilized marketing tool among those that answered the PCT poll, PMPs are using this medium. When asked “Which websites and/or services are you currently using to promote your pest control business?,” Facebook came in third, with 42 percent of respondents stating they used the platform. Yellowbook took the lead with 66 percent, and Google second with 48 percent. Twitter fell back from the pack, with 12 percent stating they used the service.
Elsewhere, when asked “Which website and/or service is proving most successful in promoting your pest control business,” Google reigned supreme with 38 percent indicating it was the most successful. Yellowbook was second with 33 percent and Facebook third with 15 percent. Twitter failed to register, with zero percent saying it was most effective. Other social sites, like social coupon hubs Groupon and Living Social, were small blips on the radar, with one and zero percent, respectively.
Facebook sits as the unofficial king of social media platforms (with 552 million daily active users globally as of June 2012, according to numbers reported by Facebook), so it is not surprising that it seems to be the outlet favored most by those who responded to PCT’s survey.
Social Media Logistics. The act of getting your firm into the social media realm may seem a daunting task, and there are a number of considerations to make — even for one of the industry’s most ubiquitous organizations.
“Right now we have Facebook and Twitter, so we’ve dipped our toes into the social media pool,” said Janay Rickwalder, director of communications and marketing with the National Pest Management Association. “Ultimately the goal is to become more engaged, more proactive and right now we’re just trying to use it as another tool to reach members.”
Rickwalder is responsible for ensuring the Facebook and Twitter accounts for NPMA are consistently active and balanced between promotional items and interesting, informative topics. “If we were to only provide promotional stuff, we’d lose credibility. Because then it’s not exactly a social media outlet, rather...just a promotional outlet,” she said.
Rickwalder said keeping up with that aspect is important. “Identifying somebody on your team that can take ownership of the accounts (is important). Somebody that’s managing the messaging you’re delivering is very important. Making sure you’re responsive to people who like your page, any of their requests, feedback, whether it’s good or bad.
“You’re in a very public forum,” she continued. “Whatever you say, it’s going out to a whole bunch of people. You have to make sure you manage that message. I think a lot of it is just common sense — it’s the same thing if you’re sending out a broadcast email message to your customers.”
Arab’s social media accounts are managed by Glaze himself. The firm’s Twitter handle has his own name, as well as the name of his firm. He says getting those personal details incorporated with the accounts are helpful. “When I was getting into it, I did as much research as I could to make sure I was doing it correctly. The majority of people out there, unless you’re Pepsi (or) Coca-Cola, (customers) want to know you’re real, (that) there’s a real person behind there.”
Glaze agreed with Rickwalder in that keeping a consistent active presence on social media accounts is important. He recommended keeping an informal schedule. “If you’re going to get into it, dedicate X amount of time per day to do that. For Facebook, maybe three posts per day, morning, afternoon, night. Twitter, one per hour. You have to be active.”
The Future. In her experience with the medium, Rickwalder said she has observed pest control firms utilizing social media in a number of ways. “I see a lot of activity from individual firms,” she said, including a lot that are very sophisticated. “They’re using it the way you’re supposed to use it, as a means to reach out.
“Things have moved fast and furiously within the last five years,” she said. “Now all of the sudden we’re capable of doing so many things, communicating in so many different ways. People are experiencing significant success using social media. It makes you wonder what’s next. It’s going to continue to grow and evolve as the technology continues to grow and evolve.”
What’s next remains an open question, but for now, social media is proving in our industry to be a new and effective way to reach customers. “It’s about branding your image,” Glaze said. “Making it convenient for people to get to. That’s what our social media is about.”
The author is associate editor for PCT magazine. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.