Social media has become a large portion of our everyday lives. According to Global WebIndex, in 2014 the average amount of time a person spent on social media was 1.72 hours a day, an increase from the time recorded in 2013. While we readily admit that social media has become an important part of our personal lives, we are just beginning to see how important social media is becoming in our professional lives.
In the beginning, social media was an invaluable marketing tool. It allowed smaller companies to reach a much larger audience, especially for those companies that did not have the benefit of a larger budget. This became even more important as other frequently used media, such as pre-printed phone books and other print media, went by the wayside. These new social media sites began to provide a new level of information for the client, beyond the basic contact information of a phone number and an address. Companies could provide greater information on the types of services they offered, detail on the types of pests controlled and information on company personnel, allowing for a greater level of personalization between the company and the customer.
Prior to social media, interactions between pest management professionals were mostly limited to industry-specific events and meetings. Events like NPMA’s PestWorld, or state association meetings, were the best opportunity to get to know your fellow professionals. Now, it is so much easier to “connect” to other industry professionals. Social media sites, like LinkedIn for example, allow a user to view all those professionals who also may be a user of the site. You can connect with people based on a number of different criteria, including their company affiliation, job title or professional affiliations. It is through these industry networks that we as individuals are able to increase our knowledge base and grow professionally.
A frequent challenge for the professional out in the field centers on the proper identification of a pest species. In the past, unknown specimens had to be brought into the office or sent via mail to a university or known expert for the identification. This could be both time consuming and problematic, as specimens could be lost or destroyed in the process. With social media, many field professionals are now able to have a pest identified within minutes of posting a picture. This is especially helpful for those smaller companies that may not have a resource knowledgeable in pest identification. A perfect example of this is the closed Facebook group, PestCemetery.com. Members have the ability to post photos and ask questions of all other members, many of whom have either an ACE or BCE certification.
Lastly, how many times have you run up against a problem that you just didn’t know how to solve? Unfortunately, it happens more often than we care to admit, and what’s worse, we don’t know who to ask to find the answer. That’s where social media can help. There are a number of groups and sites that are dedicated to discussing all things pest control. Some sites can be as general as discussing the basics of pest biology and control, or as specific as discussing the properties of materials used in a particular pest management service. However, remember, it’s a group discussion, so you must be prepared to sort through lots of information, as there are always multiple opinions for every question.
The Next Steps.
Where do we go from here? It’s hard to say! As an industry, pest management always has tried to look to the future, embracing new technologies and services to help grow the business. The key is to maintain an open mind, imagine the possibilities and keep surfing!
The author is Rollins’ technical services director. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.