Online marketing isn’t done in a day – but it doesn’t have to take days at a time either. Using blogging, social media sites and other online platforms should be an ongoing process for HVAC contractors. Over time, it is a process that serves to build connections between you and customers and enhance your position as the heating and cooling leader in your service area. If you break it down, though, the steps are pretty simple – and many can be performed in a short time.

Build 30 minutes or so into your schedule a couple of times a week to improve your business’s online presence. Here are five quick ways:

Get them to Like you, really Like you, on Facebook.

When a reader hits the Like box on your company’s website or blog, it’s a score for you. That’s because, by pressing that blue icon, he or she is virtually volunteering to receive your future posts on the social-networking site. (Don’t have the Like box? Start here. Don't have a Facebook page? Start here.) That homeowner also is announcing to his or her own Facebook contacts that they found something worth checking out – invaluable virtual word-of-mouth advertising. HVAC contractors should start collecting Likes by adding the URL to your Facebook page on printed marketing materials, business cards, contracts, email signatures, websites and Twitter accounts.

After that, get clever. To compel a Facebook Like, you have to post something special. Maybe it’s a gift certificate for the 500th or 1,000th person to Like your page -- but only you know what that number is. Maybe it's worth-their-time maintenance-plan discounts for Facebook fans only. Or maybe it's great content -- an interesting photo on your website, a set of surprising statistics about the local air quality, or a touching blog post about your business’s role in a charity. Maybe it’s a timely set of energy-saving tips during a heat wave. Be creative. What would compel you to Like a business?

Be a supportive presence on other local organizations’ sites.

Whether it’s the Chamber of Commerce blog, a local charity’s Facebook campaign or a hometown team’s fan site, leaving comments on the sites of other local organizations demonstrates your support, as a business owner, for the community as a whole. Consider carefully whether you should use other organizations’ sites to try to sell your products or even display your expertise (it’s probably a NO) – a sell of any kind may be off-putting to other community leaders. Instead, take the opportunity to associate your business’s name with constructive – positive -- dialogue. Every comment on another site is a breadcrumb back to your site. After a while, those can really add up.

Use Twitter to rebroadcast your content.

Twitter can be a seriously smart way to connect with customers. From an HVAC contractor’s perspective, Twitter offers an easy way to ship your existing content to a whole new crowd. Every time someone on Twitter shares your content, that tweet can be seen by their network. That’s what we really care about with Twitter…your network’s network.

Twitter limits posts to 140 characters or fewer, so you’ll usually write a brief message and include a link to more in-depth content posted elsewhere. Send Twitter followers to your timely blog posts, the YouTube video your technicians made about air-filter replacement, or the latest news on energy prices. Occasionally, though, a straightforward message is all you need: “A/C on fritz during heat wave? We’ve beefed up our repair crew. 555-5555.” But what we really want is to send out quality information that our network is most likely to share.

Check out what others are saying about you – and respond.

For better or worse, your online presence isn’t limited to your own sites. Angie's List, Google Places for Business, Yahoo Local and other customer-ratings systems can make or break your relationship with a prospect – before you get your chance to share your message with them online, much less meet them in person.

Monitor those sites, and respond promptly to all reviews and comments – whether they’re positive or negative. When they’re positive, thank the customer. When they’re negative, view it as an opportunity – probably not to win back that disgruntled customer, but to take responsibility for the situation. Offer to fix the problem, and explain the steps you’ve taken to prevent similar misunderstandings or problems in the future.

Be mindful of your own readers.

Respond as quickly as possible – and thoughtfully – to customers' comments and questions on your own blog, website and Facebook page. A key advantage of social media is their potential to foster relationships. You’ll impress readers when you take the time to engage with them. Enhancing your HVAC company's presence online doesn't have to consume much of your time. Break it down into small tasks -- and your small business will see big results. Remember…breadcrumbs.

Joe Pulizzi is CEO for SocialTract, the leading blogging/social media service for HVACR Contractors. Joe’s new book, Managing Content Marketing, is now available on Amazon and Kindle. Joe can be reached on Twitter @juntajoe or by email joe@socialtract.com.