HVAC contractors ask more questions about Twitter than any other social media tool. Twitter, the microblogging service with approximately 200 million users, is one of the four social media tool pillars (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and now Google+).

Whether you are wondering if you should start using Twitter for business, or have been trying it but think it’s “stupid”, this article is for you.

Q: Should an HVAC Contractor use Twitter?

A: It depends. Twitter is more a broadcasting tool than a one-on-one tool, but can be used for both. For example, ANYONE can listen to anything that any company has to say. It’s not private like Facebook.

Think of it this way. You are at a cocktail party. The people in attendance flock to the person with the most interesting things to say. Then, they leave the party and tell others about it. That’s Twitter. It can also backfire for some, because if you are really boring or only talk about yourself (think of the cocktail party reference), you will pretty much be ignored.

Listening

That also means there are opportunities to listen to customers. For example, if you service the Cleveland, Ohio area and someone from downtown is complaining about their AC system, you can actively listen to that. You can also choose to respond if you like. So a solid goal for contractors is listening to what happens in the market.

Customer Service

Also, more and more customers are either praising or complaining via Twitter (like they have for years in online chat rooms). So, if your goal is customer service, if you aren’t on Twitter, you are going to miss out on key opportunities.

Content Sharing (aka, Earned Media)

SocialTract’s parent company, the Content Marketing Institute, has amassed tens of thousands of followers that pass on our educational posts and offers. This is marketing that wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t use Twitter. So, if you develop educational blog posts every week, the chances are high that your network will spread that message if the content is valuable and relevant.

Credibility

Let’s just get this out in the open. Contractors that don’t have an active presence in social media look behind the times (like when you didn’t have a web page). Enough said.

Search Engine Optimization (aka, “Getting Found in Google”)

Google’s latest Panda Update was critical for social media. The algorithm update meant that those contractors who share more content through social media like Twitter and LinkedIn, have the possibility for great search engine results for that content. In Google’s eyes, content that’s shared more is probably more relevant, so Google places it higher. So, if you use an SEO company to help you get found in the search engines, social media is now key.

Don’t use Twitter if you aren’t going to commit to at least listening to what people say about you. That would be like never answering a phone complaint (except in Twitter’s case, everyone can see it).

In Summary

No matter how hard I try, I can’t explain the benefits of Twitter unless you try it. Honestly, it does sound pretty stupid unless you actually try it.

Here’s a rule-of-thumb for getting started:

• Management: Someone in your organization should be responsible for listening and posting to your corporate Twitter account. Your main customer service person would be ideal.

• Time: Allocate at least 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at the end of the day to Twitter.

• Tools: Use Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or Dlvr.it to manage your Twitter progress.

• Measurement: Start looking at the behaviors that come from Twitter. How many people mention you each month? Are they customers or prospects or neither? How much traffic do you get to your website from Twitter? What are your search engine rankings for particular content?

Here is more detail on how to get started using Twitter for your HVAC business.

Joe Pulizzi is CEO of SocialTract , the leading blogging and content service designed for service companies. SocialTract is part of the Content Marketing Institute , which runs the largest international content marketing event, Content Marketing World (Sept 6-8, 2011). Joe is also co-author of Get Content Get Customers, which details how companies can publish content to drive revenues. He will be speaking at HVAC Comfortech in Indianapolis this year. Joe can be reached at joe@socialtract.com.