I’ve been in the electrical trade for over 17 years. I’ve worked as a helper, a journeyman, a service manager and a marketing director. While a lot has changed since I first picked up a screwdriver on one of my step-dad’s side jobs, one thing has stayed the same: the way that electrical contractors market their business.

As a contractor marketing specialist, I’ve noticed that many electrical contractors are still focusing much of their attention on the Yellowpages and Angie’s List. While these two spaces were once the most reliable sources for new customers (next to word-of-mouth referrals, but I’ll get to that in a moment), they have become increasingly ineffective and are really a waste of your marketing budget.

Let me give you a real life example. An electrical contractor I’m doing work for has had a half-page ad in the phone book for years. Despite my encouragement to reallocate those funds to a digital marketing strategy, they decided to purchase the ad again in 2015. That was six months ago, and since then, the company has received less than 10 leads from the Yellowpages, and not all of them became customers. Their advertising on Angie’s List has yielded slightly better results, but even they have produced a steadily declining return on investment.

Why are things like the Yellowpages and Angie’s List so ineffective?

There’s one big reason why the current status-quo is no longer working as well as it used to. The general public’s attention is now shifting to the internet. Where they were once looking to the phone book to find someone to install a ceiling fan, they’re now asking their friends on Facebook for recommendations. When their lights go out, they’re hopping on the internet and searching on Google for an electrician. If you want to continue to grow your business, you need to be where your target market’s attention is. Enter, social media.

Why should I be on social media?

There’s another reason why the current marketing standards are becoming less effective. Things like the Yellowpages, Angie’s List and even Google Adwords are all focused on being visible when someone already needs an electrician. Leveraging social media can allow you to build relationships with your target market before they need an electrician, increasing the chances that they will come to you for their next project.

Social media can also show people the human side of your company. After all, people want to do business with humans, not robots.

What social media sites should I focus on?

While all social networks have the potential to help you grow your business, I’ve found that there are two main networks that have proven especially useful: Facebook and Instagram.

Use Facebook to build relationships and drive traffic

Facebook is great for building relationships and driving traffic to your website. By sharing useful content and participating in conversations relating to your trade, you can establish relationships with users, drive traffic to your site and position yourself as an expert in your field. Doing this will also increase your word-of-mouth reach, as you are more likely to get recommended by people who you have an existing relationship reach.

Use Instagram to showcase your work

Instagram used to be littered with teenagers who would never in a million years need an electrician. Fortunately for you, those teenagers have grown up, bought houses and are still sharing pictures like their lives depended on it. Posting photos of recently completed work in Instagram will not only gain you notoriety online, it will also potentially spark an interest in people who were thinking of getting work done in their home or office. Most people have at least one project they’ve stored away in the back of their minds. Your picture could be the thing that convinces them to get started.

What about other social media platforms?

Twitter and LinkedIn, next to Facebook and Instagram, are two of the largest social media sites out there. If used correctly, they can be very effective as a community-building channel for your business.

Twitter is great for getting your content seen and shared. The only downside is it’s very hard to target a specific area with your posts, unless you’re doing paid advertising. Personally, I use Twitter to network with like-minded professionals in an effort to gain notoriety as an expert in marketing for contractors. While you are more than welcome, and encouraged to use Twitter to market your business, I would caution against relying on it as a lead-generation tool.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a great lead-generation tool if you are interested in building relationships with general contractors. These relationships will help you bypass what I think is a broken bidding process and become the electrician of choice for the general contractors in your area. LinkedIn is also good for finding local business owners and executives, who tend to have the budget for larger residential projects.

To sum it all up

Social media is no longer a fad, it’s not just for kids, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Social media is where your customers are hanging out, and if you want to stay in business, it’s where you need to be as well.