Why should you bother with social media?
One of the first things I suggest is take a look at the habits of teenagers. I have a teenage son and he sometimes can spend five or 10 or more hours a day chatting with his friends on Facebook and laughing at videos on You Tube, and would probably spend more time on these sites if it weren't for such annoyances as homework and his parents.
My teenage son's habits are significant because he is much like most teenagers these days, and in a few years they will be adults entering the business world. If he were to come into this industry today, one of the most natural ways he would look to educate himself about it and make contacts would be on social media. To a lot of people in their 20s, this is already true and you don't have to be that young to be interested in enhancing methods of communication.
Only a few years ago when I would ask rental companies if they were going to try to market themselves to contractors on the Internet, or facilitate the possibility of reserving rentals over the Internet, frequently the answer I'd hear would be something to the effect of “I don't think our customers are riding around in their pickup trucks with a laptop computer.” How many of you feel comfortable making that kind of statement now? And how many of those customers, a few short years ago, had Smartphones with Internet access on them and apps that enable them to do all kinds of things right on their phones — including getting information about where their next equipment rental is going to come from or what kind of telescopic handler might be more effective for their next job?
Just a few months ago, I remember remarking to some colleagues that I thought Twitter was a fad that wouldn't last. I'm revising that opinion. But while the future of that particular application remains to be seen, I'm convinced that if it doesn't survive it will be because something more effective will come along, just as early search engines were superseded by Google.
So like it or not, consider it important or don't, but the reality is, social media is here to stay. But don't just take it from me. Find out for yourself by going to the Twitter or Facebook sites of other rental companies or equipment manufacturers and see what they are doing. Come to our own RER sites and see what we're doing — and we're new at this just like everybody. There's still a lot of self-serving promotion going on that gets in the way of real communication, but hopefully real value and communication will get through. I suggest you take a look at the cover story in April RER on what rental companies and manufacturers are saying and doing on social media sites. You can read it in our April issue or check it out online at http://rermag.com/business_technology/business_info_analysis/rental-companies-social-media-20110401/.
I also remember a few years back when we were talking about e-commerce, about billing customers online, about ordering equipment or buying parts online, about bidding on jobs through e-mail, and more than one of our readers laughed and said such things were a long way away. Well they got here much quicker than people thought.
It's to everyone's benefit to enhance communication with customers and suppliers. So please consider some new methods that shouldn't be dismissed without thought.