It’s no secret that social media and digital marketing is the wave of the future - or rather of the present. And let’s face it, print advertising is a thing of the past. Your potential clients find value and credibility in your online presence, and where do you find them? On Instagram. Most successful contractors have utilized at least one type of social media to connect with their customers. And Instagram is the MUST of social media for a builder or a remodeler.
Instagram is a content-driven social media platform that is designed to help people create a community. And the local Instagram market for builders and remodelers is still ripe with opportunity. So now is a great time to get moving and grow your following. Many builders and remodelers have been in the business for years and are just realizing the benefit of using Instagram.
“Tell your story and never give up, it takes a while to break into anything, you have to put time into it” - Johnny Hourihan, Vintage Builders
If you're new to social media, or if you're just not convinced it's worth your time and effort, you're in for a treat. You're about to learn how construction businesses like you are using Instagram as one of their cheapest and fastest methods to connect with new clients. And just like them, you have the opportunity to showcase your work and appeal to the right clients. And, quite honestly, it is a lot easier than you think.
We reached out to some great builders and remodelers who have mastered using Instagram to win new clients and have compiled their best strategies and advice below:
Once you have an account, the first step is to create your profile. Your bio is really important and with only 150 characters you need to make it engaging. And make sure people know who to contact. Advice from veteran Instagrammer and owner of Vintage Builders in Boston, Johnny Hourihan, is to make sure the name of who to contact at your company is easily visible. He says “It should be on your profile, make it as easy as possible for people to contact you.”
Fill out everything in your profile completely, put a link to your website through the settings that you will find in the edit section of your profile. Instagram allows only one link so use it wisely.
Protip: If you would like to feature more than one link in your bio, you can create what is called a "link in bio" page. If you Google that term, you find several tools that offer these. It makes it easy for you to list several links on a single page, allowing you to drive your Instagram traffic to more than just your website, such as a blog or podcast. The picture below shows what our "link in bio" page looks like.
You can also include a couple of hashtags that describe your company like #yourcompanyname and #buildersofyourtown. If the word hashtag is confusing you, don’t worry we will cover that next.
Quality followers is the name of the game here. So it’s ok to have a slow uptick, take your time, and be thorough in how you present your company. Just because you start with zero followers and a month later you only have 10 ... it’s okay, it takes time to connect with the right people.
Johnny Hourihan from Vintage Builders says “It’s not about the likes and followers, it’s about explaining your business and telling your story.” So use Instagram as a tool to showcase your work and be authentic and the followers will come.
You guessed it, a hashtag is the pound sign (#) followed by descriptive words and it literally has changed the way we communicate virtually. They are very important to understand and use for two reasons:
1. It’s the way Instagram users search for content that's interesting and relevant to them.
2. It’s the way Instagram’s algorithm picks what a user might want to see.
So if you want to show up on the feed of someone searching for custom home builders, then you better hashtag your posts #customhomebuilder.
Most veteran social media users can throw up hashtags without even thinking about it. But, for businesses, it is a crucial part of reaching your target market. And if you use them incorrectly you are doing your business a huge disservice.
Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post, but don’t go all willy nilly and thoughtlessly throw up a bunch that you think might be good. Do your research and find ones that will help capture your audience. It’s important if you’re a local business to either hashtag your area or use the option to tag it. If you’re a builder or remodeler in New York then you want to target those followers and not ones in the United Kingdom.
According to Jared Banner, owner of Banner Built in Arizona, he keeps a handful of regular hashtags on his phone to copy and paste into his posts. He uses company-specific ones like #bannerbuilt and #Arizona on every post. But, he also tags a specific company or trade if the post relates, such as #customcabinets, #woodworking, or #craftsman.
Johnny Hourihan from Vintage Builders also suggests creating hashtags that are unique to your business. But he also chooses one for each individual job to make it easier for a client to find their project among any others Vintage might be posting about. He also recommends tagging the town it’s in and any towns you want to be working in. So leverage and strategize how to use your hashtags to get the most out of them.
Posting is a breeze and there are many opportunities to get creative. You can only post from the Instagram mobile app itself so using images off of your phone or tablet is the most convenient. Taking photos from your iPhone or other mobile device is pretty easy these days. See our blog post The Builders Guide to Creating Great Project Photos For Your Portfolio for tips on photography.
However, portfolio pictures are different, for Instagram you can take more creative or casual photos depending on what your content is. You should find the style of photography that works best for your company and keep your posts with a similar look and feel. But, that’s not to say you can’t shake it up a bit. Look around at other builders, remodelers, and tradespeople to see what and how they’re posting. But, never forget who your target audience is and make sure you’re always creating posts that will engage them.
A great example is JJP Construction, a custom home builder, and developer. Their Instagram posts are mostly high-end photography. Owner, Jason J. Pie says “I imagine if my post was a billboard, what do I want everyone to see? Would I be proud of it?” He believes that people want to see the beautiful end results, not the messiness of what you do. It’s great to post pictures of the process too, if it lends itself to your company's end goal. But, generally, Jason keeps that for an Instagram story instead (which we cover below).
But, keep in mind he also posts a few family pictures from time to time. A glimpse into your personal life allows your audience to connect with you on another level. But generally, those should still have a similar feel that your other posts have. It keeps your feed looking clean and consistent. See image below.
Johnny Hourihan from Vintage Builders also says “Don't post just to post, the ticket is to provide inspiration.” He has a rhythm, but he can’t always be motivated to stick to it strictly. If he can’t find inspiration, he chooses to skip it. Johnny says, “I want to post what I am excited about."
The story feature on Instagram allows you to share a live video or a pre-recorded one which stays visible for 24 hours. The really cool thing about it is that you can create a Highlight, which is a way of categorizing stories. Builders and remodelers seem to use stories differently, but they all agree on one thing … People engage more quickly through a story or live video. There is a reply box right there, so it allows people to comment instantly and they feel like they are having a direct connection to you.
Since Jason J. Pie from JJP Construction keeps his feed mostly finished projects, he says he uses Stories to post tips and tricks about the process. Jason says “This is where you can show your skills and how detail-oriented you are.” And he believes that people love to see the process as well as the end results, he just prefers to separate them.
Dennis Molla from Molla Builders says stories are a great way to connect with other builders and subcontractors. But, it also allows him to connect with his community in a more relatable way. Dennis has made it more interesting with categories like Friyay, where viewers see him leave every Friday at the end of the day (see image below). Something so simple is fun and engaging for people to watch. So think outside the box a little and get creative.
Whereas, Jared Banner from Banner Built uses Stories as a quick daily way to engage and makes short videos. He says “Stories get the most traction and immediate reactions.” And he believes that it’s good to show viewers that it’s not all “rainbows and butterflies” and that you can solve problems too.
Most Instagram pros and marketing agencies will tell you if you want to get the most out of Instagram, consistency is key. Fortunately, you get to decide what consistency is for you. Are you able to post a quick update or story daily? If not, maybe weekly? Once you know what cadence works for you, stick to it.
There are a lot of tools out there to help track and calendar your content. SEMRush and Combin Scheduler both offer free automation tools to post for you, along with other features. So if you don’t want to spend your day thinking about Instagram, snap some pics throughout the week and set them up to auto-post, saving you time and effort. This is also a great way to cover you when you’re off on that well-needed vacation with your family.
Jared Banner from Banner Built says that the biggest tip he can give to a newbie on Instagram is “Be consistent and stay consistent.” If your followers know you give updates every Friday, then they will check in on your profile to see your news. When Jared doesn't have anything new to share, he'll use those fun hashtags you see everywhere, like #throwbackthursday or #flashbackfriday. This allows you to share prior work and still be timely on your posts.
Getting followers is great, but following people with content that you find inspiring is great as well. Like any Instagram user, you can choose to follow hashtags within your account. So if you are a builder, you can follow #buildersofinstagram to see what other builders are posting.
The best advice Dennis Molla of Molla Builders can give other businesses is to “engage and be social.” And surround yourself with other good contractors. Don’t let your feed end up with a bunch of content you’re not interested in.
Jason from JJP construction believes that Instagram gives you access to communicate with people you think are unreachable. “Your audience is limitless and you would be surprised who responds to your messages or follows you back,” Jason says. He limits who he follows to only people he is inspired by or knows personally. Jason gets direct messages and comments regularly and he is active in responding to both for that same reason. He says “It lets followers know that you’re there and you will respond.” And he believes that this is how people are now finding their contractors and they need to engage with you.
Johnny from Vintage Builders agrees, he says “You really can contact anyone on Instagram.” He also believes that there are no excuses, “You can learn everything about the trades, if you’re new, use it to learn... reach out, follow people you can learn from - people who inspire you.”
“Relationships are built on Instagram and it creates a bond so when you meet a client the conversation feels like we already know each other” - Jared Banner, Banner Built
Instagram allows people to decide if you are the right contractor for them before they call you. You’re essentially being interviewed as soon as a potential client starts following you. Whether you only post about building or you add in some personal pics, you are building a relationship with your potential future client. Your followers get a glimpse into your world to decide if you are the right fit for them.
“Relationships are built on Instagram and it creates a bond. So when you meet a client for the first time, the conversation feels like we already know each other” Jared Banner from Banner Built says about how Instagram has changed his client dynamic.
Johnny from Vintage Builders says that Instagram absolutely increases his business and cuts down on client meetings, saving time. “Potential clients have a clear understanding of what you do and how you do it. When they’re ready they reach out and say, let’s rock and roll.” And because Vintage is ultimately focused on the execution of the project, that extra time adds to the client experience.
The fact is, Instagram is the most effective marketing tool for building and engaging with an audience for your business. Users interact more with companies they follow on Instagram than on any other platform.
Instagram is easy and shouldn’t feel intimidating. Jason from JJP construction says he thinks that most builders are afraid of getting on Instagram. But he believes that this is how people are finding the contractors they want to work with now.
Not only does it give you a huge ability to connect with potential clients. But, combined with the right advice, resources, and some planning it can also be fun. It’s a free way to engage your community only costing a little of your time.
Johnny Hourihan of Vintage Builders wants new users to know that they shouldn’t be let down by lack of responses or likes. He says “Tell your story and never give up, it takes a while to break into anything, you have to put the time and effort into it”
And for Jared of Banner Built, he knows it only takes one new client a year to make it worth his while — which he's already gotten in 2020. So your efforts could pay off big for you too.
As you get started remember to be authentic and:
The bottom line is, if you can only handle one social media platform, then make it Instagram. But, don’t take that from just us, follow the lead from the builders and remodelers who have been generating results:
Oh, and don’t forget to follow Buildbook while you're at it: @Buildbookhq
See you soon on Instagram!