If the solar industry wants to learn how to attract social media followers for its solar brands, the good folks at Marketing Sherpa have some great tips from a recent survey of 455 non-solar marketers.

Although these results aren’t tied specifically to solar marketing, the answers came from numerous B2B and B2C marketing professionals in other industries, including retail, healthcare, government, and manufacturing.

With that in mind, let’s go through the responses, and then I’ll give some perspective on how some of these lessons might apply to solar social media.

The first question asked was, “How do you attract customers to follow, like, connect, etc. with your brand’s social media account(s)? Please select all that apply.”

Marketing-Sherpa Survey-Social Media

As you can see from the chart above, the overwhelming majority of responders (78 percent) said that producing useful content such as how-to articles, reviews and tipsheets is their main tactic.

Great, but what’s “useful content” for solar marketers? Of course, that’s going to vary with your target market. If you’re a solar PV manufacturer, then useful content could be panel or inverter installation tips and videos, how efficiency can affect long-term energy production and return on investment, the importance of quality and reliability, and many other topics that your distributor, installer, and EPC customers care about.

If you’re a solar installer marketer, once again, your useful content should be relevant to the fears and hopes of your target markets. If you’re a solar manufacturer, it’s all about supporting the success of your installers.

  • For residential customers, blog about their most frequently asked questions, such as how much does solar cost, does it work at night, how much will I save, etc. That will present you as a solar authority within your target audience and a sincere conveyor of useful information.
  • Create infographics that explain your solar product or service.
  • Produce video testimonials to show that different kinds of people were all very satisfied with your solar products and services.
  • Schedule regular webinars via free services like Google Hangout that you can record and repost.
  • Training videos matter, especially if you want to convince installers to switch products. Not only can videos be useful information and show product ease-of-use, they are also very shareable on social media.

The other tactics on the list are also great reminders for all solar marketers to keep in mind and use as appropriate for their target segments.

The second question asked was, “What have you learned about getting customers to engage with your brand?” I think there were a lot of great insights here. The key takeaways for solar social media were:

  • Be generous. To get people to follow you, offer useful information–but also a discount.
  • It’s more important to be relevant than regular. Don’t blog or share all news just for the sake of being active. Think quality over quantity of social posts. Nevertheless, if you can’t blog at least twice a month, that also makes it look like your company isn’t really dedicated to educating your customers through a blog. That’s fine, but own it and shut down the blog.
  • “You can’t flood them. Needs to be personalized, specific and helpful.” In terms of news, don’t socialize every mention of your company after an announcement. Social media isn’t just about solar self-promotion. It’s about helping customers through relevant education.
  • Metrics are important. These days it’s easy to measure engagement in terms of clicks, likes, etc. See what works, and do more of it. If nothing seems to be working, then this may go back to your social voice, your choice of the wrong social network, or the tactics used within that network.
  • “Multichannel marketing is what builds brand credibility.” So true. Some target customers are going to be on Twitter, while others will prefer LinkedIn, Facebook or newsletters. You need to serve them all as best you can, and many automated platforms such as Hootsuite make that easy.
  • “You need a good ‘ethical bribe.'” Free iPad giveaways have become a cliché for residential solar marketing. In general, if followers are trying to get a free gift, they want the iPad, not the solar system. For B2B marketers, if you’re going to give away something, give away a discount related to your product, such as a free inverter or racking for a 5 kW residential install. For B2C, you could do a drawing for a half off or free solar PV system once a year. Then at least you know they’re interested in solar, not just in getting a “free” iPad or iWatch. Plus, they sign up on your contacts list and then receive all your great educational materials.

What about you? How do you build a social community? We’d love to hear from you, so please add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza is the chief marketing officer of solar at Kiterocket. Follow him on Twitter at @SolarFred and @Solar_ThinkTank.