Dave Tyler, Sales Manager (UK South) at Ideal Industries, the global leader in electrical accessories, tools and equipment, discusses the value of using social media to understand customers and engage with them effectively.


If you look at any customer waiting to order or collect stock, the chances are they have their eyes fixed to their phone. It’s possible they’re sending a text, checking the headlines or catching up on last night’s TV, but it’s more likely their social media feeds are holding their attention.


Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are compelling sources of interest and information that electricians carry round with them and catch up with several times a day; often throughout the evening too. Particularly for the younger electricians, who have entered the profession as digital natives, social media platforms are increasingly the space to look for product information, technical tips and new ideas. As a result, social media platforms provide a golden opportunity to engage with customers and build relationships online. 


If it’s ‘Social’ Media, Why Does it Work for Work?


Although many electricians use social media platforms for their social life and personal interests, just as they might use their phone for both personal and work calls, there is usually some cross-over between life and work. After all, most of us spend a huge amount of our time at work, so it’s an integral part of who we are and what we’re interested in. 


It is clear that those working in the electrical trade are using social media platforms to network with fellow professionals, extend their knowledge and find out about products that could improve the quality of installations, help them save time or reduce their costs.


We know this is happening because the team at Ideal Industries has been using various social media platforms to engage with the electricians and heating engineers that use our products. It provides a quick and easy tool for explaining the features and benefits of our products and introducing potential users to solutions from within our range that they may not know about. 


Not only does social media enable us to engage with the people who use our products in real time, but, because our interaction with existing contacts is visible to their networks, it also allows us to keep increasing the number of people who see our posts. The more we use social media, therefore, the more effective it becomes in building awareness of our brand and generating sales of our products. It also allows us to drive sales enquiries through the wholesale channel, enabling us to support our wholesale customers while ensuring that electricians request Ideal Industries products by name.


Set to Receive, Not Just Broadcast


It is clear that wholesalers can use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to communicate with their customers in the same way as the Ideal Industries team. Just like face to face conversations, however, the dialogue online should never be a one-way street. 


At Ideal Industries, we know that the time we invest in understanding what electricians are saying – to us and to each other – is just as valuable to our long-term marketing plan and business strategy as what we say to them.


Many of the electrical professionals we follow use social media to tap into the hive mind of colleagues within the industry and ask technical questions, share information about jobs they’re working on or talk about products they have been using. By being part of that conversation, we can take advantage of any opportunities to provide advice, suggest a product or signpost customers to information, videos or organisations they might find helpful. This kind of interaction builds trust and ensures the people who use our products know us as experts in what we do.


Perhaps more importantly, paying attention to what others are saying on social media also helps us learn. It has become a tool for understanding the challenges electricians face on site, which is market intelligence that feeds into our new product development, customer service and marketing support for the wholesale channel.


Changing Communication for a Changing World


We all know that the world has changed dramatically this year but, the reality is, it was already changing. Social media is now integral to the way that many electricians find out about products, learn about their benefits and decide who they want to do business with. As part of a wide-ranging sales and marketing strategy, our activities on social media are helping to drive sales through the wholesale channel and, by adopting the same approach, wholesalers can engage with customers and understand their needs to inform their own business development strategy too.