Searching for the social media silver bullet

Stuart Duff
Executive Editor - Lyrical Communications

You’d be hard pushed to find many people working in marketing, content or PR who haven’t at some point been asked “can you make this go viral?” before being shown a shaky, 480p landscape video with more background noise than a Teams call in Starbucks that would “definitely be great as a reel”.

Glossing over the disappointingly narrow spectrum of acceptable responses in a professional environment, the answer is, of course, a resounding yes – largely because what this has come to mean is “can we get big numbers?” and anyone with the resources can do that. All it takes is a combination of hours of hard work and pots of cash.

Thankfully, the quest for quantity in isolation is subsiding in favour of quality. And in the heating and plumbing industry, the influencer community has had a huge impact on our understanding of what constitutes successful social content.

In the dim and distant past (2017, to be precise) there were still very few tradespeople outside of YouTube either with brand partnerships or producing paid-for content. Instead, most were simply talking about the products they enjoyed using because they wanted to share their experiences. Many became known on social media – predominantly Twitter – more for the quality of the work they were producing, and the things they gave back to the industry, than any planned brand promotion. There was an innocence to it all.

A lot has changed since then. The trade community on social media has spread far and wide across platforms, each with its own headliners. The more visual channels (particularly Insta and TikTok) have spawned a new generation of content creators and individuals have become brands in their own right.

As a marketing tool, social is invaluable when it’s done well. And yes, it does come at a price in terms of both time and money, but it’s an integral part of the mix. However, it does come with its own pitfalls and contradictions. Predicting which content will be wildly successful is impossible, otherwise we’d all be doing it. But there are a few ways to blend the scientific and the artistic when using influencers to maximise your chances. Below are some key things to consider.

Timing is everything

Well, it is and it isn’t. Posting when your audience is most active gives you the best opportunity for engagement, but features like Twitter’s For You feed (the comeback kid of curation) will gladly scupper your best-laid plans. Even LinkedIn, the avuncular, cardigan-wearing platform, doesn’t trust that anyone would like to default to chronology. In the end though, playing the percentages is a logical move.

Work with the right people in the right way

Finding the influencers that are the best fit is an obvious essential. Working with them appropriately is a trickier task. Authenticity has to be the goal. There’s little point in selecting a tradesperson to be your brand ambassador and then undermining their appeal with a stilted corporate script that doesn’t allow them to be themselves. If it’s inauthentic, it’ll show – and it’ll tarnish their reputation as well as doing little to nothing for yours.

Choose your channels wisely

There are two distinct schools of thought on this. The scattergun approach may mean that you hoover up more engagement in the short-term, and it buys you some time to assess which platforms work best for you. Being more targeted means you can focus your efforts better, and if you’re working with an influencer who’s particularly strong on one channel (as most are) then you can piggyback your account on their popularity. On the flip side, there could be a benefit to concentrating on a different platform and allowing them to drive engagement where they work best. But whichever path you choose…

Maximise your content

Content doesn’t come cheap so it pays to make the most of it. While this shouldn’t mean simply reposting identical videos all over the shop, for instance, it does mean that you can create a bank of potential posts in one hit. Repurposing content is an easy and effective way to reinforce a message and increase exposure over a sustained period.

Be human

Personality matters on social as much as IRL. Bland brands stifle their own engagement. Be personable, be humorous, be self-deprecating. Share your behind the scenes footage, outtakes and bloopers as additional content, they’re remarkably useful for building a rapport. Taking your job seriously doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean taking yourself too seriously.


Buck the trends

Trends are useful, no doubt about it. TikTok has taken what Insta started and changed the landscape on using trends – particularly with audio. Staying on trend works and shouldn’t be ignored, but bucking the trends can be equally successful… and operating in a relatively niche sector gives you a fighting chance of starting your own. Just as ‘me too’ products aren’t aspirational, ‘me too’ content runs the risk of getting lost in the noise.


Measure the right numbers

Measure all the numbers, obviously, but focus on those with value and assess them in tandem with the less definitive metrics. Despite the seeming transparency in reporting, social media analytics are a heady mix of tangibles and intangibles. The sliding scale of importance is always likely to run from the smallest number to the largest. Reaching millions of people is a plus from a brand awareness perspective, of course, but if nobody follows the engagement journey past the first step then it could have been achieved more effectively through basic advertising.


Regularity beats frequency

Making a splash is great, but splashes ripple to nothing before very long. Throwing out a ton of content in one go will see diminishing returns fast. Both the social platforms and your audience are far more likely to reward regular content. Resisting the urge to do everything at once is difficult, and can feel counter-intuitive if you’re keen to make hay, but posting a couple of times a week for six months will reap far greater rewards than burning through all your content in a matter of days.



If you’re in the process of building your following, hashtag popularity is a logical place to start when it comes to content visibility, but this won’t factor in who’s using those hashtags. For example, #plumbing on Insta will return millions of results but something more niche like #plumbinglife (at just shy of half a million) will give a better insight into a target audience’s activity, and avoids lumping in your content solely with the sprawling mass of inconsequential posts (unless you want to). Tagging friendly users is also an effective way of increasing eyes on your posts, but don’t overdo it – alienation won’t take long! And on the subject of alienation…


Don’t feed the trolls

You might think this is less of an issue in the more professional corners of social media, but it’s still a thing. The easiest way to deal with it is to refuse to engage, but it takes an enormous amount of restraint to hold back when your brand, products, integrity and/or competence are being called into question. If you feel you have to respond (and that’s always a decision best taken by committee) then keep it calm and civil; never post when your hackles are raised, no good can come of it.


Additional resources

Google can be your enemy as much as your friend, so here are just a few places to go for insight:

Social media usage stats

An in-depth look at the rise of TikTok and its place in trade marketing

An insight into the LinkedIn algorithm

Matt Navarra’s Geekout social media newsletter


And finally…

Define your own success. Be honest with yourself about what could’ve been done better –there’s always something – and use what you’ve learnt. Don’t get caught up in comparing your results against competitors. Never lose sight of the fact that social is a movable feast and there isn’t a silver bullet (which probably should’ve been mentioned 1,300 words ago). And if following this guide isn’t fruitful, under no circumstances @ me!

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