I’m a strong believer in social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. And few in the lumber and building materials industry would suggest they don’t need to have a presence on it.

But too often I see this new digital frontier being treated as a one-off effort. Like any worthwhile project, social media requires a long-term approach to build and maintain; it’s not a one-and-done, fire-and-forget endeavour.

Social media can be an extremely valuable marketing and branding tool for lumber and building material dealers who take the time to understand the opportunity, and devote the time and resources to make the most of it.

This is especially true with the growing proliferation of app-rich mobile smartphones. Literally everyone is now connected with access to everything, including social media.

A lot of us fondly remember simpler times when marketing was addressed primarily through advertising and industry events, but today’s consumer, contractor and builder is increasingly sharing information through social media channels. So are your future employees.

“Because everyone else is doing it,” might be the reason you first embarked on your social media journey, but let’s not forget that anything worth doing is worth doing well.

I’m not an expert in the social media arena, but consider these things:

Engagement – This may seem obvious, but it’s one of the most important considerations with social media. Surprisingly it’s often overlooked. It’s not enough to post to Twitter or create a blog, you need to create content that ignites and engages your audience.

Make your social media posts (or shares) insightful, informative, helpful and shareable. That way your audience helps to extend your reach for you. Make it useful, and make it interesting. Trust your gut when separating the wheat of valuable info from the chaff of social network clutter.

Deliver consistently – Here’s where many businesses—not just in the lumber and building materials industry—drop the ball. That insightful, informative and shareable content must be delivered with notable frequency. Let your audience or customers know what to expect from you, and that there’s a reason to keep coming back and paying attention. There are tools to help, but ultimately one of the most important is to be armed with a plan.

Create a weekly or monthly plan of what you want to say, or a library of social media content that you can turn to when you need it. Don’t wing it; plan and execute, just like any important business initiative.

Connected Devices

Pick your battles – There are a lot of social media platforms to choose from. You don’t need to be everywhere any more than you need to reach everyone. You can start on a single channel, the one that is most populated by your ideal customers.

Do your research and find out where you need to be. Are your customers on Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? What about sharing images on Instagram or Pinterest? How useful and valuable might your DIY customers find YouTube videos with tips and techniques?

Visualize – As the old adage goes: a picture is worth a thousand words. In few places is this truer than on social media.

We are overloaded with information every day. A well-placed, unique image grabs the eye and holds it, causing readers to pause from their relentless scroll through their Facebook or Twitter feeds. Given that our business is ultimately about building great things with great tools and great materials, can it be any question that eye-catching visuals are a natural fit.

Do it! – We’re all busy, that’s a given. However, outsourcing your social-media to professionals can be very effective, or, if you have the in-house resources, assign the management of your social media to staff. It’s important that you are involved and check the feeds regularly, even if you have one of your employees manage the day-to-day of posting and maintenance of social media networks. After all, who knows your business better than you?

It’s a conversation – No one wants to be talked at, but many of us love talking with people. The biggest difference between social media channels and past forms of marketing and advertising is that it’s a dialogue, not a monologue. The best social media initiatives create a two-way (or many-to-many) exchange of stories and information, and they contribute to building our community.

Think about this: whether you use social media to stay in touch with family or friends, or to stay connected with what’s happening in your world, social media is a global activity. With approximately 60% of North America using social media, there’s a pretty good chance your customers are among them.