Twenty years ago service companies mostly relied on word of mouth and traditional print advertising to make inroads with new customers. Today they have a better and more intimate way to grow business–social media. That's according to Jay Bean, founder and CEO of business insights and mobile engagement company FreshLime, who says the biggest challenge for plumbers, mechanics, hair stylists and the like is finding the time to do social media the right way. Here's his advice on how anyone making money by doing things for other people can benefit from engaging with customers on social media.

Use the platforms that make sense for your business.

Companies that have ample opportunities to take great photos of their work can reach younger people on Instagram or female customers on Pinterest. "A plumber or an HVAC company may be more effective in using Facebook or Google+ where they can also offer tips, tricks and other kinds of reminders people should be doing in order to maintain the valuable things that they have had done to their homes," he says.

Keep customers engaged with fresh content you update regularly.

In addition to photos and how-tos, consider posting video to YouTube where you can demonstrate your expertise and link-in from whatever social platform your customers are using. "It does really depend on personality, as well," he says. "Each business owner needs to be comfortable and real with what they're doing, versus trying to be something that they're not, because if you're not real about who you are that will come through."

As for how often you should be posting, Bean suggests starting with three to four times a month, which should involve only a modest investment in time. Depending on the results you're seeing you can scale up or down later down the road.

Let technology do the work for you.

Bean plugs his own platform which starts at $99 a month. It automatically reaches out after appointments to ask customers for feedback, reviews, and shares on social networks. The software also tracks appointment histories to determine when a customer is most likely to need a service again. "As consumers we get tired of receiving newsletters, offers and updates that are not necessarily relevant," he says. "If I just had my air conditioner serviced a month ago, and then I get a coupon for 40 percent off of the service two weeks later, that doesn't provide a great customer experience."

Published on: Sep 11, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.