You’ve heard all of the hype. Everyone’s on Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram. There’s Tweeting going on everywhere, but not a bird in the sky. And something called Snapchat where messages disappear…but you might be able to advertise there?

As a wall and ceiling contractor, the sound and fury over social media can be overwhelming. Consultants, agencies and marketing types of all stripes are asking for you to spend your dollars on this exciting and overwhelmingly popular medium. Everyone’s doing it, and you need to be doing it, too.

I’m here to tell you the opposite. In fact, most of the “social media experts” don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to the wall and ceiling business. As an expert in online media for local home remodeling businesses, I can confidently state that these pretenders are all emperors without clothes.

Why? Allow me to explain how a skeptic views the social media universe—and how it should be viewed by contractors like yourselves.

Reality is a Kick in the Pants

We all know that Facebook is the most popular thing since color TV and the lunar landing. But what are people doing there?

Goofing off with their friends. Wasting time. Trying to be “liked”.

What they’re not doing is looking at ceiling options.

Facebook and other social media attract such large audiences because they put the person in control of their experience and let them create a universe of experiences that probably doesn’t have commercial intent.

Hence, they’re not looking for you. Sure, there are instances where homeowners will ask questions of their social network like, “Anyone know a good contractor in the Walla Walla area?” But those are extremely rare.

Marketing Territory Matters a Lot

The next strike against social media for contractors is marketing territory. Most contractors have a specific market area to target. It could be as small as a couple mile radius, or as big as the whole country.

This dramatically limits the audience to be targeted on Facebook. So while Facebook may have more than a billion members around the world, there may only be 25,000 who matter to you, because they are in your marketing territory.

It shrinks your potential audience significantly. But that fact often flies right by every consultant and guru who are experts in social media—but not your business. The question isn’t, “How do I advertise on Facebook?” The real question is, “How do I reach my specific audience on Facebook?”

It seems like a new social media platform comes into vogue every couple of months. But it’s actually more stable than you would imagine.

Twitter has not yet proven to be an effective advertising vehicle. Snapchat and Instagram have the same problem. They are in their infancy when it comes to helping local businesses to advertise. Pinterest has proven to be a stronger advertising vehicle, but mostly for national businesses.

Which leaves us with Facebook—the 800 pound gorilla of social media.

For many years, some of the most popular strategies offered to contractors involved getting “likes” and adding “friends” to your business’ corporate Facebook page.

The theory went that you could then remarket to those “friends” and “likes” with your new offers and messages. And that would result in a rush of new customers.

Now I’m not saying that it never worked, but it almost never worked. Getting homeowners to “friend” or “like” contractors was much harder than anyone imagined. It required time, effort, and persistence. And it rarely resulted in trackable ROI on all of that sweat and investment. At times, it felt like many home contractors were marketing their social media rather than their services!

That’s Strike Three

Social media is difficult for contractors because it offers an audience that doesn’t have commercial intent, is geographically limited, and that is now difficult to remarket to.

There’s little to no direct ROI calculations that can be done. You’re essentially running on faith that whatever investment—whether it be time or money—is paying off on social media.

Is it really that hopeless? Not exactly. When you put the hyperbole aside, social media can have some benefits for your business, but not where you would think.

Social media can work wonders for your website’s search engine rankings and your organic (free) search listings. Why? Because Google and Yahoo take your social media presence into consideration when deciding where to rank your website.

How do the search engines do that? It works like this: Google is constantly looking at your website, reviews of your company online, your social media signals, links back to your site and a host of other factors when it decides how it’s going to rank your site on its results pages.

The stronger your social media presence, the more credit Google and the other search engines are going to give your website when it comes to sending visitors your way. That’s an indirect benefit because visitors from organic Google searches are very valuable. When a homeowner types “ceiling contractor” into Google, it’s not an accident. That person has real commercial intent, and could become a valuable prospect.

While social media gets all of the attention, getting good online reviews is much more important to your business. Why? Because Google and the other search engines rely more heavily on those reviews than they do on social media in order to rank your website.

To Google, the Internet is full of information about your business, but it’s not sure what information to trust. But they consider reviews from third-party customers to be particularly valuable as a data point to rank your website. And the more reviews you have on Yelp, Google Plus, CitySearch, etc., the more value Google gives to your website.

That value leads to higher search rankings, website views and ultimately prospects.

Getting online reviews isn’t easy. You need to ask your customers to go online and say something nice about you—95 percent of them won’t take the time. Those who do write reviews give Google valuable footprints to follow, so you should encourage reviews as much as possible from your customers.

There are hucksters everywhere that will tell you about the incredible need and value of social media. But for wall and ceiling contractors, social media isn’t going to give you much bang for your buck. Getting good reviews and ranking well in the search engines is still the key.