I had never given Facebook (FB) a serious thought until, two to three years ago, some of the youth in my church teased me unmercifully about not having a FB page, so I gave in and set one up. I was surprised at what a simple process it was; it took all of 15 minutes from start to finish.

For many months I "lurked," which is a social media term for individuals who have a FB or Twitter page, but rarely write a post themselves; they only read their friends' posts.

Then, as social media began to catch on and I saw several people in our industry whom I respect with FB and Twitter pages, I began to take this technology more seriously. I wanted to figure out how perhaps my clients (and me too) could use social media to promote their businesses.

The first thing I did was become "friends" with every lumberyard I could find that had either a FB or Twitter page. Then last week, I met a young man at a seminar I presented who began sharing with me some of his ideas for using social media to attract new customers and sell more to existing customers.

While for some time now social media has been a networking rage for teenagers and young adults, I have become convinced that it is also an up-and-coming method for lumberyards to network with customers, prospects, suppliers, and perhaps other businesses similar to your business.

Here are just a handful of the ideas I have picked up about social media that I believe my subscribers should think seriously about implementing:

  • How often do you update your sebsite? For most of us the answer is, "Not very often," which makes for a pretty boring and out of date website only a few months after you spent $3,000 to $4,000 (if not more) to construct it in the first place.
  • Facebook or Twitter, on the other hand, can be updated very quickly and easily by almost anyone from almost anywhere who has ever touched a computer keyboard. And both of these social media sites are FREE.
  • One of my clients whose business is located in a rural market and has over 500 consumers, contractors, industrial and commercial customers and prospects as "friends" on FB and Twitter. This client uses social media to advertise product specials. When I asked him what kind of results he gets, he boasted that he frequently sold completely out of the product specials he promotes on his social media pages.
  • Another client told me that he uses the camera on his iPhone to take photographs of homes he has under construction and posts them on his FB and Twitter pages directly from job sites. He added that he avoids posting the address of the home under construction to prevent his competitors from using his posts to identify prospects. This client's theory is that it is flattering for his contractor customers to see photographs of their homes posted on his site.
  • Another client takes photographs of high-end or extremely high-quality entrance units (to name just one product) and posts them on his social media pages. He reports that customers and prospects who "follow" him have seen these postings and asked to purchase the same entrance units for one of their new homes. The last one he sold went for $9,600 and earned him a very attractive gross margin.
  • Homeowners who have a new home under construction ReTweet or forward lumber dealers' FB and/or Twitter posts to friends, exposing them to the dealer and thus serving as FREE advertising for the dealer.
  • Like anything, the posts must be interesting and attractive enough to make customers and prospects want to follow the dealer and read his or her posts. The best posts appear to me to be made by personnel who are innovative enough to continuously come up with good ideas to post.
  • Some salespeople use social media to promote themselves and don't necessarily focus on promoting the company. So social media becomes a part of their "personal" marketing plan.
  • If a salesperson or manager reads an article that they believe will benefit their customers and prospects, social media sites have the capability of giving a subscriber a simple way to post a link to the articles to your own FB or Twitter post. To better understand this service, click on http://bit.ly/.
  • If you have an overstock of one or more items you want to convert to cash, post your promotion on your FB and/or Twitter page to get the word out FREE and instantly.
  • Some experts say that Facebook and Twitter are potential challengers to Google because, instead of typing "local lumberyards, Tampa, FL" into the Google search engine to find the names and Web sites of all of the lumberyards located in Tampa, social medial subscribers are posting questions like the following: "I'm looking in the Tampa market for a high-quality lumberyard with excellent service and competitive prices. Please respond with your recommendations."

Please e-mail me ways you are using social media to promote your business and I will include your ideas in future newsletters.

Bill Lee is a business consultant, columnist, speaker, and seminar leader who works extensively throughout North America. He also is affiliated with Lee Resources, a Greenville, S.C.-based consulting, training and publishing organization.