In preparing for our newsletter, we were able to talk one on one with Pentair, Seasonal World and Platinum Pools about their recent success with social media. You can find the full interviews in the articles below.

Twitterview with Pentair

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Could you give a brief description of Pentair for our followers?

Pentair
Pentair is the world’s leading manufacturer of pool and spa equipment & innovation leader in variable speed pumps, iPhone &iPad compatible pool remotes & more.

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Why has Pentair decided to begin using social media?

Pentair
Customer’s are turning to the online conversation space to form opinions about products…ours included. We want to build relationships with those stakeholders

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What part of the company has social media really helped or influenced so far?

Pentair
It’s an invaluable resource for product development, customer service, sales & marketing. The voice of the customer influences everything we do and how we do it.

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Has the effort of entering social media proved to be valuable to Pentair?

Pentair
Yes, a forum that fosters collaboration, sharing of best practices, concerns, issues and actionable insights for product enhancements is invaluable.

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What would you consider the greatest victory for Pentair so far in regards to social media?

Pentair
The growth in visitors and feedback at the site tells us that we’re filling a void among pool owners and pros who are hungry for great content and useful information.

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Why should pool builders and service companies use social media?

Pentair
Conversations among pool owners and prospective owners are already happening online. Joining them and providing helpful advice positions you as an expert and inspires others to promote you.

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Where should a builder or service company start that has never used social media before?

Pentair
Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are the 3 easiest to get started with.

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You’ve acquired 440 FB fans and 233 Twitter followers in just a few months. What do you attribute to the rapid growth?

Pentair
Strong content and consistency. The content has to be interesting or entertaining or it will go ignored and it must be communicated on a consistent basis to keep the community growing.

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How can social media improve the relationship between manufacturers and builders in the future?

Pentair
Communication, collaboration and education are the keys to success. This medium facilitates all three.

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Pentair has created its own social media platform – The Innovation Lab, can you explain what it is?

Pentair
Its a community that brings pool lovers and pool professionals together to share ideas, advice, interests, answer questions and provide information about pool ownership.

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Social media is still changing every day. What do you see as the future of using social media in our industry?

Pentair
For the first time, UK social networks had a higher % of web traffic than search engines! We expect this trend to occur in the U.S. as well. Mobile Social will take this medium to the next level.

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These are great responses. We’re all done with our questions but we have two more to ask from @MasterPools – Are customers engaging for new sales, service or both? 2. What R your methods of encouraging customer participation?

Pentair
Sales and service. Buyers are hungry for information and advice. Provide content that addresses their needs and wants consistently.

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You have offered some extremely valuable info for our followers. Thank you for taking time to join us!

Pentair
It’s been our pleasure. We hope the information has been helpful.

Interview with Seasonal World

Could you explain a little bit about yourself? Job title, how long at Seasonal World, etc?
Anthony Schiavone, Senior Vice President, Operations – over 13 years at Seasonal World
Darian O’Reilly, Director of Interactive Marketing –  less than one year at Seasonal World

Could you offer a short history of Seasonal World?
Seasonal World is a family owned business and we handle many aspects of building and maintaining a backyard environment. These include the new pool construction, pool renovation, pool service, warranty, and retail (storefront and e‐commerce) portions of the business. We are a direct B2C (business to consumer) organization. My father, Tony Schiavone started the company back in 1980 and with many continued hours of hard work, a dedicated and talented team, and the endless pursuit of exceeding customer’s expectations, we have evolved and continue to do so as a leader within our industry.

When did the beginnings of social media come about at Seasonal World and why?
Social media came about simply out of the quest of investigating unconventional forms of advertising and branding. As these “conventional” forms always had the tendency to cost the most and offer the least in return. Once the benefits of social media were truly understood by senior management and then the remainder of the organization, the rest was easy!

What are the biggest benefits from using social media?
Social Media outlets provide businesses with the ability to reach more consumers (B2C) for less (or no) marketing dollars. In addition to driving more direct traffic to your website and in turn your business, social media identities (ie: Facebook page, Twitter account, etc.) help to boost your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) rankings, which translate into even more visitors.

What part of the company has social media really helped or influenced so far?
Sales and promotions have been buoyed by viral marketing through social media channels – being ‘retweeted’ on Twitter is the same as having a customer calling a friend and saying, “Oooh, have you heard about this great new sale they are having at Seasonal World?” Only on Twitter, they are not telling one friend, they are telling 1,000 or more in many cases. Facebook is a great opportunity to max out viral marketing for referrals. There is no better advertising than someone posting on their Facebook wall, “just went swimming in our new pool!!!!! It’s awesome!” Normally that person would just tell their “real life” friends and neighbors and have them over for a dip. They would inevitably mention to some of them that Seasonal World built their pool and a referral might be generated. Now consider the fact that the average Facebook user has 130 friends. All of
these people will see that post about the new pool. If any of them have been remotely considering investing in a pool they will post a question or message the person that posted. It’s always more comfortable to make a large purchase from someone that
is recommended to you – even if the person that recommended them is your childhood friend who you haven’t seen since 4th grade.

The question everyone wants the answer to, “Has it helped drive more sales?”
The Seasonal World social media commitment has lead to brand awareness in a fashion that cannot be matched by many other forms of communications that we have explored in the over 25 years of doing business. Branding, in my personal opinion, is more important then any advertising for an established organization, as branding has “legs”. Our social media has aided our ability to brand which has increased brand awareness and has produced more sales.

As of today (8-10-2010), you have 693 fans on Facebook and 2392 followers on Twitter, and these numbers continue to grow every day. These are very impressive numbers in our industry. What do you attribute to the massive followings on social media?
These numbers can be attributed to two things: consumer loyalty and hard work. The loyalty part comes from the experience they have had working with us to build their dream pool or visiting our retail store. They want to be friends with us on
Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch our YouTube videos because they feel a connection with us already. Social media helps us to keep in touch with old customers and ensure that the good feelings they had when they were working with us are kept alive through daily notes and messages.

That’s where the hard work comes in. No one can expect to sign up for a Twitter account and instantly generate a massive following just because people like them. Social media is like gardening. You plant seeds by posting and tweeting engaging messages to people that you have invited to join you. Some of them will join you and some of them won’t – it’s important to weed your garden daily if possible to make sure that your followers and friends are of the quality not quantity. In time, they will send off their own shoots and seeds (via word of mouth and viral channels) and your garden will become more lush and your harvest more plentiful. It takes time and constant diligence, but the return is well worth the investment.

You have over 70 short clips on YouTube of customer testimonials. What are the advantages of using a video sharing service like YouTube?
The primary benefit is that the videos are searchable and as a result, many people who would not naturally visit our Website view them. In addition, YouTube makes it incredibly easy to embed videos that stream directly from their site, so page load time and usability are not negatively affected by having a robust video library.

How have you integrated social media into the daily operations for the business? Are there any changes in how business is done since the integration of social media?
When we are having a new sale or promotion, the first thing we do is to tweet about it and post it to our Facebook wall. Facebook particularly gives us the ability to interact with customers more responsively than in the past – if someone posts a question or comment on our wall, we are able to get right back to them; either by posting back on the wall or if it’s more appropriate, by sending them a personal message or calling them if the issue is urgent. They know we are listening to their concerns and issues and that only helps to build trust and loyalty in our customer base.

We’re all aware that social media is still changing every day. What can you see as the future of using social media in business?
Customer service. When customers – either current or past – are able to communicate with us using the same tools that they use in their personal lives we form a bond with them that goes beyond that of vendor and client. Seasonal World is a family business that has always put great stock in serving the customer and social media represents one more way to make them feel at home with us.

What advice would you give to builder who really wants to get started with social media? What’s the first step to take?
Sign up for Facebook and Twitter accounts and make sure that your existing clients know that you have them. After that, be sure to put forth the needed efforts that are required to attract the “type” of followers that best suit your business. Most important, keep up on the accounts and be sure to develop your own style on each piece of social media that keep the followers interested and engaged on the business.

What have you found as the best method for continued customer participation using the different networks you’ve mentioned?
The primary way that we keep users engaged is by asking them questions – get the ones who have pools to brag about them – post links with ideas about how to have more fun outside and enjoy their pools and patios. It’s almost guaranteed that someone will comment or ‘like’ our posts about topics that they feel they have something to contribute to.

Interview with Platinum Pools

Could you offer a short history of Platinum Pools?
The company was started in 1998 has been a Top 50 builder for the last 8 years. We are also a design award winner. We have our own call in talk radio show called Backyard Bay.

When did the beginnings of social media come about at Platinum Pools and why?
We started this at the beginning of this year.

What are the biggest benefits from using social media?
We hope to let our customers and potential customers know that we’re active in the same networks that they enjoy. We want to connect with them, we want to answer their questions and we want to meet them on their favorite social networking sites to do this. They don’t always have to come to us- we’ll come to them.
It is our goal for potential and existing customers to “get to know” us through social media, and trust us to teach them about swimming pools and spas. Social media is so viral- when a user really likes something they see online or likes a specific brand, they share it with their friends.

What part of the company has social media really helped or influenced so far?
At this moment I would have to say sales and all of our customers that we have built for as the are receiving a lot of information that is helping them with pool ownership.

The question everyone wants the answer to, “Has it helped drive more sales?”
Yes.

As of today (8-10-2010), you have 485 fans on Facebook and 232 followers on Twitter, and these numbers are growing every day. I understand that you have only been using social media for only a few months. What do you attribute to the fast growth of your social media following?
We’ve seen tremendous growth, especially in the past two weeks, on Facebook and can attribute that to our new Facebook Ad campaigns. We’ve created a custom, targeted ad group and we are leading those people to our Facebook Business Page through our ad. From there, they see the interaction on our page and “Like” it, because they can trust that we’ll feed their news stream with new, interesting content. For Twitter, we’ve developed a strategy of finding people in our target group and then bringing them to our Twitter page. We make a point to thank everyone who follows us, and are excited to start some more messaging and fun, interactive Twitter campaigns in the future.

You have included a live chat on your home page at www.platinumpools.com. How has it helped you connect with potential buyers?
This has been a lot of work but the service we give everyone on there is great from getting a new lead to helping a customer with a warranty situation or just being there for the customer at that given moment when they want to ask something.

We understand that you are about to launch your own social network where pool experts, owners and prospects can connect by asking questions, sharing pictures, BBQ recipes, pool related knowledge, videos, etc. Can you explain this a little bit and explain what the major benefits are of such an undertaking?
Our social network is integrated with Facebook and Twitter, so visitors to the site can log-in with their existing Facebook or Twitter accounts to leave comments on our site. Every time they comment on a post or share something on our site, they also have the option to publish it automatically to their Facebook feeds- where all their regular Facebook friends can see the comment they left on our site. On our end, the major benefit of the social network is the potential for its content to “go viral” with help from active users, bringing more people to our website. We also believe that it will help “give a face” to the online presence of Platinum Pools through our fun, friendly resources and expert advice.
From a user’s standpoint, this network is a must-visit for anyone who owns or is interested in owning a swimming pool- no matter who built it! Every resource is hand-picked specifically to enhance the pool and spa lifestyle, be it a pool party-planning guide or a Pool Tips Blog entry about checking skimmer baskets.

How have you integrated social media into the daily operations for the business? Are there any changes in how business is done since the integration of social media?
No not at this moment except all staff can do the live chat.

What would you consider the single most important element when using social media in our industry?
Content. You can have a Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, but if you don’t have any interesting content, those pages are useless, and keeping them “empty” will actually make you look like a dead company to online visitors.

We’re all aware that social media is still changing every day. What can you see as the future of using social media business and more specifically, the pool industry?
Consumers dictate what they want to see online. We have to monitor visitor interaction and make sure we’re “listening” to virtual feedback. Based on the “search to learn” trends of today, we can guess that education and informative tips and articles will continue to grow in popularity, but we also should be thinking of ways to make our website visitors’ experience fun and interactive.

What advice would you give the builder who really wants to get started with social media? What’s the first step to take?
Start a blog on your website. Think about your most frequently asked questions and answer them in a blog format to let visitors know that you’re an expert.