Looking to expand your company’s marketing efforts beyond traditional advertising? It might be time to branch out and consider the benefits of using social media.
These days, businesses are spreading messages and gaining attention from the public faster than they ever have before, thanks to easy access to multiple platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok and YouTube. “In an old and archaic industry,” more and more tree care businesses are experiencing growth by “leveraging technology” of modern-day media, according to Phil Rogacki, who in the last decade has helped several companies grow through strategic social media planning.
Rogacki, the CEO and co-founder of Academy Trained, a safety-training school located in Sonoma County, Calif., has witnessed firsthand the benefits of using social media as a recruiting tool. After moving to the west coast about 12 years ago, he joined a small tree company and played a major role in expanding their team.
“Over the next five years, we were able to grow that company from five people to 150 people. A big part of that was utilizing social media that cost us nothing,” he says.
The fact that using social media is free isn’t the only perk. Rogacki notes that you don’t have to be an expert to use it successfully. His advice to those considering getting started is to “just pick it up and start doing it.” Although it may seem a little intimidating to those who are less tech-savvy or familiar with posting on social media, coming up with a plan does not have to be a daunting task. Rogacki says he sets aside a certain amount of time each day to focus on creating social media content.
“You can’t be good at something if you don’t start,” he says, adding, “It costs me nothing but a little bit of my time.”
The companies he works with mainly use social media posts for educational purposes and recruitment efforts. Rogacki stresses the importance of making sure posts are relatable and fun in order to show off the company’s culture. Oftentimes, it’s more than just “showing cool pictures of tree work,” that he shares.
“Social media users want to see what you’re about,” says Rogacki, adding that tree companies can share photos or raw videos that show off brand new equipment, company team training, celebrating a successful month with a celebration with the team – anything that shows camaraderie and tells a good story.
In addition to serving in a consultant role for a tree company, Rogacki has also been able to start up a concrete company. He quickly realized that in his lines of work, safety training was a huge necessity, and subsequently, the Academy Trained school was launched. In addition to providing job safety training, Rogacki also co-hosts Two Tree Guys, a podcast with fellow arborist Jared Abrojena, who shares a similar passion for talking arboriculture over a cold brew.
It doesn’t stop there. Rogacki’s social media experience led to the development of Academy Trained Online (ATO), which he describes as the first app of its kind for members of the tree care industry that will provide a one-stop-shop online marketplace where companies can access training videos, buy equipment and employers can track their staff’s education and training progress.
Also known amongst the tree industry as a social media guru is Hans Tielmann who owns three companies including NJ Crane Expert, Noble Oak, LLC and Bad Media, LLC. The second-generation arborist says it is crucial to use social media as a way to establish trust and build reputation by focusing on one’s best skills and putting them in the spotlight.
Tielmann started using social media back in the early 2000s when Facebook first launched as a social network for college students.
“I’ve always been very big at leveraging social media,” says Tielmann, who has been holding social media talks with others since 2014.
Instagram, however, was the media channel that really resulted in his claim to fame.
“It really grew from there,” says Tielmann, who networked with tree care members from other countries and learned what he could from them.
His success with social media landed Tielmann additional roles, including speaking at tree shows as a sponsored arborist. His presence is also well known on various social media outlets where he posts product reviews and comparisons as well as product demos.
Tielmann now educates others on how to use social media to network in ways they may have never done before. The majority of his social media consulting is done through his company Bad Media, where he works with others in the tree services who solicit his expertise to get started in social media networking.
Tielmann encourages the “older guys,” in the industry, saying “You gotta talk to your kids,” because the younger generations are familiar with the latest online trends and platforms.
“That’s where marketing is going,” he says.
Using social media is different from the days of placing newspaper ads trying to sell a product or service, he explains, adding that most people using social media do not want to be bombarded with advertisements. Instead, taking a soft-message approach that gives content more educational or entertainment value is what viewers are seeking.
“The way you’re going to get the most attention is utilizing social media platforms’ newest features,” Tielmann says, adding that pairing your passion with the latest trend can help a post go viral instead of continuously using polished and edited content that may gain zero traction.
Tielmann offers examples of some of his successful posts in the past, including a video of a tree falling in slow motion that exploded on the internet many years ago, and one more recently, in 2022, which earned more than 10,000 likes on the first day. This occurred after Tielmann did some research and decided to use a soundbite of a song about corn on the cob that was trending across the internet. He paired it with a video of himself talking about cranes and comparing the two subject matters. Another one of his viral posts included a candid shot of Tielmann staring at an old tree while visiting the Museum of Natural History. It garnered approximately 40,000 views due to other fan pages sharing the post for over a year.
Tielmann also suggests, “If you’re skilled at your job then your social media should reflect that. Highlight the things that you do best. Give yourself some praise.” He adds, “People are fascinated by people who will climb a 100-foot tree.”
With that in mind, one of the key components of his company Bad Media is educating others about displaying best safety practices in the tree care industry. Tielmann makes sure his clients are taking cautious measures before clicking the share button. Tielmann says viewers, especially competitors, will be quick to point out any photos or videos of tree-care personnel who may be seen using outdated equipment, not wearing the proper protective gear, or not performing a task safely. Tielmann conducts photo shoots with his clients and abides by a list of standards that must be met in order to show safety compliance within the industry.
“There’s so much you can get in trouble for,” Tielmann says. “Your reputation has to be perfect.”
Rogacki agrees, warning that social media users must also be prepared for negative feedback on their posts, especially from internet trolls. “There is always going to be a critic,” he says. “You need to shut off the world. Ignore it and keep putting good content on there.”.
An additional tip Tielmann offers includes posting about heartfelt moments. Anything that can include pets, kids or veterans is sure to evoke emotions and attract views, he explains.
Spurring community interest, or encouraging community involvement through social media posts has proven to be beneficial for Wonderland Tree Care + Landscapes, a family-owned company located in Oyster Bay, N.Y. According to Emily Gamble, who has served as office manager there for the last six years, the company does not have a mapped-out strategy for using social media, but instead has experimented with various types of posts over the years to see what gains their company the most visibility. Gamble describes the company’s combination of Instagram and Facebook posts as a team effort.
“We all have different jobs within the company,” Gamble says, pointing out that only a handful of the 20-plus employees share social media posting duties.
The different perspectives provide “a nice mix of different things for social media because we all have different backgrounds,” she explains.
The posts over the years have included a combination of tree-related content, truck-related and community-focused information. Gamble says the company rarely promotes a sales pitch through social media. “We’re more about sharing how we’re a part of the community,” she says, adding, “The posts that we share that are more community involved receive the most engagement.”
One of the posts that recently gained the most attention for Wonderland Tree Care was the company’s recent recognition by the TCIA, when it was named one of the top 20 accredited tree care companies in 2022. After posting the announcement, Gamble says it collected “some of the most likes and comments we’ve ever had for a post.”
Wonderland Tree Care + Landscapes has also received attention from its community members for previous posts about the company’s participation in Arbor Day activities, the community’s holiday market volunteer day, in which employees provided a decorated wagon that offered hay rides around the village, in addition to posts about emergency calls that the company has responded to. Gamble says the company also shares tree care tips and facts and also highlights its team members for their successes, such as job promotions.
As the company grows, Gamble says the team recognizes the importance of “really ramping up our presence” on social media and plans to work on consistency and creating a “more singular voice.”
Tielmann echoes the importance of Gamble’s strategy of staying as consistent as possible with social media posting. In order to keep followers, consistency is key, otherwise, it will be difficult to grow your audience, he explains, even if it means less polished, and more honest content. Sometimes the “being in the moment” posts are most effective, he says.
Of course, for those seeking a little more assistance in organizing a social calendar, help is available. Several programs exist that provide an online dashboard to help companies create a more visual marketing plan by establishing and maintaining social media calendars. Some programs to consider include Planoly, Later, Hootsuite and Meta Business Suite.
About the Author
Katie Dastoli is a freelance writer with more than seven years of experience writing for the media on various topics. She currently resides in Western Massachusetts.