During my daily search through my google alerts news feed (a GREAT tool if you don’t use it already) an article titled “How Social Networks Are Fueling The Solar Boom” caught my eye. At closer look I realized the author was Ben Higgins, director of government affairs at REC Solar (#11 on our Top 100 Solar Contractor list) and a good friend of ours here at Solar Power World.
Higgins’s article is a great one, discussing how early adopters of solar may serve as “evangelists” and increase consumer awareness to help build the industry and U.S. clean energy as a whole.
Higgins notes that though over 90% of Americans support solar (according to a SEIA survey) 66% still believe it’s too expensive. The reality is, as he explains, solar can be the most affordable energy source in many markets, indicating that much of the public is still in the dark when it comes to the facts about solar.
“The public needs to know the real facts on solar,” Gilbert says. “They need to know that this is one of the best energy sources they can have. Installing it on their home or business is ultimately going to save them money.”
Gilbert and his team aim to educate the public through the company’s Solar Source Institute. But Higgins says it’s the public that really play a vital role in spreading the word about the benefits of solar.
Solar, after all, is often a highly visible addition to homes or property, a natural conversation piece that sparks interest from neighbors – much like renovating the garage, installing new landscaping or buying an electric car. These front lawn conversations are vital for spreading the word about the mechanics of installing solar power as well as the economic payoff, from a trusted peer who’s been there and can take solar from fanciful to real.
Higgins is absolutely right, but I also think it’s important to recognize that, with today’s technology, these types of conversations and recommendations are happening in other ways besides in person. Just as people review a movie on their facebook status or tweet a photo of the new car they absolutely love, they are sharing their experiences with solar.
Higgins cites research from Yale and New York University saying that social solar has already been shown to boost adoption rates by close to a percentage point.
Across thousands of incoming sales leads in an industry that installed more than $10 billion worth of solar last year on tight margins, that difference can make or break a business.
Social solar is evidently essential to the growth of solar businesses. This is why, for the life of me I can’t understand why any solar contractor, installer, manufacturer etc. would not take the time to create a FREE Twitter account and a FREE facebook page.
As an editor, this is a pet peeve of mine. Every time I tweet or facebook something concerning a certain company or organization, I look them up on Twitter first to see if I can include their handle. Yet, so many times I am disappointed. The tweet goes out without anyone in the company knowing they’re being discussed.
As a journalist and as an advocate for solar I urge any business or organization that is not involved in social media to get on it! And if you’re on it, but haven’t checked it in months, make it part of your daily routine. You have no way of knowing what your customer said to their neighbor on their front lawn who asked about their solar installation. You can’t hear their thoughts about your contractors or your products. But you absolutely can see these comments online. Their thoughts are out there in cyber space for all to view, and it’s FREE!
I realize if you’re not used to this technology, it may be intimidating. But so were smart phones, tablets, heck, at one time even the internet. But now these devices are part of our everyday lives. So be brave: nothing like diving right in. Be patient and take time to learn (I’m sure your friends, employees or kids know how to work this stuff and would be more than willing to teach you).
I also realize being able to see what the world thinks of you may be scary. I’m lucky my company supports using social media — stresses it actually. I read a book last year called The Thank You Economy. Author Gary Vaynerchuk made some great points on this subject. He says it’s better to know, be able to respond and earn that customer’s good opinion back. Isn’t it better for them to tell 10 of their friends how they had a problem and how speedily you resolved it, rather than simply sharing their complaint? This goes for public opinion on solar as well. Isn’t it better to respond to and correct someone sharing false facts about clean energy so they’ll tell their friends the truth instead of inaccurate notions?
Social solar is important on the front lawn and online. “Word of mouth buzz is a marketer’s holy grail,” says Higgins. And it’s the solar industry’s too.
If you’re moved enough by this to create a Twitter handle, feel free to practice and send me a tweet to let me know. I’ll be your first follower. If you’re on already and we haven’t connected, please hit my team and I up @SolarKathieZ, @SolarFrankA, @SolarStevenB or @SolarPowerWrld. Also feel free to connect on Facebook, G+ and in our LinkedIn group.