How Two Industry Leaders Engage Online Followers
Business Blog By Andrew Brown
If you’re in business, you’ve had the discussion about social media and its importance to your bottom line. The wooden pallet and packaging industry is relationship driven, so you would think social media and the pallet industry would be a natural fit. Yet, try finding pallet manufacturers and brokers with active social media pages. Researching this story, I found only two out of fifty companies that consistently used their social media channels for marketing. Out of those fifty companies, most didn’t have a social media account with LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook or SnapChat. The very few that did have accounts, had not published new material in months or in some cases years.
‘That’s because our industry is relationship-based,’ you say. ‘We do business over the phone, in-person and through email.’
Your tried-and-true sales tactics are relevant and proven, but that’s no reason to neglect social media as an area of potential business growth. Social networking sites aren’t going away and in fact it’s just the opposite. In fact, sixty-five percent of U.S. adults use social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. Ten years ago, that figure was seven percent.
The question is not “If”, but when and how will you take advantage of social media tools? If you really want to build relationships with customers, you have to go where they go. And increasingly, they are online. The two companies profiled for this story are models for the industry. Take some lessons from them, dig for a nugget or two, and you’ll be off to a good start.
Founded more than 30 years ago, Nazareth Pallet wanted to build recognition for its already strong brand. After experimenting with print advertising, billboards and radio ads, the company switched gears. “In todays’ world, it’s obvious that it is all about social media,” says Ken Laga, senior accounts executive.
The company appointed an in-house employee to focus on social media part-time. Nazareth Pallet learned quickly that gaining business through a social media strategy was far more than a part-time job. “We immediately learned we were only touching the surface, so we hired a professional company rather than take the time to learn as we go,” says Laga. “When we went to the pros, it was because we wanted to stop experimenting.”
The outside firm reviewed the company’s efforts, helped define goals, and then launched their tailor-made social media program within a matter of months. Now Laga says he spends about 4 to 6 hours a month maintaining the program, primarily overseeing the project. The vendor spends 25 to 30 hours conducting research and creating articles and content.
In addition to publishing blog posts on its website, Nazareth Pallet puts most of its energy into Facebook and YouTube. “Twitter started out strong but we no longer even use it, as it has gone down in all aspects of public interest, at least for our purposes,” says Laga. “In order to get people to our site, Facebook has had the greatest return on investment.” On YouTube, Nazareth Pallet shares videos about pallets, mulch-making, and company-sponsored events.
Nazareth Pallet works closely with the firm to come up with content ideas. The company takes those ideas and turns them into blog posts and videos. The firm will also suggest posts, especially when they’re indirectly related to the industry. For instance, stories about upcycling pallets, sustainability and conservation are part of the scope.
Laga says that general audiences are most likely to respond to posts when they are in the form of contests. One of the most popular posts took the form of a quiz. The company published a photo of its new snow rake and asked followers to guess, “What is this?” Similarly, a video on the company’s YouTube site demonstrates how mulch is made. Employees and their families and friends respond to stories and photos from company-wide events. Posts about equipment and manufacturing are especially popular. “Everyone seems to comment about how interesting it is to see how pallets are made or how mulch is produced,” says Laga.
Most of the company’s approach to social media is educational. Unlike traditional advertising, which emphasizes products, this approach seeks to engage followers for long-term branding. “Part of the premise is that we’re not promoting ourselves directly. We’re promoting pallet recycling,” says Laga.
Since national pallet provider Rose Pallet opened its doors five years ago, it has experienced tremendous growth in sales and infrastructure. Social media marketing has been part of its business development plan since day one. “We just think in this day and age, social media is important,” says Amy Angellotti, vice president of Rose Pallet. “We weren’t too strategic in the beginning. We just knew social media was the way of the future and we wanted to be a part of that space.”
In some ways, starting from scratch made it easier to incorporate social media, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. “It’s a lot of work and we spend a good amount of money. It’s not free,” she says. Nonetheless, the company’s focus on building a powerful, recognizable brand depends on engaging followers with useful or entertaining posts.
Posts are first published on the company’s blog, then promoted through its social media channels, primarily Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Topics vary from business and industry information to posts that celebrate holidays, employees, philanthropy and interactive content, says Angellotti. To stay organized, the company developed an editorial calendar that determines what posts will be published and when.
To generate ideas, the company looks to industry news for potential stories. It also promotes industry events. “With each post, we always try to tie-in relevant content on pallets or pallet-related services,” says Angellotti. “We get the most feedback or interaction when we have a contest or quiz…the next highest engaging posts are the ones that feature our philanthropy, especially if it is a cause that is near and dear to many folks.” These themes are very similar to Nazareth Pallet’s successes using social media.
For companies starting out with social media, Angellotti recommends setting realistic expectations. “If you’re developing a blog, begin with monthly posts. If you’re looking to create a Facebook or Twitter page, you’ll need to post more frequently, but you can aim for once weekly rather than every day.”
Also, don’t neglect other forms of marketing. At Rose Pallet, social media complements other marketing channels, including email marketing, print advertising, direct-mail and event marketing. The company’s vehicles are also wrapped in Rose Pallet logos, so the company’s brand is literally on-the-move. All these touchpoints combine to reinforce the brand and a well-known recognized company.