Volume 45, Issue 6 - June 2010

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Socially Adept
Glass Companies Share How Their Tweets, Fans and Followers Build Business

Whether you’re learning about it from your kids as they sit gazing before the computer screen, from former classmates looking to reconnect on Facebook or even the new sitcom based on a Twitter feed, you know by now that social media is here to stay. The big question, though, is what value glass retailers receive from creating social media content on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogspot and others.

“My partner and I go back and forth on that all the time,” admits Danya Rosales, chief financial officer and director of A Better View Glass & Mirror, a glass shop in Yorktown, Va.

From Rosales’ point of view, taking part in the social media wave is helping her to lay a base for future developments. “Google has made it very known publicly that eventually all of these the social networks—and some of them already do—are going to have live search. … I can go in and search for window replacement in Yorktown, Va., and it will be a live feed—eventually,” she says.

Rosales adds, “We already have a fantastic web presence but you can’t count on that; if you want to be found I think you need to set up a good base in any social network, because that’s where it’s going.”

In the meantime, many are finding value in the interactive qualities of social media.

“Social media can be instantly interactive. The more you ask people to get involved, the more feedback you will get,” explains Amber Hedin, marketing manager of St. Cloud Window Inc. in St. Cloud, Minn. “This helps us define how we want to approach new ideas and products.”

In essence, social media is a tool for building and strengthening brand awareness and can be a powerful tool for companies at all levels of the supply chain.

Saleem Khattak, president of Architectural Fittings in Vancouver, says, “Social media is used as a casual way to connect with our customers and give them a sense of the company culture and philosophy behind our business. This is a great channel for opening dialogue and building brand awareness.”

“When I put something out on Facebook, the people who subscribe to our Facebook account automatically [see it] come up onto their screen. All they have to do is log in to Facebook, which a lot of people are doing at least once a day, and there they see Southern Aluminum Finishing right in front of them,” points out John McClatchey, Jr., sales manager for SAF in Atlanta. “Additionally, we have a number of architects who follow our Twitter account. With mobile communications such as it is now they can be sitting at their desk, their phone will ding and they’ll look at it and say ‘oh, SAF has a new panel system and, hey, I just happen to be working on a new panel system right now.’

“The more in your face that we are—whether we’re promoting ourselves or just keeping people informed—the better,” McClatchey adds. “People will hopefully use us as a resource.”


140 Characters or Less
Becoming that resource, however, takes time and a little bit of know-how. The first step is producing effective content with regular frequency to create an audience and keep it engaged.

Rosales has built a following by providing information followers can use.

“We’ve managed to diversify very well,” she says. The company sells some products online and for that market, she says, “We tweet different things we have for sale online”

But Rosales also works to include the local market. “For installation we’ll tweet ‘today only 10, 20 percent off on local installation,’ or we have coupons online so I will often put a link in our tweet right back to our coupon page website,” she says.

“We like to give variety in our tweets,” Hedin says. “We will include information on projects that are currently in production, re-tweet industry news articles that are interesting, trade shows that we are attending, business projects that we are working on and, because we have employees that follow us, we like to add a personal element that includes employee announcements, anniversaries, birthdays, etc.”

That personal element is a key part of social media as followers seek to be engaged with content providers. Hedin explains that Facebook provides a valuable platform for building interactive relationships with retail customers.

“We love to get feedback from industry key players because we want to make sure we are providing the best and most helpful information,” she says.

Architectural Fittings tweets about relevant news in order to become a resource to followers. “Topics include exciting building projects, new progress in production technologies, innovation in the use of glass as it is a directly related material to our product line, as well as retweeting interesting news from people we follow,” Khattak says.

McClatchey stresses that whatever is posted, the key is to make sure there’s lots of it. “What we put on there ranges anywhere from links to articles, press releases, educational links and just general promotion of new products. The more information, the more content we get out there, the better.”

Getting Started
New to social media? Get started by connecting with USGlass in the following places:
• Follow USGlass on Twitter at http://twitter.com/USGlass;

• “Friend” USGlass on Facebook at www.facebook.com;

• Connect on LinkedIn with USGlass editor Megan Headley at http://www.linkedin.com/in/meganheadley, publisher Debra Levy at http://www.linkedin.com/in/debralevy or search for Key Communications; and

• Read our blogs on www.usgnn.com.

If You Post It, Will They Follow?
@ABVGlass today has more than 1,000 followers on its Twitter account. When Rosales began a social media marketing campaign nearly two years ago, she first sought to get a “base.” For her, that meant doing the legwork to find relevant companies to follow.

“Any company in construction, real estate, glass—anything that had to do with our field—I went out and searched for those,” Rosales says. She adds, “It’s kind of like building a website; it takes time and doesn’t happen overnight.”

Hedin started growing her base by reaching out to contacts. “We started by spreading the word internally with our employees, family and friends. We are also inviting our existing customers/business partners to join us in social media. In addition, we have added links to our website so anyone who visits our homepage is invited,” she says.

McClatchey has followed a similar process, growing a base by reaching out to customers and colleagues as well as by promoting the company’s online presence whenever possible.

Of course, following others doesn’t necessarily mean your base will be built up in return, Khattak points out. “[Our] number of followers has been built up by following key tweeters, if interesting, and posting tweets that are engaging to the readership. The more tweets that are posted has been directly proportional to the number of followers we have gained.”

Social Media Myths
• Don’t forget to keep the “social” in social media. Intersperse business tips and articles with personal comments or reflections. Have conversations with your followers. Remember, it’s just virtual networking.

• So you consider social media a timewaster? Then don’t get started without a strategy in place. What do you want to accomplish through using social media? Without a goal in
place, you could just be talking to yourself.

• Don’t get discouraged by negative comments on your posts. Some people never learned the “if you can’t say anything nice …” rule. But just think, because you’re aware of that negative feedback this could be a great opportunity to reach out to that disgruntled customer and ask how you can help—now you’re no longer the problem maker, you’re the problem solver.


USG
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