Exclusive Features

Q&A with Werner Electric Supply’s social media maven

By Bridget


When Werner Electric Supply customers set
out on their trips and vacations last year, they packed a little extra
something in their suitcases. Tucked among the clothing, toiletries, and iPads
were blue, shirt-shaped koozies emblazoned with the Neenah, Wis.-based
distributor’s logo.

More than
just a way for its customers to keep their beverages cold, the koozies
represented an innovative, social media-based marketing campaign that prompted
customers to send in their “Adventures of the Traveling Koozie” photos. Once
uploaded to the distributor’s Facebook page, the photos were “liked” by their subjects, who in turn won prizes for
their participation.

The koozie
campaign is just one way that Werner Electric has been using social media to
engage its customers. And while industrial distribution as a whole hasn’t
caught onto the value of participating in sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn yet, this 11-location company says
it is reaping the rewards of its social efforts.

Bridget McCrea spoke with Amanda Marsicek, Werner Electric’s marketing
coordinator, for the lowdown on the distributor’s social media efforts, how
much time and energy goes into them, what the company gets out of it, and what
advice she’d offer other distributors looking to leverage the power of social
media. Here’s what she had to say:

McCrea: When did Werner Electric start using social media?

It was about five years ago but we’ve really stepped up our
efforts in this area over the last four years. We did it because we saw that
other companies were starting to use social media – though not necessarily in
our industry – and our vendors were also beginning to take an interest in it.
Ultimately, we saw social media as another avenue for our marketing department
to get more involved with current and prospective customers, as well as with
vendors and with other distributors.

How has your social networking approach evolved since 2008?

Marsicek:  Right now we’re using Facebook and Twitter – and we have a presence on
LinkedIn as well. Our approach has evolved right along with the social
networking itself, which was basically still in its infancy back in 2008. For
example, as business sites became available on platforms like Facebook, we set
up a presence there and started using it to connect with customers and vendors.
Working with a handful of other employees in the marketing department, we came
up with a posting strategy (what to post, when to post it, where to post it,
etc.) and also looked at what we didn’t want to use social media for
(like overt sales pitches). From there, we came up with a plan for using the
three sites on a regular, ongoing basis.

Who handles the posting and how much time goes into it?

Marsicek:  I spend one to two hours a week on social media. It involves posting
industry news, information, and other items to Facebook and then replicating
those posts manually across both Twitter and Facebook. (A recent tweet, for
example, asked followers if they were prepared for a blackout and offered to
put them in touch with one of the company’s lighting specialists.) We try to
post at least once or twice a week but we really take the time to put research
into it; we don’t just post or re-tweet blindly. I go through all of the
relevant information, do the research, and then only write up what makes most
sense for our customers and/or business partners. 

How do you decide what to post on Facebook and Twitter?

Marsicek:  I try not to post items that we would be interested in because I
don’t want to come off as being biased. We post a lot of industry news which,
in effect, also lets us get our products and services out into the limelight.
We also post product events and company news (such as changes within the
company’s upper management ranks). To keep things fresh we also like to run
contests using social media. This is our 65th year in business, for
example, and we made up a multiple choice quiz around what year our company was
founded. We got a lot of responses and find that those types of interactions
really help keep our followers engaged and interested.

How did last year’s “traveling koozie” promotion work out for Werner?

Marsicek:  That was one of our bigger social media promotions and our goal was to
build up the base of customers that we’re engaging with online. Our sales guys
handed out the koozies to all of their customers to take on vacation – or even
just use around town – and have fun with. Customers that wanted to win prizes
had to then “like” their contributed photos on Facebook. That really pushed
them to become Werner Electric fans. I wasn’t sure if those new “fans” would
stick once the promotion was over, but surprisingly enough we’ve retained about
90 percent of the 150 new friends that we signed up as a result of the koozie
campaign. It worked out very well.

From the distributor’s perspective, what are the difficult aspects of using
social media?

You have to be careful not to pigeonhole yourself into a specific theme or
style. There has to be a good variety of information and interactive elements
for people to actually want to stay on as fans and come back for more. Also, we
find it’s best not to post too much because this really bombards users’
newsfeeds. That can be a real turnoff.

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and
educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her
at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or
visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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