Social Networking Moves Into Distributor World

October 18, 2010
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Some HVAC businesses have tasted success by including social networks in their marketing mix. Take New York City HVAC manufacturer Elgen Manufacturing for example. Inside sales director Jon Mendelson said, “I posted a private link to a tour of our facility at Linkedin [social network] and closed a $3 million deal last week. It works!”

Kevin York, president of Atlanta, Georgia-based SCI Safety Consultants, was equally enthused.

“I have connected with a new distributor in the Netherlands that came from my Linkedin group,” he said. “I find these - and being active - generates more business than simply building a profile and letting people find you. Yes, it works.”

Neither businesses are large, multi-national companies or on the Fortune 500 list. But they are examples of small businesses that are using social networks to reach out to existing customer bases or to new customers.

Some small businesses - like HVAC distributors - have adapted popular social network websites like Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook to their business models, while others are taking it very slowly.

“We have just begun experimenting with Twitter and Facebook,” said Dan Hinchman, president of Aireco Supply Inc., Laurel, Md. “We have not formulated any strategy relative to social media. We are just playing with it to see what happens as we try to determine if this can be valuable.”

Aireco has set up links to Facebook and Twitter as well as a Facebook “like” button to get click-through visitors to its website.

HARDI SETS SOCIAL GOALS

The Heating, Airconditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) is setting the leadership example for its distributor members by venturing into several different social network venues. Talbot Gee, HARDI vice president, said that HARDI uses Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The organization also has its own blog at www.wholesale observations.blogspot.com.

“YouTube is an excellent tool for posting, sharing, archiving, and embedding video files,” Gee said. “Facebook has a very large following within our membership, and Twitter is the best fast-delivery mechanism for wide sources of information and interests.”

HARDI’s strategies for its blog and Twitter accounts are intended for immediate news items and important items that don’t necessarily warrant an e-mail blast. “They are both also fantastic for promotions and updates to ongoing initiatives, especially those which are well suited to be quickly forwarded and spread among our members or their customers,” said Gee.

And have these initiatives been a successful part of HARDI’s marketing-communications strategy? “Yes, when kept in perspective,” Gee said. “Overall, use of such social media is still fairly small among our membership - but is rapidly growing. Member companies with histories of being especially aggressive and bold have been using these for a while. There’s also a growing segment of members who will start Twitter accounts, for example, with no intention of contributing content, but rather to follow sources they value.

“This is fantastic from HARDI’s perspective as it provides yet another opportunity for members to choose the best way for them to receive the important information we put out.”

Gee noted that the speed these tools provide to get news and information out to very wide audiences is “astounding.” He added, “We’ve seen news releases or announcements about events get spread almost instantly, and simply posting where we are when traveling has connected us to people we would not otherwise meet.

“The news media has been especially effective at using these tools to make news more accessible. Several members have created feeds that are available only to their customers’ which is an interesting proprietary value-add.”

For more information, visit www.hardinet.org.

Publication date: 10/18/2010

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