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The Pallet Business and Social Media: Best Practices for Starting Out
Getting Social: A review of social media best practices from around the industry including a survey of what companies are currently doing online.
By Rick LeBlanc
Date Posted: 7/1/2016
A review of social media best practices from around the industry including a survey of what companies are currently doing online.
Social media marketing can be described as a process of generating traffic and interest for your business through interacting with social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and others. Successful social media efforts can result in people reading and sharing your content, the generation of leads, and ultimately, sales conversions. Successful social media also helps solidify existing relationships and can extend your brand. But all of that does come at a cost.
Is Social Media Worth the Effort?
For large consumer facing companies, there is no longer debate about whether to participate in social media. For smaller businesses, the trend is less clear. For example, a 2015 study from the research firm Manta reported that 59% of small business participants do not see a positive return on investment (ROI) from their social media efforts. Another 2015 study found that 42% of participants are not confident they can properly determine whether their effort is profitable. This despite the fact that tools are readily available to measure social content consumption and shares as well as changes to website traffic. Ultimately, converted leads generated from social media can result in a positive ROI. It all depends on how well you execute social media.
Meanwhile, there is also plentiful research supporting the use of social media marketing. Hubspot, for example, reported that by spending a minimum of six hours per week on social media, 66% of marketers increased their lead generation.
Pallet Industry Remains Slow to Embrace Social Media
Pallet Enterprise research suggests that pallet company presence in social media is very low. The vacuum may indicate that pallet companies do not see the value in social media, or that they have not had the resources available to yet implement such a program.
For this article, Pallet Enterprise undertook a quick study of social media involvement of pallet companies in three top-30 U.S. cities, one each from the West, the Midwest, and the Mid-South, respectively. We identified the Google listings for pallet companies in each city, and excluded national rental providers, as well as non-wood pallet providers.
For 28 wood pallet companies identified, a total of four firms had one or both of corporate Facebook and Twitter accounts, or just a little more than 14% of operators. To further dampen the results, two of the Facebook pages were stale dated. They had not been updated in the last year. (Frequency of updates is one of the best practices we will highlight a little later in this article.)
This result suggests that actual pallet company social media involvement is still in its early stages. By comparison, a 2015 survey reported that 41% of U.S. small businesses were on Facebook. The higher overall social media engagement we are seeing from outside the industry is good reason for pallet companies to at least explore the opportunity.
Plan First, Get Social Second
Given the overall interest in social media, it is a marketing channel that companies should consider. Before jumping in, however, experts recommend taking the time to look at the issue strategically. Consider what exactly you would hope to accomplish through social media, whether it is lead generation, recruiting, or solidifying existing relationships in your community.
Hubspot, an expertise provider in the social media space, recommends taking the time to analyze what your competitors are doing with respect to social media, as well as what channels your prospective target audience uses to interact socially. By answering these questions, you will be able to better determine which social media channel to use.
Mississauga, Ontario-based Pallet Renew recently went through such a planning process. “It definitely takes a bit of learning before you jump in,” remarked Pallet Renew’s Olivia Simpson. “You have to start slowly.”
Choose a Channel
After some analysis, Pallet Renew decided to begin its social media presence with Twitter. Simpson explained, “It was more the fact that the world is moving faster and faster. We found that Twitter was a way that we could be short and sweet and to the point. It doesn’t require a ton of detail, whereas Facebook seems to be a lot more elaborate in the detail you provide, for example writing an article or creating a photo album rather than just posting a picture.”
Pallet Renew is already seeing positive results. “We have noticed more traffic at our website,” Simpson stated. “We have posted pictures about company events, and as a result, people are becoming better informed about the company.”
While Pallet Renew is happy with the initial foray into Twitter, Simpson foresees it moving into Facebook at some point. “I think you reach a different audience when you step onto the Facebook platform,” Simpson stated, “which is great for expanding. It is for people who have more time than the people on Twitter.”
Modesto, California-based United Pallet Services (UPS) has been active in social media over a period of years. Callen Cochran, business development manager at pointGUARD Pallet Protection Products, which is a division of UPS, explained that the company has two Twitter accounts (UPS and pointGUARD Pallet Protection) as well as a Facebook page and two LinkedIn accounts.
“If you want your social media to be more ‘touchy-feely,’ then you would probably want to focus on Facebook,” said Cochran. “LinkedIn works a lot like Facebook, but strictly from a business point of view. I find that users tend to be more engaged with it. Twitter works great with in-the-moment events, but is also an efficient way for users to quickly catch up with the happenings of those that they follow. With a 160 character limit, you have to be smart about what you say and how you say it.”
Social Media is Not Advertising
Insiders stress the importance of being a respectful community member. Companies can make the mistake of just using social media to solicit sales, which can quickly turn off others. One rule of thumb is that only one out of every seven social media posts should be self-serving. The others should be based on providing information unrelated to your sales pitch that will be supportive, helpful or interesting to others. Once you have won the respect of the audience, the limited amount of self-promoting content that you do present will be much more powerful and persuasive.
This approach also helps broaden your reach. “When you are tweeting about that other stuff (other than your marketing message) you are reaching an entirely different audience,” Simpson commented. “It mixes things up and makes it more interesting.”
“Unlike email where you are pushing a message to your audience, with social media your audience is retrieving information about you and your company,” Cochran explained. “Just make sure that there is something there to retrieve. For us, there was a lot of trial and error, but as I tell my kids… ‘if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying.’ I learned a lot along the way, so it was worth it.”
Consider the Frequency and Quality of Postings
There are various formulas about how frequently to post information. Generally speaking, frequent posting is a good idea for social media, within reason. For pallet companies with limited resources, this can be a challenge.
Part of the solution lies in developing an opportunistic mindset about social sharing. Scott Geffros, assistant general manager of CWPCA, observed that older business owners may not have the instinct to take pictures at a social or business function to effortlessly create social media in the way that millennials might. Creating such a mind frame in employees, he commented, can be beneficial for social media generation.
Likewise, experts recommend that companies respond quickly and courteously to feedback from others. In the social media environment, there is an informal expectation that queries will be addressed within a day. And you need to have someone tasked in your company to handle social media requests.
Track Results to Determine Your Success
In order to determine the success of your efforts, free tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights can provide insight into how your content is being read or shared and the size of audience you are building. Increasingly, there are a number of free options available to help you in your social media effort.
“There is Hootsuite for social media publishing and monitoring, Wix for website and blog publishing, Mailchimp for newsletter management, and Google Analytics for website traffic information,” Cochran suggested. “All of these are free or at least have the basic features available for free.”
Leverage Industry Efforts
For Pallet Renew and others, one of the key challenges for pallet business social media is the generation of interesting content to share.
This hurdle is being addressed through increased social media efforts at the association level, including the Nature’s Packaging initiative. Nature’s Packaging is a collaborative effort between NWPCA, WPA and CWPCA, and will be generating reputable content that pallet companies will be able to share in their own media efforts.
Also, Pallet Enterprise monthly develops content that can be easily shared on topics such as industry trends, market developments, industry news, environmental issues, etc. It is free to provide links and promote content on the Pallet Enterprise website.
“It’s good to share content that’s already out there, and it’s better to create your own,” pointed out Annie Montey of Oakdale, California-based American Pallet. Montey is a WPA director and one of the leaders of that association’s current effort to boost its social media presence.
In her spare time, Montey has taken over 100 hours of social media courses at Udemy to help her gain a better understanding of social media best practices. “I’d encourage any WPA members who have authored articles either for their own blog, LinkedIn, or other industry publications to contact me with links to those articles. It’s essentially free promotion. If the article generates a high rate of engagement then it’ll be re-shared several times a year.”
CWPCA also is updating its social media strategy as part of a rebranding effort by the association. “Everyone realizes this is a space we need to occupy and it is not going to go away,” commented Geffros.
Geffros sees the Nature’s Packaging content as useful material that CWPCA members can leverage in their social media efforts. As for the current interest of CWPCA members, he has found a divide between members who aren’t interested in social media at all, and members who are highly interested. Facebook is the most popular channel, but one that is typically using personal Facebook accounts rather than corporate Facebook pages.
“The social media foundation needs to be here to help our members to springboard ahead,” Geffros concluded. “We don’t know what the future will hold in five years, but I see social media as one of CWPCA’s key benefits as we move forward.”