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2012 SMC Day 3: Communicating Through Technology

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Karl Meinhardt stands before the Technology Panel at GAWDA's Spring Management Conference

Karl Meinhardt stands before the Technology Panel at GAWDA's Spring Management Conference

The final day of GAWDA’s 2012 Spring Management Conference had a distinctly technological flavor. The closing business session featured GAWDA’s Management Information Committee and Social Media speaker Karl Meinhardt. Gases and welding technology itself is a broad, but very important topic. As MI Committee Chair Chris Dominiak revealed in last week’s guest blog, more than 70% of GAWDA members feel they could be doing more with technology.

Meinhardt got things started with an overview of Social Media. While much has been said and written about the use of Social Media to communicate with customers, one of the particularly interesting ideas touched on in Meinhardt’s speech was how Social Media can be used internally to facilitate communications within an organization.

Meinhardt pointed to the example Lockheed Martin, which after surveying its workforce, realized it was poised to lose a great deal of experience and knowledge as the Baby Boomer generation begins to retire. How did the company respond? Lockheed Martin used the power of Social Media to capture this experience for future generations. The organization created an internal wiki, their own private version of Wikipedia, where employees could contribute ideas and experiences.

After the session, I spoke with Josh and Erich Haun from Haun Welding Supply (Syracuse, NY), who were likewise struck by the idea of using Social Media to streamline internal communications. Erich pointed to the training advantage, to be able to reach employees across multiple locations to help do away with the response “I didn’t know you could do that.” Both agreed that the potential for technology to improve internal communications is intriguing.

The technology panel also addressed communication, looking at the The Cloud, mobile technology and the basic problem of implementing new technologies. The MI Committee stressed that, when introducing new technologies internally, it’s important to communicate with employees in advance and involve them in the process where possible. Buy in of the technology by company executives is critical if employees are to buy in. This has never been more true than with Social Media. As Meinhardt said, “If your customers spoke Chinese, you’d learn to speak Chinese.” Sounds like it’s time to learn the language of Social Media.

Social Media Case Study: Ozarc Gas

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Last month, Ozarc Gas sponsored the Northeast Arkansas Weld-A-Thon, a welding competition involving area high school and vo-tech welding students. Over the past three years, the event has steadily grown to include 36 students from 12 area schools, giving these young welders a place to show off their skills and learn more about the welding industry. One of the most unique aspects of the 2012 event was Ozarc’s use of social media in conjunction with the event. I spoke with Ozarc sales rep and event coordinator Nick Garner about the experience. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

What is the goal of the Weld-A-Thon?
Our goal is to get students interested in welding and show them that this isn’t just a grease-monkey job. It’s a job that’s in demand, and if you’re good at it, you can make excellent wages. We want to get the students excited about welding, so that it’s not just something they do in their high school ag class. We want to help them further their skills and go on in the welding industry.

Ozarc Gas uses Twitter to promote 2012 Weld-A-ThonI enjoyed following along on Twitter. What was the impetus behind live tweeting the event?
I think this industry is behind when it comes to social media. A lot of the current activity on Facebook and Twitter is limited to vendors, and you don’t see many competitions like this taking advantage of social media.

What role does social media play in furthering the goals of the Weld-A-Thon?
Social media is a great way to get the word out about the competition and give these kids the recognition they deserve. Even though these kids are in high school, they possess welding skills that are beyond my abilities. I know I couldn’t do some of the things they are doing. It’s awesome to see. We’re hoping to get more and more exposure for the event through social media. We hope to reach more schools this way.

What was the experience like using social media with the event for the first time?
It was the most fun I’ve had at the competition yet. In addition to the Twitter feed, we posted photos of the event on Facebook. At the end of the competition, we reminded everyone about the Twitter feed and the Facebook page where they can go and look at the pictures. We handed out fliers encouraging participants to like Ozarc Gas on Facebook and tied it in with a welding hood giveaway.

Have you seen results from your efforts?
We’ve seen more followers on Facebook. Giving away the welding hood provided a little more motivation for people to like our page. During the competition, I saw more followers on Twitter from within the welding industry.

Can we look for you to be live tweeting again next year?
Definitely. Next year, I want to try to get the schools involved and get them following on social media, especially the students. We plan to advertise the social media aspect more before the competition next year and really promote that to the students.

For Ozarc Gas, social media is proving to be a great way to promote the the Weld-A-Thon and welding industry in general. And while this particular use may not result in immediate sales revenues, it helps create and strengthen relationships between Ozarc and local schools and students. As Garner admits, there are a few tweaks to be made for next year’s event. With additional promotion, Ozarc hopes to draw in even more students and boost event participation. This in turn provides additional exposure to Ozarc’s propylene cutting demos at the event and introduces more schools to the process.

To see how Garner took advantage of social media for 2012 Northeast Arkansas Weld-A-Thon, take a look at the photos on Ozarc Gas’ Facebook page and see the tweets from February 17 on www.twitter.com/cryogasman.

Dry Ice Recipe: Make Fog, Make The News

Friday, November 4th, 2011

In the Third Quarter issue of Welding & Gases Today, we wrote about how distributors are using YouTube videos and other social media to connect with customers. Admittedly, many companies don’t have the time, money or technology to produce their own videos. However, there are ways to populate your YouTube channel with videos without ever touching a camera.

Patrick Galphin, marketing & public relations at nexAir, had the great idea of getting local news stations to do the work for you. What do you need? An event, community project or seasonal tip usually does the trick. In May, nexAir appeared on a news station to talk about propane safety in anticipation of grilling season. As a result of the appearance, nexAir received phone calls from both grillers and industrial propane forklift users.

Well, nexAir’s done it again. For this Halloween, Galphin brought dry ice to the local morning news program, Good Morning Memphis, to show viewers how they could create special effects with CO2. As he explained in “Connecting With Customers,” it’s less about selling dry ice, and more about getting nexAir’s name out there and making the association with dry ice. “We want to be known as the gas experts,” he says.

Once a video has aired, many news stations now put their segments online. Galphin also recommends getting a copy of the video and posting it on YouTube. This allows a distributor to add contact information and links to the video.

Check out nexAir’s “Dry Ice Fog Tips for Halloween” in the video below:

Using YouTube For Sales

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Using Social Media To Drive Sales

To give an update on my recent post, “YouTube As A Research Tool,” a GAWDA member shared another way of using YouTube as a research tool, and I want to share it with you. What I mentioned before was using videos to see applications in action. This week, I was speaking with Heath Wells, Regional VP of Sales at Cee Kay Supply (St. Louis, MO), who shared how he uses YouTube as a way to get to know customers better.

Wells explained that he uses YouTube to search for local businesses, and looks to see if they have any company videos or a company channel. “You can type in just about any type of business that’s within your territory,” he says. “If they’ve got a YouTube video, you can find it.” These videos can offer insight into what the customer does, what processes they use or even who you need to talk to in order to make a sale.

Whether it’s cold calling, identifying prospects or just getting to know more about an existing customer, YouTube videos can be a big help for a salesperson. Like any tool, it may not work every time, but if it works once, it’s worth it. And YouTube is only one tool. You can do the same thing with other social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook where customers may have pages on those sites. Social media is about connecting with people, so why not use it to connect with customers?

As we wrote in the Summer 2011 issue of Welding & Gases Today, “Your customers are using social media. What are you waiting for?” See how distributors are turning social media into sales success.

How are you using YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or even Google+ to make sales?