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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.

Social Media Success In Gases And Welding

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Yesterday I heard a great anecdote from Bob Goodliffe, president of J. W. Goodliffe & Son, a GAWDA distributor member. It is the perfect example of the power of social media in the gases and welding industry.

After being approached by a manufacturer about carrying a new line of welding helmets, Goodliffe decided to leave the decision up to the customers. Naturally, he turned to the company’s fans on Facebook. J. W. Goodliffe & Son’s online store, Cyberweld, has established an active presence on Facebook, and fans have returned the gesture.

Since posting a picture of the helmet on its Facebook page last week, Cyberweld’s post has received 42 “likes” and 22 comments to date. “Feedback was so positive that we’ll be launching the new line in a couple of weeks,” says Goodliffe. The feedback is noticeably honest, too. While the majority of customers agree with one user who says, “Killer Hood!!!!!!!!!” others expressed hesitation due to the price point or features of the helmet. This kind of feedback is valuable not only for the distributor, but for the manufacturer as well.

With the help of social media, Goodliffe was able to get almost instant feedback from customers and effectively remove some of the risk of taking on a new product line. He reiterates that customers appreciate knowing that Cyberweld is listening to them. Looks like listening is paying off!

Share your examples of social media success by leaving a comment.

Your Customers Are Doing It. Are You?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Dive Into Social Media SuccessLinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs…whether you use all or some of them (if you’re reading this, you’re doing at least one), there’s no denying that social media has an important place in marketing. A new survey of small businesses by American Express OPEN and SEMPO shows that social media trails only company websites as the favored online business marketing tactic.

In talking to GAWDA members about how they plan to market their companies, the number one response is word of mouth. You’re not alone. According to the OPEN/SEMPO survey, 82 percent of respondents say that they rely on word of mouth to attract new customers. Well guess what? Social media is word of mouth!

Those of you who are already on social media, I want to hear about it. Specifically, I want to know if social media has ever led to a sale for your company. Maybe someone responded to a tweet or a blog. Maybe you connected with an old friend on LinkedIn or Facebook, only to find out that person is a potential customer. Whatever the case may be, please share your social media success stories.

To support your social media efforts, Welding & Gases Today has added a new section to its website specifically for articles on social media. In this section, there are great articles on LinkedIn, best blogging practices, Twitter and other platforms. Check it out, there’s some great stuff there, and it’s only going to continue to grow.

Social Media Regulations…From FDA

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

FDA's social media regulationsAmong the more unusual regulations that we might see in 2011, FDA is slated to publish draft guidance on the use of social media. Yes, you read that correctly. A recent message from the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) says that the division has “been researching draft guidance topics on the following issues related to Internet/social media promotion of FDA-regulated medical products:

• Responding to unsolicited requests
• Fulfilling regulatory requirements when using tools associated with space limitations
• Fulfilling post-marketing submission requirements
• Online communications for which manufacturers, packers, or distributors are accountable
• Use of links on the Internet
• Correcting misinformation”   (via EyeOnFDA.com)

The agency is targeting a publish date of 1st Quarter 2011, so we should see this very soon. One bullet points specifically to the online communications of distributors, so this will impact those GAWDA members who manufacture or distribute medical gases.

I was surprised to learn that the FDA was stepping into the realms of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et al, but it does make sense to a certain extent—social media are largely unregulated. We’re in a new age with social media, and with it come unique challenges. Bullet #2 raises an intriguing point: how do you meet regulations when Twitter limits your characters?

I’m still undecided on this, but I want to hear what you think: Has the FDA overstepped its bounds, or do you welcome the idea of social media guidelines? What social media issues would you like guidance on?