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.
I 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.