How to Get Social in the Promo Industry

Maple Ridge Farms Team

The promotional products industry is a big family, and social media is our dining room table. The conversations are fast-paced, topics are plentiful, and the food is delicious.

While we love meeting face-to-face with our valued distributor partners and their customers, social media has brought us closer together with continued conversation. Here’s how we get social on the Farm (and how you can too):

Join the conversation! Spend time listening on social media via targeted hashtags, keywords, lists or your feed to join appropriate conversations. Take an interest in what others are doing—comment on their company events, congratulate them on milestones big and small and ask questions about what they do. Suggest ideas, share case histories or recommend products when appropriate. We love chatting with industry friends, getting to know our customers better and connecting with new people on social media. Plus, social media helps fuel our surprise and delight marketing efforts!

While Twitter is best suited for conversations, you can start building relationships (and help maintain them) on any platform. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have extensive direct messaging capabilities if you want to contact someone (or a brand) privately. For example, a distributor could ask a supplier follow-up questions about a product posted for a client project. Or we’ve reached out to distributors via Instagram Direct who posted about attending a show to welcome them to our booth. Use messaging strategically, not to spam people. (LinkedIn also has extensive messaging capabilities for individuals, not companies.)  

A popular way to join the conversation on Twitter is to participate in a Twitter chat. There are chats on an array of topics, but if you’re in the promotional products industry, #Promochat is the place to be! Join us and your industry peers every Wednesday at 2 PM CT to discuss a specific topic. Jump in and introduce yourself, or feel free to watch the chat (by monitoring the hashtag) at first to get a feel for it. It’s fast-paced, but everyone’s friendly! (We may share pictures of decadent food gifts on occasion, so bring a snack.)

In addition to joining conversations, you can start them. Ask for feedback on your products or services and marketing tools. Share polls and ask questions to encourage others to engage with you. Tag others when you feature them in your content, so they can join the conversation and share it with their networks. Tag responsibly, so you don’t spam people. Tagging people repeatedly for no reason will probably annoy them and discourage them from engaging with you.   

Remember to follow people you chat and connect with to add new voices and viewpoints to your feed. We’re always looking to connect with more distributor partners and industry friends. You never know when an opportunity to collaborate will happen!

Shh! Listen and learn. One of the best benefits of getting social is learning more about your customers, distributor or vendor partners and industry friends. People like to share their successes and failures, hobbies and special moments on social media. It’s a fun way to get to know them better and start building a relationship.

There are several ways to listen, depending on the platform. Twitter and Facebook allow you to create lists of users to keep tabs on them better. (You can also choose to be notified every time an account posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms.) You can set up lists on specific topics (e.g. promotional products professionals), your clients, competitors, industry associations and more. Twitter even allows you to create private lists for your eyes only.

In addition to lists, you can search targeted keywords and hashtags. Some of our favorite hashtags to use and search are #promotionalproducts, #foodgifts, #packaging, #entrepreneur and #corporategifts, depending on the tweet or what we’re searching. Other industry-related hashtags include #promoproducts, #promofamily, #brandedmerch and industry show hashtags (e.g. #PPAIExpo, #ASIChicago). Save your favorite hashtags in management software, such as TweetDeck, for easier monitoring.

Another way you can utilize social media is to research trends and see what people are talking about. Find key accounts to follow to stay on top of the latest trends and news. In addition to your favorite suppliers and distributors, ASI and PPAI are great places to start. Both organizations have multiple accounts, depending on the platform, including contributors to their publications. We enjoy keeping tabs on industry trends and research in the promotional products, packaging and food gifts industries.   

Tell your story. While each platform has its strengths, it’s important to share your company’s story. Let people know why you’re in business and how you can help them. Spotlight your employees to show your customers and prospective customers the faces behind the brand name. It helps to build trust when you get to know people you work with and can put a face with a name.

Showcase your products and services by showing their benefits to buyers. How can they help solve pain points in your customers’ lives? How will they make your customers’ lives easier and/or better? Show your products in use as much as possible. Lifestyle images and field testing demonstrations are popular as they allow potential buyers to see themselves using the product. Remember, promotional products are the only advertising medium to touch all five senses (including taste and smell!), so show how your products engage recipients!

You can also tell your story by pulling back the curtain to your operations. Show your community how your products are made and decorated or a day in the life of your employees. Take them behind the scenes at a photo shoot or show setup. Launch a new product or give a virtual tour of your facility live on Facebook while answering questions from viewers. While live video is popular, let your community know when you’re going live, if you can. Otherwise, your audience will be limited to who’s available on a moment’s notice.

Choose your platforms wisely. Where does your audience live? Spend time researching where your customers and prospective customers spend their time on social. Don’t try to be everywhere at the same time. When you decide which platforms you’ll build communities on, learn about their strengths and weaknesses, best practices and how to provide the most value to your audience there.

Develop a strategy for your social media efforts that fits each platform’s strengths, and incorporate it into your overall marketing strategy. Be as consistent as possible with your brand’s look and voice throughout your social media efforts. For example, it’s confusing to people if your tone changes dramatically from one platform to another.

Being consistent does not mean sharing the same content at the same time to each platform. Repurposing content will help your content marketing efforts, but share content in a way that’s best suited for each platform, including the format, copy and hashtag use. As you spend more time on each platform, you’ll find which content types your audience prefers, what calls-to-action (CTAs) drive activity and how best to spend your time to see results.        

Today, we have presences on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, commonsku, Vimeo and YouTube. We didn’t start out on all these platforms, but joined each one when it made sense to do so. We have strategies for each platform, so we can utilize our time effectively. While these platforms work best for us, which platforms work best for you?

Create and curate content. Content fuels your social media efforts, so think about how you’ll provide it. Original content can be time-consuming to create. How will you produce enough content for your social channels?

On the Farm, we tackle content creation as a team. Several Ridgers help with producing videos, taking pictures and writing blog articles. Everyone is encouraged to share behind-the-scenes moments for our social media channels. Discuss how you’ll handle your content creation efforts internally, so you’ll have the content you need.   

In addition to creating original content, curate content from industry organizations, thought leaders, influencers, customers and other resources your audience will find valuable. Tell your audience who created the content, and tag them if possible. We love sharing content from others to provide different voices and viewpoints for our audience.

Always opt for quality over quantity. While a content marketing schedule helps ensure you have a steady flow of content available, don’t feel pressured to share more content because others do. Some platforms, such as Twitter, support a higher volume of content than others, but it’s not necessary to tweet a minimum number of times per day. Decide what works best for your audience, and how much content you can support.      

Let’s review. Join the conversation. Listen and learn. Tell your story. Choose your platforms wisely. Create and curate content. But most importantly, have a plan.

What social media tips or advice would you add? Share your best social media practices for the promo industry with us on social. We’re looking forward to getting social with you!  

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