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The pandemic changed a lot of things, and one sure-fire change is the way we connect with each other and communicate. Social media usage in our industry has taken off, and manufacturers’ reps are learning to use it to build their own base of followers and tell manufacturer stories in a more direct and interactive way in our marketplace.
At this year’s AHR Expo in Atlanta, it was very noticeable that the era of the contractor-social influencer is stronger than ever. Contractors exercised their power to market products to the contractor and specifier markets using social media — live streaming and podcasts, even an awards night offered by the influencers to celebrate their fellow contractors. These influencers are like celebrities to the contractor trade.
Manufacturers are even now contracting these people to promote their products for a monthly fee. Recently at a regional show, social influencers became part of the trade show by organizing demonstrations, competitions and speaking on technical topics.
Many manufacturers’ reps have added or enhanced their social media presence to promote their manufacturers in local markets. Some have gone as far as adding a full-time marketing professional to manage all communications, social media posts and Internet presence internally. In some cases, these professionals have taken on the role of the marketing department for the manufacturer.
Other reps are using outside agencies to manage their social media, and some reps are even subsidizing these services via their manufacturer co-op budget. It is also possible to optimize a website and social media to target specific groups of potential customers or specifiers with paid ads on Instagram. Reps can hit thousands of leads per month and add followers for a very reasonable fee.
Another way to use social media to promote the manufacturer is by working with local contractors who are social media savvy to demonstrate your products. They usually have other contractors following them; showing your product installed or demonstrating its use is a great way to get your message out.
Social media returns what you put into it. If your company has a platform but is not actively posting and adding followers, it will not produce any returns. If you have a limited budget, look internally for someone active on social media and can take the lead on this aspect of your business.
Telling Our Stories
The Association of Independent Manufacturers Representatives (AIM/R) also has recognized the power of social media to tell our story, to educate the marketplace on our benefits and to drive membership growth. We polled the current membership, and the results revealed that members are very happy with the association’s direction and benefits to their business.
However, AIM/R needs to do a better job of explaining membership benefits to nonmembers and the industry. At the last face-to-face board meeting, the AIM/R board of directors approved the hiring of an outside social media firm to help deliver our message, engage with our members, and reach out to the industry and potential new members.
As AIM/R is a trade association with marketing-focused members, the leadership wanted an agency to bring creative and fun ideas that would identify and reflect our rep culture. After interviewing various firms, the board selected the Hearth Agency in San Diego.
This young and energetic firm that thinks outside the box was an easy choice. Board members met with Hearth’s team for an extensive onboarding process to understand our businesses, desired messages and audience. The Hearth Agency continues to meet monthly to plan future posts with AIM/R staff and board members.
We regularly post on LinkedIn and Instagram, the most popular social media outlets in our industry. Updates from our members, industry news and what our association is doing are some examples of current content. The Hearth Agency is also “social listening” and responding to posts from members, nonmembers and industry partners to engage and create conversation.
At our last annual conference, social media allowed us to share real-time posts and the event experience with non-attendees as it was happening. The association wants to expand AIM/R’s presence on other platforms and incorporate more video updates. Use of video results in a lot more viewers and followers.
If you haven’t already added AIM/R to your LinkedIn or Instagram account, we can be found at the following:
Jeff Blair is the president of Barclay Sales Ltd. and Barclay Sales Alberta. He has been with the company since 1985 and has been president since 2008. Blair is on AIM/R’s Executive Committee and serves as senior vice president of industry and PR, as well as Conference 2025.
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