Connecting with today’s distribution customer can be a challenge — most contractors, facility managers, and purchasers are busy. They are rarely at their desks or in the office. Their time is limited, and many prefer to interact via their mobile devices. Distributors are forced to get creative when trying to reach these customers because advertising may not have the same effect as it has in the past.
Graybar, a distributor of electrical, communications and data networking products, is seeing success by connecting with customers via social media. Graybar’s social media team, which is housed in its corporate marketing department, has maintained company accounts on various platforms for the better part of a decade.
“We started on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and have expanded to Youtube, Google+ and even Instagram,” said Tim Sommer, manager of Graybar’s corporate communications. “It has proven to be a great way to keep Graybar top-of-mind with customers and a way to showcase the value we add to the supply chain.”
What to Post
A quick glance at Graybar’s Facebook page shows an excellent snapshot of the company as a whole. Posts give information about new services, products, promotions and even the company’s history. A recent case study on Graybar’s involvement in the U.S. Bank Stadium project in Minneapolis is featured. Suppliers’ posts are liked and shared.
“We’ve found that posting a variety of topics — all of which are connected to Graybar’s business and mission – has been successful in engaging our followers,” Sommer says. “Social media has helped customers get to know Graybar on a more personal level and better understand our business.”
Social media is also a place for customers to reach out with a question, concern or compliment.
“If someone takes the time to contact us, we are sure to acknowledge it quickly,” Sommer continues. “It is a simple thing we can do to interact with followers and keep the conversation going.”
Graybar Communications Specialist Liz Paasch has seen such success with Graybar’s corporate Facebook page that she has been encouraging Graybar’s individual branches to start their own pages.
“Graybar’s customer base varies depending on the local business climate,” Paasch explains. “And each Graybar branch hosts its own events for local customers. Providing these locations with their own Facebook page has helped them to connect with their local community. We provide support from Corporate, but the pages are managed by branch staff. Our employees have been enthusiastic about getting ownership in the company’s social media strategy, and we’ve learned from each other since starting this program.”
Graybar’s social media team hosts monthly meetings with the branch social media managers throughout the company. They discuss high-performing posts, growth strategies, and brainstorm new content. Meetings often include a “guest speaker” so social media managers can learn more about new Graybar initiatives and gain valuable social media management skills.
“Graybar is a large, nationwide company, with hundreds of locations and many events happening all the time,” Paasch says. “We’ve started live tweeting many of our events, like the G2 Talk webinars, or about Graybar’s presence at different trade shows or events across the country. By simply using a designated hashtag, any of our employees, suppliers, or customers can join the conversation.”
Social media also plays a prominent part when new products or services are introduced.
“We recently launched Graybar Smartreel, a portable wire and cable payout system that is only available through Graybar,” Sommer says. “One of its main selling points is that it can be easily moved by a single person — and that asset is best conveyed through video. We created a number of short videos and even shorter GIFs to share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so people could quickly and easily view the product’s capabilities.”
And while Graybar certainly uses its social media accounts as a marketing tool, Paasch advises social media users to be careful not to come across as overly promotional.
“Our most engaging posts often include a tip, trick, or useful information,” she says. “Like any media outlet, quality content is king.”
Connect with Graybar via their social media at the following:
Kara Bowlin is Graybar's Communication Specialist