As a company in sync with today’s highly-connected marketplace, Southwire discusses its progressive use of social media influencers.
As unconventional as it may seem, today’s highly-connected, tech-savvy landscape has given rise to a whole new profession/job title – that of “social media influencer.” And it’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Depending on their prominence, popularity, and/or expertise in a given field, social media influencers can create trends and encourage their followers to buy products they promote, which has made them hot targets for brand marketers. And while the title may conjure up images of highly-paid glamazons promoting trendy foods, cosmetics, and music festivals, the fact is that, according to a 2018 Fourcommunications study, 49% of all consumers rely on influencer recommendations on social media – a reality which can be successfully applied to the electrical products industry as well.
“Influencers can give real-world feedback on products, and it’s also become a forum for electricians to share techniques with one another,” confirms Nic Saeger, vice president of marketing at Southwire, which has effectively incorporated the tool of ‘social media influence’ in its marketing plan. “Before, it was only word of mouth within their local network, but now electricians can share their work or experience with whoever follows them on social media.”
According to Saeger, social media influencers help bridge a historic industry impasse.
“Electricians want to know about products and techniques from other electricians, but a lot of people in the trades don’t want to be early adopters, so social media gives them a chance to see the products in use before they buy them,” he explains. In addition, social media enables reach beyond the confines of physical possibility. For example, Saeger says, “our sales team is currently using social media to promote counter days and training opportunities in certain locations. One of our sales associates says that he can train 30 people at a local event; however, he can run a training event for 10,000 people if he does it on social media.”
At Southwire, Saeger encourages the influencers they work with to help build the Southwire brand and show all of its solutions. “For example, our influencer Adam Sperry has shown – better than we ever could – how our CoilPAK™ cart, Maxis® XD1 Extreme Duty Circuit Puller, and GUIDEIT™ products all work together to create a time-saving solution,” Saeger says. “Adam shows our products in real-world environments and also mentions distributors he buys from to help tie it all together for followers.”
“One of the reasons we use influencers is because they share honest feedback with followers,” Saeger continues. “These days, content creation is a high priority but can burn a lot of calories for a company. In that respect, influencers represent a low-cost way to create great content – both for manufacturers like us as well as the influencers themselves, who rely on new products to create new content and drive more engagement with their followers.” Saeger says that he and his team first learned about social media influencers from their millennial employees, who pushed the company to get on Instagram and start sending products to influencers. Today, he says, “we plan to keep growing our social media and are always looking at new channels like TikTok.”
An Influencer’s Eye-View
For Adam Sperry, a foreman at ABC Electric in Des Moines, Iowa, and a social media influencer for Southwire for the past two years, the role he plays serves many purposes.
“I’m useful to both electrical contractors and Southwire by playing the middle ground between the new products they have to offer and an older trade,” Sperry explains. “Companies that have new and innovative products that make work easier for contractors and wiremen don’t always promote them effectively, and contractors and tradespeople can be set in their ways, too.”
“Until you can show someone a photo or demo of how a product can save money and ease wear and tear on their body, people won’t necessarily use it,” Sperry says. “Through social media, I can help the industry push a product that helps contractors save money and work faster, which clearly benefits contractors too.”
With the current shortfall of young apprentices in the trade, “there’s often a disconnect between younger teams driving marketing activities at today’s electrical product companies and older contractors out in the field,” Sperry says. “Having someone in between who’s social media-savvy but can speak from experience to bridge the gap between these groups helps companies like Southwire highlight their products.”
Sporting some 25,000 followers on Instagram (which houses the bulk of his following), Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, Sperry, whose user name is “completelycordless” across all platforms, says that he’s experienced engagement of anywhere from 35,000 to 400,000 followers in any one post.
“I post about products that physically help me and deliver a benefit that I can see and experience – it’s totally organic,” Sperry says of his posting process. “Southwire sends me new products to try and I share my honest experiences and pride myself on being available to anyone who wants to reach out to me with questions.” In addition to providing this service to several other major tool and niche manufacturers, Sperry confirms that certain distributors use his videos to help train their salespeople.
While his service as an influencer isn’t compensated, “I get the benefit of getting to try the newest products and sharing my honest opinion,” Sperry says. “I really enjoy working with Southwire and helping both industry veterans as well as younger people coming up in the trade better understand and use new products that can benefit them. It makes it better for everyone.”
“Overall, I love people to engage,” Sperry says. “I want to hear people’s feedback and create a discussion.”
Tips for the Trade
Following, Saeger and Sperry offer advice for the savvy use of social media influence in a marketing plan:
- Bring It Full Circle – “One of the most import things is to tie the product, the influencer, and the distributor together,” Saeger says. “Often when an influencer posts on their feed, one of the first questions they receive from followers is ‘where can I buy this?’ Linking up the influencer and the distributor allows the influencer to connect the dots for the follower by sharing where they purchased it in the post. At the same time, distributors can also use the influencer-created content for their own social media or in email outreach to their contacts.”
- Don’t Influence the Influencer – Saeger warns others against pushing influencers to say a certain thing or talk about a product as they might want them to. “In other words, don’t give them a script,” he said. “They won’t work by it and, even if they did, it will come off as non-authentic to the end user.”
- Embrace a New Paradigm – Thanks to current demographics, Saeger feels that the industry will see a continued rise in the presence of both social media and influencers. “As electricians retire and younger generations come up in the trade, I think that the use of social media will only increase, as younger electricians have grown up with social media and their familiarity and trust level with that medium is extremely high.” Sperry agrees and encourages distributors to get in the mix. “Don’t be afraid of social media or scoff at it because you’re unfamiliar – it’s a powerful tool that helps sell your products and if you use it, you’ll see results,” Sperry says. “It provides information that prospects weren’t getting before and definitely makes a difference.”
Tagged with best practices, social media