Welcome to our first guest blog post where we take a deeper look into how product manufacturers within the construction industry are using social media. First up in this series is Playrite, who manufacture artificial surfaces and synthetic grass for sports facilities, playgrounds and leisure surfaces. They have an active presence on Twitter, Facebook and regularly update their company blog.
I initially heard about Playrite and their products through Twitter and since then have shared many interesting conversations on Twitter. In October we had the pleasure of actually meeting their marketing manager, Lorna Duncanson in person when she attended our Digital Marketing Seminar. Meeting online friends offline is one of my favourite things! I will now happily hand you over to Lorna to give you a short introduction to Playrite, what they do, how they use social media and what positive results it has had on their business.
UPDATE (16/05/2012) Marketing manager Lorna Duncanson is running 5k for race for life in July so please donate here.
An Introduction to Playrite
I’m Lorna Duncanson the marketing manager for Playrite who manufacture artificial sports, playground and leisure surfaces. Our products appear in tennis clubs, schools, leisure centres and gardens all over the UK, Europe and across the Globe. We have been established for 20 years now and are the only UK manufacturer to produce woven, tufted and needle punch surfaces giving us a huge insight into the industry. As marketing manager I am responsible for all the marketing decisions; I look after the website, manage all social media accounts, create new literature, raise brand awareness… (the list goes on). It’s just me in the department currently, but I do get a lot of support from our sales team and area managers.
Why do you use social media and Twitter in particular?
When I started at Playrite social media was one of the first things I wanted to get involved with, mainly because it’s a great way of communicating with customers (and competitors) and the only real cost, essentially, is time. In January 2011 I started the Playrite Blog, which is updated every week without fail. Twitter and Facebook are great traffic drivers to our blog (and website) and also keep our followers up-to-date with recent case studies and other Playrite news.
Twitter is an excellent tool for keeping the rest of the Playrite team updated with the latest industry news. At Playrite, we consider ourselves to be experts in our industry and so it’s important to keep up to date with what is going on. Twitter helps us to do this as well as gaining insight into how architects communicate, what information they like, and how they like to receive it. In the future, we aim to get more of our sales representatives tweeting and answering questions live online. Together we have a huge amount of knowledge and expertise that we want to share with our followers.
How did Twitter help promote Playrite at the recent FSB exhibition in Cologne?
Cologne was such a whirlwind – 10 months of planning for essentially a 3 day exhibition! Twitter really helped us to communicate with everyone back home and in Germany, allowed us to create a lot of buzz about our stand and let everyone know where we were and when events would be happening. Right from the beginning I uploaded sneak previews of our stand and blogged directly from the Koeln messe whilst in Cologne. This drove a huge amount of traffic to the site where we uploaded images, videos, and I wrote a blog post every day for the 5 days we were in Germany from my personal blog. All of this was linked through Twitter, and during those 5 days my blog received almost 300 hits, with the Thursday (Playrite’s 20th Birthday) receiving close to 100 hits. Not bad for one day’s work!
Using the Twitter search functionality for “FSB” and “FSB Cologne” also helped me to identify who else would be there, find new followers and meet new contacts as well as raising awareness of Playrite’s presence at the exhibition.
How do you manage your time on social media?
Currently, I am the only person who tweets for @PlayriteSurface although our Northern sales representative also tweets under his own account @Playrite_North. Currently I just manage my time as best I can and find that the ‘quality rather than quantity’ rule applies with Twitter, if I’ve got nothing interesting to say then it’s okay not to say anything at all, although I will be investigating into Hootsuite and Tweetdeck after learning more about these dashboard tools at the Pauley Creative Event in Manchester.
Have you managed to develop relationships online which you took offline, with Architects in particular?
In terms of meeting architects, I would say that as of yet we haven’t managed to take a relationship offline, but we have managed to reach many people that we wouldn’t have been able to communicate with if it wasn’t for Twitter. In terms of customers, we have managed to get quite a few enquiries from Twitter directly and take these relationships offline. Most importantly, Twitter has helped us to strengthen relationships with existing customers, especially those outside of the UK. It also gives a feeling of authority to Playrite, and often our customers want to get involved with case studies and online projects because they know their company will also get promoted through our social media activities.
Through Twitter we have also met up with some great individuals at companies such as Pauley Creative, and arranged tweet-ups at events such as FSB, PlayFair and The Education Show. Having a strong Twitter presence does help your company get noticed and remembered. Proof of this came with the number of people who visited our stand at FSB in Germany saying, “Hello, I follow Playrite on Twitter!”
You recently published a Specification Guide for Architects/Specifiers, how did Twitter help you raise awareness of this publication?
First and foremost, it was an article on Twitter that gave me the idea to produce the guide! Su Butcher wrote an article on her blog focusing on an alternative strategy to the usual sales push. This gave me the idea of producing a document that contained helpful information detailing what architects should consider when specifying synthetic grass, as well as some information on who Playrite are, what we do, some recent projects we’ve worked on and how to get in touch. Also, I liked the idea of providing useful information for free – something that Pauley Creative inspired me to do with their downloadable E Book: “The Construction Marketer’s Guide to Social Media.”
Our specification guide was designed as a PDF, although we have also posted a few copies out and included them in our literature folders when meeting Architects. Twitter helped us to share this information and our followers re-tweeted the link and extended Playrite’s reach. We also got some really positive feedback from the document that lead us to create a further PDF on the different types of cricket surfaces available, which again was shared on Twitter. The “Information for Architects” guide also helped us to promote our online RIBA accredited CPD that went live around the same time. This proved that within the business world, Twitter is an excellent way of communicating with a large audience.
Have you got any advice for other manufacturers who are still unsure of social media?
I think the key to social media is to always remember that you are communicating directly with the World Wide Web. That includes your current and prospective customers, your competitors, your colleagues and your bosses. This can be seen as a negative thing, but as long as it’s kept professional I personally like the idea of promoting a more transparent and approachable company.
My advice is that if you have the time to spare, and you’ve got something interesting to say, then I would recommend you just go for it! Twitter has proved more successful for Playrite than I ever thought possible. It is easy to use (once you get your head around it), helps you network without having to leave your desk, extends your reach, and you discover insightful information often way before anyone else does.
Thank you to Lorna and her team for giving us some great insights into how social media can be used by product manufacturers within the construction industry. I especially liked her points about becoming a more ‘transparent and approachable company’ because I think that is a key point. Social media gives customers and prospects the opportunity to connect and engage with companies in a more personable way. As you saw from Lorna’s experience at the trade show, many of the visitors to their stand were already aware of Playrite and what they do because they followed them on Twitter. This is a step towards raising brand awareness and building relationships with your audience so when they are ready to purchase, your products are top of mind.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and if you have any questions for Lorna or would like to add anything please do so in the comments section below.