facebook and twitter —
and Glass? Oh My
Social Networking Sites Provide Glass Companies
with Greater Online Outreach
By Elizabeth Bodi
Online social networking tools have exploded in popularity
since the early 2000s. Facebook alone has more than 200 million active
users connecting with friends and family. But sites such as Facebook,
Twitter and weblog sites such as Blogger are no longer restricted to personal
communication uses alone. The business world is invading online networking
sites at full speed, hoping to gain from the ability to keep in touch
with not only customers, but other businesses as well. The glass industry
is no exception. From typically youth-oriented Facebook to the business-only
LinkedIn, glass businesses of all types are expanding their electronic
The world of online networking is primed for a business takeover. With
hundreds of millions of potential customers and industry affiliates using
these sites, glass businesses are finding it necessary to reach out to
those consumers as the latest form of marketing.
“If you have a website and want to give people every opportunity to find
you, then both Facebook and Twitter are a must-have,” says Richard Stelts
of Superior Door and Glass in Denver. “We started using both Facebook
and Twitter to get people to our website and to educate ourselves on what
the glass and local communities are doing.”
Facebook is one of the largest social networking sites available on the
web. Free to all users, www.facebook.com
allows individuals, as well as groups, to give basic information about
themselves through a simple profile page. In addition, there is a space
to share “what’s on your mind,” where users are able to post what they’re
doing at a given moment or their thoughts on any topic.
Users can “friend” other profiles by clicking on a link that will add
that person to their list of contacts (and in Facebook lingo, “friend”
is in fact a verb, defined as adding someone to your contact list). Users
can edit their security settings to only allow certain groups or people
full access to their profile, giving them complete control over who can
see what. Facebook also offers features such as event listings and groups
to connect people with similar interests. Facebook users can “friend”
everything from local events to preferred manufacturers to most-visited
The Dos and Don’ts of Internetworking
• Update frequently: if you lose interest in your social networks, so
will your followers.
• Moderate comments: anonymity can loosen the fingers, so make sure to
edit out anything that may be offensive to other readers.
• Make sure you get your information right: with instantaneous updates,
editing can be left by the wayside, but typos and false info can look
• Keep it strictly business: potential customers do not want to read tweets
about a coworker’s and your lunch plans.
• Post personal information: never give out things like home numbers or
• Get distracted with your own account: logging onto Facebook during work
hours can tempt you to check the status of that friend request on your
own personal account; refrain.
• Forget to link your various profiles to your main website and vice versa:
blogging about your awesome glass company doesn’t help if you don’t provide
essential contact information.
• Be passive: join communities or groups with similar interests and make
sure to get your name out there.
What Are You Tweeting?
Twitter, founded in 2006, focuses on allowing its users to communicate
with others through the exchange of quick and frequent updates. Twitter
is based around a simple question: What are you doing? Twitter’s updates—or
tweets—must be under 140 characters and can be sent via mobile phone texting,
instant messaging or the web.
After logging in to www.twitter.com,
users simply type in their “status”—what they’re doing or thinking at
that particular moment—press the update button, and the post will appear
at the top of the list, while older tweets are archived below. Twitterers
can regularly “follow” updates from other people with whom they want to
keep in touch.
Marie Melsheimer of Bend, Ore.-based GlasWeld reports that Twitter helps
the company to keep in touch with others in the field of glass repair.
“We have found that in the last year, more of our customers or potential
customers are using social media to connect with others in their field,”
Melsheimer says. “We feel that it is important to become part of this
conversation, provide information and participate in the glass repair
dialog that is occurring.”
GlasWeld tweets statistics about sales and specials to expand its customer
base. The tool also allows the company to simply communicate with others
in similar fields.
While Facebook and Twitter may seem geared toward glass businesses with
consumer-marketed products, LinkedIn is designed specifically for the
business world. According to its website, LinkedIn counts among its members
executives from all Fortune 500 companies. A LinkedIn personal profile
can be used to connect to other business professionals and represents
work experience, education and even recommendations. Like Facebook, LinkedIn
users can communicate with others by adding them to their list of “connections.”
LinkedIn can even be used to post and distribute job listings.
Pete Chojnacki of Peninsula, Ohio-based FabTech finds the “business application
(of LinkedIn) to be much more robust than Facebook” and has even received
quotes for work from companies he met through LinkedIn.
“I have solidified some connections made at trade shows and other events,”
Nancy Peterson of Azon USA, based in Kalamazoo, Mich., uses LinkedIn not
only to communicate with other businesses in the field, but to help her
own save money.
“Through LinkedIn, I follow the travel schedules of architectural photographers
who specialize in the types of photo work that might include Azon products,”
says Peterson, Azon’s market communication manager. “We might be looking
to include photos in our project gallery or brochures and if the photographers
are traveling to a particular city or location … we can arrange to have
photos taken of our products in-use as a tie-in to save on travel costs.”
Now Entering the Blogosphere
One strong presence on the internet is the weblog, or blog, a journal-type
commentary on every subject imaginable. Businesses can either create a
blog as a part of their own websites with help of their technical gurus,
or can simply sign up for a free piece of internet space through sites
like Blogger. Such free sites give first-time bloggers a simple way of
In early July, Norcross, Ga.-based Kawneer launched its own “Kawneerosphere”
blog as a part of its website. According to a recent press release, the
blog was created by a team of Kawneer employees to share original content
written by different experts on varying topics.
Karen Zipfel, director of marketing for Kawneer, explains the benefits:
“Many younger professionals in our industry are coming to the market with
a firmer grasp on technology as a driver for getting information and building
their businesses. Budget constraints, especially in a challenging
market climate, make social media and other forms of digital marketing
incrementally more appealing because of their low cost and broad reach.”
Kawneer rotates its authors, an effective way to keep updates regular
and provide a broad stream of information.
Connecting the Dots
Though online media tools create a strong support network of potential
customers and associates, it’s difficult to track how much impact these
tools have on sales.
“Right now, [return on investment] from social media is very hard to measure,”
says Melsheimer. “More than anything, it provides a great place for us
to ‘listen’ to the buzz and conversation that is out there among our target
Zipfel says that such digital marketing can also help when it comes to
budget constraints, since these tools are typically free.
“Blogs rank well for highly targeted and highly coveted keywords and,
if updated somewhat regularly, will draw significantly more traffic to
our website,” she adds.
Despite the fact that social tools online may not boost direct sales,
it does allow a community and forum for the customer base to grow. Glass
businesses can keep connected not only with each other, but also past
and potential consumers.
While reaching out to others can help improve businesses, opening the
floodgates can also wet the feet.
Many more of the companies using social media outlets are allowing users
to comment on their social posts. Many blogs, including the new Kawneerosphere,
let readers leave their remarks on individual posts. This allows not only
other customers, but businesses as well, to read all the responses—whether
it be negative or positive.
Since Superior Glass allows customers to leave feedback and comments about
the company on its Twitter feed, the responses are open for everyone to
see. “The one thing that makes me nervous is that our competition may
have access to our business on an exclusive level,” Stelts says.
In addition, Peterson notes that since social sites such as Facebook are
directed for personal uses, they could distract employees who have their
own accounts. “Other networks offer too much temptation for users (or
employees) to waste time during the day on non-work related activities,”
Zipfel advises that, before tying your business to any form of social
media, “It’s important to develop a plan and a firm, clear objective and
define what your expectations are. It’s also important to do some
upfront research to determine where your audience is actively engaged.”
Despite the negatives, the glass industry continues to build its influence
over the web. Stelts concedes, “I guess one just has to weigh the good
versus the bad when choosing to use … open media.”
Elizabeth Bodi is an editorial assistant for
© Copyright 2009 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.