Keith Bloemendaal runs a company called Raleigh Fence Contractors and has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry. Due to the competitive nature of the industry, Keith realized he needed a way to differentiate his business from the others out there. He recently started promoting his business online, blogging and participating in social media websites and communities. Now, he's recognized as someone who has brought new ideas to an industry where businesses typically had low/no online presence. In this interview, Keith talks about how he got started with social media, and how he would like his favorite sports team (UNC Tar Heels- also my favorite team) to connect with him online.
1 -Let's briefly talk about your experiences with marketing your company online. You're active on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon. How did you decide to jump into social media and start participating?
I first got started with SM (social media) through a friend of mine who was trying to convince me that blogging would help my business to grow. For the first few months, it became an addiction and I had to learn to pick the SM sites that I most enjoyed, and that I felt would most benefit me on a business aspect. Being in the construction industry, it was hard to find people to connect with (within the construction industries) so I went for locals (triangle and NC in general). I am noticing more people in my industry blogging and micro-blogging now, and hope that continues to grow. Oddly enough, the main reason was to promote my business, but I now rarely do that on twitter, plurk or Facebook. It is more about connecting and networking with people.
2 - How has your involvement with social media affected your business and sales?
I would have to say that social media has given me great satisfaction in growing my business. My blog and the SM I participate in is the ONLY advertising I do. I have had articles written about me, been recognized as someone bringing high tech ideas to a low tech industry by people such as Darren Rowse, Wayne Sutton, and others who have noticed me on twitter and found my blog. The internet is how people find the products they need, there is no need to avoid that, instead we should embrace it.
3 - What is the #1 thing you've gotten out of your involvement in social media?
Probably the invaluable plethora of information I have discovered through the people I have met, both online and in person at tweet-ups and events like BloggerBash. The information I am talking about (what I was looking for) has to do with wordpress, blogging, SEO and other things which have helped me bring my website to the front page on most of the searches I wanted to be on. I also have become involved in a community that I didn't even know existed a year ago.
4 - We are both big fans of the Tar Heels. Where do you currently get your news and information about UNC sports?
Currently, I get my info from ACC.com, espn.com, and only recently did I discover InsideCarolina.com.
5 - To your knowledge, has anyone from the athletics department at UNC ever tried to connect with you via social media online?
No not that I am aware of, but if they did, I would certainly enjoy it.
6 - How would you like to be connected with them online (if at all)? What kind of information would you be interested in receiving from them?
Any of the sites I use (twitter, plurk, facebook, friendfeed, etc...) would be great. I like updates mainly on anything basketball ie: scouting reports, injury reports, scores (I do miss the games sometimes) stats, upcoming game schedules etc..
7 - Do you think an athletics department like UNC should have a single presence on social media sites for all sports, or should it be broken down by sport?
I would prefer it to be broken down. But if that isn't possible, having them all together may get me more interested in all things Carolina Blue!
8 - As it stands, TarHeelBlue.com is a very informative site, but InsideCarolina is where most of the conversations about UNC Sports take place. Would you be interested if UNC turned tarheelblue.com into more of a community site, with features such as forums, comments, ability to connect with other fans etc?
Wouldn't that be great! I would certainly participate in anything like that.
9 - Many sports brands (and brands in general) are hesitant about getting involved with social media. I'm sure you also probably had some uncertainties when you brought your business into this space. What would you tell UNC if they were wavering or unsure about whether they should start using social media to connect with their fans?
All I can say is, no matter what the uncertainties are... it is viral! Next thing you know there would be Carolina Blue TweetUps and other fan get-togethers based on the communities created around social media. I think people are scared to hear what others may not like about the brands that turn to social media, but what they don't understand is that these people are the ones that USE those brands! You should be listening!
Thanks, Keith! I'm very interested in how people would like their favorite teams to connect with them online. I know how I feel about this, but am always curious about what other people think. How would YOU like your favorite team to engage you online?