Promoting Connections Through Social Media – Guest Post by Tim Haran, USANA

From Jennifer: Today’s guest post is from Tim Haran, Manager of Social Media Content over at USANA.  If you watch USANA’s online presences at all, you’ll already know that the company does some SUPER-cool stuff with sponsorships and events to promote the company.  Recently they’ve been at the Golden Globes, Sundance Film Festival, and the Olympics in Vancouver.  Today, Tim shares with us about how those connections they’re building help to promote the USANA brand, and how you can use connections to promote your business as well. Enjoy!

Promoting Connections Through Social Media
Guest Post by Tim Haran

In my pre-social media existence I worked as a newspaper journalist. Mostly small-town stuff, writing and editing for dailies in exotic locales such as Rock Springs, Wyo., and Victorville, Calif. Glamorous, I know. And while I still love newspapers and continue to read an ink-and-tree edition each day, I’m thrilled to be immersed in the up-and-coming world of social media.

But I still think like a journalist and treat our blog, What’s Up, USANA?, like an online news source for our associates, preferred customers, employees, and anyone else who wants a glimpse at what’s happening in and around USANA Health Sciences.

An important component of our in-house news service is utilizing USANA’s various affiliations to help provide, among other things, conversation starters and talking points for our distributors.

Promoting Valuable Connections

I’d imagine several direct selling organizations have connected with third-party advocates — either officially or unofficially — such as celebrities, local/national dignitaries, or simply well-known individuals who happen to love the products.

We’ve found leveraging these connections through social media is easy, immediate, and important. Not only are you promoting the connection between your company and well-known figures, but you’re also potentially capitalizing on other activities involving those individuals.

Hypothetically, say NBA great (and Twitter celebrity) Shaquille O’Neal tweeted to his 2.8 million followers about the greatness of your products. Not only are your followers aware of this (because you’ll re-tweet it instantly, right?) but a huge audience who may never have heard of your company or your products is aware as well. This might be a fortuitous occurrence or it could be the result of relationship-building. Either way, it’s super cool.

At USANA, we’re fortunate to sponsor a wide range of world-class athletes and provide them with nutritional supplements. It’s a built-in network of advocates who help us reach an audience we might not reach otherwise.

A World-is-Watching Example

The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver presented an enormous social media opportunity for us. Not only did nearly 100 USANA-sponsored athletes — Team USANA — compete in the Olympics, but we also had three correspondents blogging from British Columbia.

An Olympic gold medalist (who’s now a USANA associate), our vice president of customer service and our chief executive officer provided first-hand accounts for What’s Up, USANA? readers. In addition, from the office we posted a daily tally of medals won, notable highlights from the previous night, and a look ahead to events involving USANA athletes. Of course we re-broadcast the information to our Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

We covered the 17-day event like a news organization might, posting content several times a day and sharing lots of well-known athletes’ names with our readers. Some posts were straight news, while others gave our readers a perspective unavailable anywhere else.

The effort led to record page views and increased interaction, while also creating excitement throughout our field that has continued beyond the Games.

Looking Within for Advocates

You don’t need a team of world-class athletes or big-name celebrities to build buzz. Often it’s the story rather than the individual that provides the best conversation starter or generates the most excitement. Look within your own organization for great stories and share them with your team and prospects.

  • Maybe your company has a doctor who’s donated his time and expertise to disaster relief

  • Perhaps you have a distributor who’s climbed Mount Everest

  • How about a group who’s helped build a dream house for a less-fortunate family?

Powerful and meaningful stories are all around us and they can be helpful in conveying our message — especially through social media.

Benefits of Leveraging Advocates

As a health sciences company, USANA benefits greatly from its athlete partnerships. If sponsorships aren’t a possibility now, remember to look within your own organization for unique stories about people who have accomplished incredible things.

Here are a few ways in which promoting your affiliations could benefit your business.

  • Starting conversations: People who don’t have the slightest interest in your company or its products might be a huge fan of someone who uses your products. By making that connection known, you create another channel through which you can convey your message.

  • Energizing the field: We don’t advertise much, so every time USANA shows up in a magazine or on television via one of our affiliations, our field gets a kick out of it. We distribute these mentions through our own social media channels and our associates do the same.

  • Building pride: In the end, it’s all about the company and its products. By creating solid, long-lasting connections with athletes or others in the public eye, our distributors are able to explain exactly why they think the company and the products are the best, followed by “…but you don’t have to take my word for it.”

I’m sure there are other advantages (and perhaps some disadvantages). I’d be interested in hearing how your company utilizes its advocates.

Tim Haran is the Manager of Social Media Content at USANA Health Sciences, a manufacturer of high-quality nutritional supplements in Salt Lake City, Utah. A former journalist, Tim started as an all-purpose writer at USANA in 2007 before moving to the newly created social media/public relations department in late 2008. Since then, he’s overseen the company’s day-to-day social media initiatives and is the primary contributor to the award-winning What’s Up, USANA? blog.

5 Responses to Promoting Connections Through Social Media – Guest Post by Tim Haran, USANA
  1. Nick Kelly
    March 23, 2010 | 11:42 pm

    Tim,

    We have plenty of associates who don’t log in to Usanatoday.com, but definitely check out the blog (www.whatsupusana.com). This is a bi-product of our generational dependence on referrals and peer-to-peer references. I think a lot of us are more prone to see what our partners and peers are reading and researching instead of what’s tops on a chart we never follow.

    You made several valid and insightful points in your post. Thanks for the education as ever.

    Nick Kelly

  2. Tim Haran
    March 23, 2010 | 5:47 pm

    @Kathleen: Thank you very much! We had a great time with the Olympics. Our field loved watching the events and saying, “Hey, that’s a USANA athlete!” Pretty exciting to say “Team USANA” won 22 medals.

    @Kaelyn: Thanks for the comment. We’ve heard from our associates that many have found “name dropping” is often an effective way to get a conversation started.

    @Dorothy: I appreciate the comment. Yes, I believe local business notables would be excellent to highlight — especially if you’re operating in a small to mid-sized market and the business person is well known and well respected throughout the community.

    As for approaching them, I wonder if there might be some partnership opportunities? If the business holds an annual event or fundraiser type thing, maybe offer to volunteer your services or donate some product to the cause (not only would it help get your name/company out to the business, but also to anyone who attends the event. We’ve had distributors set up booths at charity 5Ks, bike races, marathons, etc., and it’s seemed to work out fairly well for them. Just a thought.

    Tim

  3. Kathleen Rogers
    March 23, 2010 | 3:26 pm

    Tim,
    Thank you for this post. It’s certainly a new perspective and a very interesting one to boot. Many times we think that only the “big boys”,
    Coke, McD’s, etc can leverage celebrity branding.
    I appreciate you defining the path of your Olympics experience for us too.
    It’s given me much to chew on tonight!

    Great guest blogger, Jen!
    Hope that you both have a tea-rific day!

  4. Kaelyn
    March 23, 2010 | 3:17 pm

    Thanks, I’d forgotten that my company has connected with famous persons and I will work that into promoting my business. Great reminder!

  5. Dorothy
    March 23, 2010 | 3:09 pm

    Hello Tim,

    Thanks for being Jennifer’s guest blogger today! I can’t speak for the direct selling company I represent, but your post has given me ideas for things to consider regarding my full-time marketing position…

    I don’t know any celebs, but I was wondering if you think having connections with local business notables would achieve a similar effect. And if so, any tips on approaching them?

    Thanks again for sharing your experiences and insights! Very inspiring.

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