Nov 15, 2013
Like It, Pin It, Sell it
Stephen Swartz, U.S. Balloon Co.

How social media can grow your business

Thousands of balloon retailers are using social media to promote their business, connect to others and, in the best-case scenarios, garner more sales from more people. But how can they use social media while not giving away their secrets?

Posting, Liking and Making an Impact

Lori Viera, owner of American Balloon Co. in Alexandria, Va., uses Facebook and Twitter to promote specials at her store. For example, she’s offered customers 20 percent off a toy purchase within three hours of a customer checking in to her store on Facebook. She’s also posted time-sensitive specials on the store’s Twitter account, such as “For the next four hours get a dozen balloons free when you visit the store.”

But don’t worry about spending all day posting to these sites.

Viera linked her Facebook and Twitter accounts so when she posts to Facebook, it automatically posts to Twitter. Viera also uses social media to network with other balloon companies. She tweets, they like, they tweet, she re-tweets – and not just with stores in the U.S. While a local competitor may not want to share business, a West Coast balloon company actually referred her to a nearby customer.

“One great thing that happened,” Viera said. “I had a balloon company I was friends with on Facebook refer work to me in this area that they couldn’t do because they were in San Diego. They had a customer doing an event in D.C., so they referred me to her.”

Katie Balloons, star of TLC’s reality show “The Unpoppables,” uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to share her work. As a balloon twister in New York City and Washington, D.C., she tries to be selective in what she’s sharing with her customers and peers. While she has more than 1,300 followers on Facebook and more than a dozen videos on YouTube, she’s not just sharing, but viewing others’ content as well.

“There are some decorating techniques that are just old-school and standard, so it’s great to be able to go online and see how different people have approached it,” said Balloons.

Mark Zettler, president of Life o’ The Party for 23 years, uses Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. He recommends adjusting the content of posts based on your audience. Industry friends are more likely to respond to complex and unique posts, he said, while clients want to see well-photographed decor.

Facebook also allows anyone to create a “group.” One of the most popular groups for the balloon industry is “Qualatex,” which is officially sponsored by Pioneer Balloon Co. The group has nearly 8,000 members who share their balloon designs, decor tips and more, often with photos of their work.

Steven Mayhew, Conwin’s marketing and creative director, said they’ve created an official Conwin Facebook Page and Facebook group so they could send different messages.

“The Conwin Facebook page is used to notify our customers about the latest products, special offers, and upcoming events, while our Conwin Facebook group is a place for customers to share their work,” Mayhew said.

Conwin also provides instructional videos on their website and step-by-step instructions to create balloon decor. The website is set up so visitors can easily share those designs on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter by simply clicking on the sites’ social sharing icons.

Going Viral

The dream of every social media user is to get a post to go viral, and that dream came true for Larry Moss, founder of Airigami, in the spring of this year. He live-blogged from the Virginia Museum of Natural History while constructing a life-size dinosaur, then posted a time-lapsed video of the construction to YouTube. His post started out like any other – uploaded the video to YouTube, posted about it on Facebook – and somehow someone at ABC’s “Good Morning America” saw it and he was featured on the talk show soon after. His YouTube video has 75,000 views and counting.

“The Internet loves dinosaurs,” Moss said of the exposure. “I think it was the right blend of science, education and unique material.”

Moss said this coverage led to more traffic to his website, YouTube channel, Facebook page and even new sales. “And most importantly,” Moss said, “our existing clients see our growth and see the potential of greater exposure with future projects.”

To Share or Not To Share

Is there a limit to how much a company should share? Yes, according to some business owners.

Zettler has been teaching balloons arts for 20 years, so sharing isn’t anything new. “When I’m speaking or when I’m teaching, I’m giving up what we do and how we do it to our peers all the time,” he said. “When we’re doing it we’re giving it up to our peers to make them better.”

Zettler mentioned that you should share pictures and tips to inspire others, but not necessarily to teach them everything.

“You don’t want to give away everything so others will take it and run away with it,” he said. “However, there has to be a blend, a mix. In this world, you have to give a little to inspire those in the business.”

The balloon industry’s top vendors try to hit that middle-ground as well, with restrictions on what consumers can view. While anyone can view instructions on how to make a balloon dog, Qualatex restricts advanced decor instructions to QBN members. But before sharing, remember to take steps to ensure others can’t take credit for your work.

“I always suggest that when an artist posts their work to place the name of their business over the image,” Mayhew said. “This prevents others from using it as their own.”

One of the most popular industry sites to share content is BalloonHQ.com, where Moss is also the founder and managing partner. The site includes two forums – one for decorators and another for twisters/entertainers – where users can communicate and share ideas, photos and even search for previously discussed topics.

Even if you are confused between the difference of Pinning, Tweeting and Liking, don’t avoid social media. Instead, try one of the sites to see if it works for your business.

“Social media is extremely valuable,” Moss said. “It’s something that, at some point, every business needs to get into to be successful in the current world. But I would also say step in slowly. Don’t start out with the idea that you’re going to enter every social network and be a strong presence everywhere, because it takes time to learn the personality of every network.”

And once you do find the right balance, the result is a stronger industry.

“I’m really appreciative that we have such a growing online community in the balloon world,” Balloon said. “It’s nice to know that you’re not alone.”


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