Even before founding Fairware Promotional Products, CEO Denise Taschereau was immersed in the issues around sustainable manufacturing and ethical sourcing. As Director of Sustainability and Community for Mountain Equipment Co-op, she often received branded promotional products that didn’t reflect the values of the organizations that created them. “I kept seeing the same story unfold over and over of brands I admired not connecting the dots,” Denise says. “I thought there’s got to be a better way.” Along with two partners she founded Fairware, a Vancouver-based company that specializes in sustainable and ethically sourced custom-branded products.
Rather than simply promoting products and offering discounts, Fairware takes advantage of the strengths of different social channels, managed through the Hootsuite dashboard, to engage with clients who match their values, share research and create conversations around the challenges and opportunities for improving their industry. And it’s working. After nine years in business Fairware’s clients include Patagonia, Aveda, Ben & Jerry’s, UNICEF, Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Hootsuite.
The Benefits of Being a B Corp
Fairware has the credentials to back up their positioning as a thought leader. It was one of the first organizations in Canada to earn B Corporation status, which requires meeting rigorous standards for social and environmental practices, accountability and transparency. “It’s given us a roadmap for documenting our performance,” says Denise. It’s also helped business. Fairware can directly trace clients to their B Corp certification, including the Clinton Global Initiative. “It’s a nice common ground with clients,” Denise says. “It tells us who is the real deal.” Denise is also on the Etsy Manufacturing Advisory Board, helping other small businesses learn about responsible production and supply chain management, and further illustrating Fairware’s desire to practice what they preach.
Using Hootsuite Pro to Manage Social Strategy
As a small company with a team of 10, Fairware has to be strategic about their approach to communications. The company uses Hootsuite to help manage activity and engagement on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They also share images on Instagram and maintain a library of photos on Flickr.
Denise and co-founder Sarah White are active users and, through the Teams functionally in Hootsuite, they work closely with social media coordinator, Tiffany. With Hootsuite assignments, TIffany assigns messages that need addressing to Sarah and Denise, who respond. This way, Denise and Sarah can keep track and ensure that no inquiry goes unanswered. Additionally, Tiffany, a graduate of Hootsuite University, closely monitors follower engagement, and assigns Denise specific messages that require her expertise and insight for a response. The team also uses Hootsuite to build and monitor Twitter lists to interact with clients, potential clients, suppliers, other B Corp organizations, and more.
Denise takes a lead role in creating content. She creates the editorial calendar for the Fairware blog, which are shared through all social channels. Each week she identifies priority topics and keywords, and Tiffany creates several messages and posts with slight variations, customized for each channel. The content is pre-scheduled using the Hootsuite scheduler and posted over the course of the week. The team finds and shares content using Hootsuite’s Suggested Content feature, currently in beta, which finds content relevant to a set of chosen keywords. They also encourage staff to share stories about the projects they’re working on.
“Managing Twitter lists in Hootsuite makes finding content so much easier.” – Denise Taschereau, Founder, CEO, Fairware
Customizing Content for Each Channel
“Content is the new cold call,” a friend of Denise’s once told her. The comment struck a chord. She realized that sharing relevant, quality content provides an effective way to continually strengthen relationships with existing clients and draw the interest of new ones. Fairware’s content strategy takes a tailored approach to each social channel. They use Twitter to reinforce their thought leadership position, sharing articles, research and news to their followers using Ow.ly shortened trackable links, which can be used to monitor the success of each post and gain insight into the kinds of information their audience responds to. Twitter is one of the primary drivers of traffic to their website, which they know by reviewing their analytics.
Fairware uses Facebook to highlight their fun-yet-professional corporate culture and promote partnerships. On Instagram and Flickr they share photos of new products they create for their clients, which has additional benefits. “It’s been interesting to see how much clients love it when we talk about them,” Denise says. “It gives them third-party validation of their values.”
Fairware has found LinkedIn to be another strong driver of traffic to their website, and they link to their weekly blog posts and other content a few times a week. The company also provides new employees with standard positioning about Fairware for their personal LinkedIn profiles to maintain consistency in brand messaging, and encourages staff to link to Fairware’s LinkedIn company page.
“Most small business owners don’t have a sense of stratifying the platforms and having a purpose for each.” – Denise Taschereau, Founder, CEO, Fairware
Creating Conversations through Social
In November 2010, Denise noticed a Tweet about the glass water bottles at TEDxVancouver, which were supplied by Fairware. The Tweet noted that the bottles were manufactured in China, implying they might not have been the most responsible and sustainable choice. Denise noticed the Tweet, and was able to respond quickly by writing a blog post and tweeting it out in reply. Rather than taking a defensive tone, the post openly addresses the realities and challenges of sourcing sustainable products locally, particularly water bottles. Instead of a controversy, it started a conversation. Fairware got positive feedback about their openness, and the person who initially tweeted ended up a fan. “It was a good example for how social—and Twitter in particular—has enabled us to stay on top of what could’ve been a really damaging moment for our brand,” Denise says.
Social Selling Gets Real Results
Fairware has found that connecting face-to-face with their customers across North America is not essential, especially with the social selling tools at their disposal. It helps that the company’s sales and social teams work closely together. Their salespeople identify prospects they are preparing to engage with, and the social team follows and interacts with them online. This integrated social selling process helps provide prospects with a connection and more information on Fairware, and enables the company to engage with organizations that share their values.
“We know by seeing the high-level trend data that people find us through social, and the people who find us are prequalified,” notes Denise. “They know what we’re all about, and they know what’s important to us. And it’s also important to them.”