June 5, 2014, 4:03 PM

How Facebook helps Empire Level better spend its research dollars

The tool manufacturer uses the social network to determine what new products its users want.

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Until a couple of years ago, tool manufacturer Empire Level had a Facebook page, as well as Pinterest and LinkedIn accounts. But it didn’t have a firm grasp of what to do on social networks.

“We knew we had to have a social media presence,” says Jenni Becker, Empire Level president. “We just didn’t know what to do with it after that. It didn’t really have a purpose.”

Becker and other Empire Level executives about two years ago decided that had to change. Examining how its followers used Facebook, they began noticing that users of its products were commenting about the brand on Facebook. They realized that they could incorporate those insights into the manufacturer’s product development process.

That led it to launch of a program called Contractor Connect, which sends trade professionals industry-related free products in exchange for offering feedback to Empire Level on Facebook. The feedback doesn’t have to be positive, says Becker. In fact, negative comments can be particularly useful in helping the company improve its products, she says. For instance, the manufacturer recently noticed multiple woodworkers posted that they’d like a level with a removable end cap so that the tool could fit in tight corners. The manufacturer has since launched a new series of levels with screw-on caps.

Since launching Contractor Connect, Empire Level has been able to better spend its research dollars, Becker says. “We’re able to focus on specific features rather than conduct broader research projects, which are more expensive,” she says.

Moreover, using its Vocus Inc. listening platform, which scans posts around the web for keywords such as “Empire Level,” the manufacturer has found that its share of product-related conversations has jumped. The manufacturer declined to offer specific figures.

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