Executive Briefings

An Interview with Evans Distribution Systems: "Growing Distribution via Social Media Networks"

We caught up with Leslie Ajlouny and Julie Thomas of Evans Distribution Systems to hear how one company is leveraging social media to expand their business.

Detroit-based 3PL Evans Distribution Systems is using social media to increase its web presence, expand awareness among potential hires, and make it easy for customers to reach out to them. Through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and its blog, "3PL Insights," the company has experienced much success during the last several months.

Leslie Ajlouny, VP of business development, and Julie Thomas, marketing manager, talked about how leveraging social media has led to easier recruiting, higher web visibility for new business development, increased employee engagement, and even fun in the workplace with blog posts such as, "10 Unique Items We've Handled as a 3PL" (see blog post by Julie Thomas on June 18th, 2010).

SupplyChainBrain:  How did you get started in social media?

Leslie Ajlouny:  We started by utilizing LinkedIn to prospect for new potential customers.  We learned a lot about our customers and prospects, utilizing the network much like a marketing research tool.  LinkedIn has been invaluable as a resource as we expand our strategic plan for marketing. 

SupplyChainBrain:  You also utilize Twitter, Facebook, and CraigsList in various ways. Can you elaborate?

Leslie Ajlouny:  We started off using Twitter as a medium for knowledge-sharing in the industry, and then moved into activities for Human Resources / recruiting efforts with universities, local agencies, and more.  We also tweet our blog posts and announcements about industry achievements, so our network always knows what's happening at Evans Distribution.

Julie Thomas:  When we have new content ~ we're looking to always put out new content ~ we send it out in different formats via all avenues.  What we found out early on was that our networks were extremely successful for recruiting, especially when we have immediate needs for drivers.

SupplyChainBrain:  Recruiting?  How so?

Julie Thomas:  Here's a prime example: new business came in and we needed 10 drivers immediately.  We leveraged LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and CraigsList (a very cost-effective tool for recruiting)... and within 24 hours we had all the qualified drivers we needed.  Now we're using these networks for recruiting high-level managers as well.  In fact, a recent candidate for an HR position said she found us through her connections on LinkedIn.  And ~ she used it, conversely, to screen Evans in her job search process as well!

SupplyChainBrain:  So how do you manage it all?  Is one person on your staff responsible for everything? 

Leslie Ajlouny:  Recruiting is a mix of HR and Marketing... so that has been a good crossover.  We advise HR on content for recruitment messaging, so the right message gets out to potential employees. 

Julie Thomas:  Although we do quite a bit of similar messaging on each medium, we've developed uses of each for different activities.  For instance, we use Facebook quite a bit for internal communications.  New employees are introduced on Facebook, and we post recognition for employee awards during the month as well.  

We really see Facebook as a tool for development of personal relationships.

It's provided quite a bit of food for thought, bringing up questions such as:  How can we continue to grow the internal communications piece?  How does this type of activity affect the company culture?  We're considering building some kind of intranet that we can use internally in order to maintain a strong, positive culture; thinking about things like employee development and consistent positive communication. 

SupplyChainBrain:  Doesn't this have the potential to balloon out of control?  Such as, employees spending all of their work time on Facebook?

Leslie Ajlouny:  We haven't seen too much activity of employees going overboard, really not at all.  Mostly we like to use Facebook to recruit quickly, and employees are very responsive to spreading the word to their own networks.

Julie Thomas:  In fact, during the June - August timeframe we were recruiting for over 300 positions (we were very busy in 2010!).  We recruited for some long-term positions, and for quite a few shorter-term summer positions.  We had no problems filling the positions quickly.

SupplyChainBrain:  So, what are the reasons for your developed contacts/communities on Twitter & LinkedIn? 

Leslie Ajlouny:   Driving people to our website ~ it's one of our primary goals.  And it provides great ROI!  In fact, we've redirected some of our spending and time from other traditional marketing tactics to our social media efforts.

SupplyChainBrain:  Do you have any concerns about competitors accessing your information? 

Leslie Ajlouny:  No, we only share information that represents as experts in our industry.  We're very careful about what we put out there.  We make sure that all posts go through sales and marketing, as a filter, before any of the messaging is released.  Although we're not a huge company, with approximately 200 permanent employees we do need to ensure that messaging is consistent.

SupplyChainBrain:  Has this led to any type of "Social Media Policy" at Evans Distribution? 

Leslie Ajlouny:  You know, we're actually in the process of updating some of our policies considering the new environment Social Media has created.  It's very important to us, first and foremost, to ensure that nothing goes out there that would hurt our customers ~ such as proprietary/confidential information.   Our first concern is about customer privacy... and then, of course, about our own company as well.  So far, we haven't had to worry about proprietary information being posted because we've filtered outgoing messages through the correct channels.

SupplyChainBrain:  Have you established multiple profiles or groups on the various networking sites?

Leslie Ajlouny:  No.  We have ONE presence on Facebook, ONE Twitter profile, and ONE company profile on LinkedIn.

SupplyChainBrain:  Still, isn't this a full-time job?  That's a lot of messaging, monitoring and networking.

Leslie Ajlouny:  So far we've managed to maintain it as part of the marketing department's responsibilities with our current staff.  You're correct, though, it does take time!  Monitoring is very important ~ not just monitoring outgoing messages, but reading and responding to incoming messages as well. 

We're spending less money, but more time... and yet the tradeoffs are worth it.  We see it as investing time vs. dollars... and we make sure that we don't waste time.  We're using the avenues wisely.

SupplyChainBrain:  Have you had any "outside help" (i.e., consultants, media agencies) with setting up your social media networks? 

Julie Thomas:  No... we are what you might call "self-educated".  It's a passion for me, personally, in terms of marketing and professional development.  Just as social media is an organic process, we're growing it in our organization in the same way.

Detroit-based 3PL Evans Distribution Systems is using social media to increase its web presence, expand awareness among potential hires, and make it easy for customers to reach out to them. Through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and its blog, "3PL Insights," the company has experienced much success during the last several months.

Leslie Ajlouny, VP of business development, and Julie Thomas, marketing manager, talked about how leveraging social media has led to easier recruiting, higher web visibility for new business development, increased employee engagement, and even fun in the workplace with blog posts such as, "10 Unique Items We've Handled as a 3PL" (see blog post by Julie Thomas on June 18th, 2010).

SupplyChainBrain:  How did you get started in social media?

Leslie Ajlouny:  We started by utilizing LinkedIn to prospect for new potential customers.  We learned a lot about our customers and prospects, utilizing the network much like a marketing research tool.  LinkedIn has been invaluable as a resource as we expand our strategic plan for marketing. 

SupplyChainBrain:  You also utilize Twitter, Facebook, and CraigsList in various ways. Can you elaborate?

Leslie Ajlouny:  We started off using Twitter as a medium for knowledge-sharing in the industry, and then moved into activities for Human Resources / recruiting efforts with universities, local agencies, and more.  We also tweet our blog posts and announcements about industry achievements, so our network always knows what's happening at Evans Distribution.

Julie Thomas:  When we have new content ~ we're looking to always put out new content ~ we send it out in different formats via all avenues.  What we found out early on was that our networks were extremely successful for recruiting, especially when we have immediate needs for drivers.

SupplyChainBrain:  Recruiting?  How so?

Julie Thomas:  Here's a prime example: new business came in and we needed 10 drivers immediately.  We leveraged LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and CraigsList (a very cost-effective tool for recruiting)... and within 24 hours we had all the qualified drivers we needed.  Now we're using these networks for recruiting high-level managers as well.  In fact, a recent candidate for an HR position said she found us through her connections on LinkedIn.  And ~ she used it, conversely, to screen Evans in her job search process as well!

SupplyChainBrain:  So how do you manage it all?  Is one person on your staff responsible for everything? 

Leslie Ajlouny:  Recruiting is a mix of HR and Marketing... so that has been a good crossover.  We advise HR on content for recruitment messaging, so the right message gets out to potential employees. 

Julie Thomas:  Although we do quite a bit of similar messaging on each medium, we've developed uses of each for different activities.  For instance, we use Facebook quite a bit for internal communications.  New employees are introduced on Facebook, and we post recognition for employee awards during the month as well.  

We really see Facebook as a tool for development of personal relationships.

It's provided quite a bit of food for thought, bringing up questions such as:  How can we continue to grow the internal communications piece?  How does this type of activity affect the company culture?  We're considering building some kind of intranet that we can use internally in order to maintain a strong, positive culture; thinking about things like employee development and consistent positive communication. 

SupplyChainBrain:  Doesn't this have the potential to balloon out of control?  Such as, employees spending all of their work time on Facebook?

Leslie Ajlouny:  We haven't seen too much activity of employees going overboard, really not at all.  Mostly we like to use Facebook to recruit quickly, and employees are very responsive to spreading the word to their own networks.

Julie Thomas:  In fact, during the June - August timeframe we were recruiting for over 300 positions (we were very busy in 2010!).  We recruited for some long-term positions, and for quite a few shorter-term summer positions.  We had no problems filling the positions quickly.

SupplyChainBrain:  So, what are the reasons for your developed contacts/communities on Twitter & LinkedIn? 

Leslie Ajlouny:   Driving people to our website ~ it's one of our primary goals.  And it provides great ROI!  In fact, we've redirected some of our spending and time from other traditional marketing tactics to our social media efforts.

SupplyChainBrain:  Do you have any concerns about competitors accessing your information? 

Leslie Ajlouny:  No, we only share information that represents as experts in our industry.  We're very careful about what we put out there.  We make sure that all posts go through sales and marketing, as a filter, before any of the messaging is released.  Although we're not a huge company, with approximately 200 permanent employees we do need to ensure that messaging is consistent.

SupplyChainBrain:  Has this led to any type of "Social Media Policy" at Evans Distribution? 

Leslie Ajlouny:  You know, we're actually in the process of updating some of our policies considering the new environment Social Media has created.  It's very important to us, first and foremost, to ensure that nothing goes out there that would hurt our customers ~ such as proprietary/confidential information.   Our first concern is about customer privacy... and then, of course, about our own company as well.  So far, we haven't had to worry about proprietary information being posted because we've filtered outgoing messages through the correct channels.

SupplyChainBrain:  Have you established multiple profiles or groups on the various networking sites?

Leslie Ajlouny:  No.  We have ONE presence on Facebook, ONE Twitter profile, and ONE company profile on LinkedIn.

SupplyChainBrain:  Still, isn't this a full-time job?  That's a lot of messaging, monitoring and networking.

Leslie Ajlouny:  So far we've managed to maintain it as part of the marketing department's responsibilities with our current staff.  You're correct, though, it does take time!  Monitoring is very important ~ not just monitoring outgoing messages, but reading and responding to incoming messages as well. 

We're spending less money, but more time... and yet the tradeoffs are worth it.  We see it as investing time vs. dollars... and we make sure that we don't waste time.  We're using the avenues wisely.

SupplyChainBrain:  Have you had any "outside help" (i.e., consultants, media agencies) with setting up your social media networks? 

Julie Thomas:  No... we are what you might call "self-educated".  It's a passion for me, personally, in terms of marketing and professional development.  Just as social media is an organic process, we're growing it in our organization in the same way.