Keyboard to Success
Get online to boost your trucking business
By Timothy D. Brady
There is a relatively new phenomenon in communicating and connecting with shippers, trucking companies and service providers. It can also be a means of finding customers and information to help you grow and improve your business. Going online and registering with a few social networking sites gives you the kind of access to human resources that once took years to build.
The most popular networking websites are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. There are also numerous trucking forum websites where truckers gather online to discuss everything from CSA 2010 to the best places to eat to politics.
While drivers have always found a way to talk about life on the road with each other, the range of contacts available online is vast. Social networking gives drivers a chance to ask others in the industry for advice and get a broad range of responses quickly. Many folks merely sit on the sidelines reading what is posted but never participate. To get the greatest benefit from this wide-ranging resource, you need to contribute. You receive your investment back with interest if you are wise about what, when and how you use this new tool. Just like any business-to-business discussion, the more valuable input, the more potential quality output.
Social networks are fast becoming part of truckers’ lives, especially young drivers like Travis Nelson, a 25-year-old owner-operator who recently got his own hauling authority. He’s had his CDL for three years, and grew up around trucks and trucking since his father is a service manager at Wisconsin Kenworth-Green Bay. He’s also familiar with the internet’s potential and opportunities.
Travis, what was the first online activity you used to move toward your goal of having your own trucking company?
One of my first internet activities relating to the trucking business was taking an online business course at TruckersU.com. That’s when I learned the next steps, after being a lease operator. This course took me to the next level of understanding the nuances of running a carrier.
I also attend any webinar, free or paid, regarding trucking business or small business in general. I am very active on online forums, blogs and networks relating to small business and transportation. I subscribed to load boards before I ever had to search for a load, just to learn rates in lanes.
Let’s look at how you use social networking in your operation. What’s your primary purpose for being on Facebook?
Facebook offers huge networking potential, although less professional than, say, LinkedIn. I have networked with small business owners that supply products to the industry and other trucking company owners, although I use Facebook primarily to keep in contact with family and friends.
What about LinkedIn?
Being in the transportation industry, I join a lot of discussion groups that are industry specific. You literally have everyone from CEOs of large companies to small one-truck operators like myself, all in one place discussing topics from safety to what’s happening in the current market or lanes. If I have extra loads or contacts, maybe you need that load or vice versa!
I have gained a lot of advice by reading the many forums on the site related to the industry. You have a strong knowledge base on the site, and it’s great reading the many different viewpoints from all aspects of the industry, from the small company owner to the CEOs of the large carriers. I always learn something new, plus the diverse backgrounds can give you different viewpoints to consider and make your own decisions.
Do you Tweet?
No, Facebook and LinkedIn take up enough of my time. My truck would never generate revenue if I was involved with all the social networking sites, although I do have an account!
Do you use your LinkedIn contacts to initiate new relationships?
I have just started reaching out to find more about services and products like trucking software or connecting with shippers. It’s a way to meet people from all over the industry and share ideas and gain knowledge. The networking opportunities are endless.
Are you having any success connecting with people who have helped you?
Yes, I have connected with other small trucking company owners and industry business advisors and stayed in contact with a few. It’s great to be able to bounce ideas off of people who have experience.
Do you know other truckers who are using social networks for business?
Drivers are engaged in all sorts of new technology. The first trucking forum I joined was cdlofit.com. It had basic advice and I learned a lot when I bought my first truck. I met a few guys on that forum, which transferred over to connecting with them on Facebook and now LinkedIn.
CDLofit.com has more than 20,000 members now and it’s a great site for entry level business discussions and driving issues.
Are any of these other drivers you have connected with seeing success with social networking?
Yes, but it’s all in what you do with the contacts and information you obtain.
Do you expect social networking to become a standard of the industry?
Yes I do. It’s an easy way for small motor carriers to keep in contact with their drivers. It avoids drivers calling in before 10 a.m. and distracting the dispatchers who should be working on finding loads. Also it enables the carriers to update drivers on safety issues, road conditions, etc., all via social networking. Even if everyone doesn’t have a computer, updates can be texted directly to practically any cell phone.
How will you use social media in the future for your trucking business?
Professional networks will offer great ways to make contacts with new customers, possibly even vendors that offer technology solutions for our industry. Social media provides such an easy, fast way to connect with many people all in one place.
How can you use Social Media?
Social networking appears to have endless possibilities for the business of trucking, from getting multiple perspectives on a trucking issue or problem to finding loads and keeping shippers, receivers and others in the need-to-know loop updated. New services like Tweetloads from Con-Way Multimodal are constantly coming online (twitter.com/ConwayTweetLoad). Conway is so confident this is the future for getting load information out to its partner carriers, they’ve filed for a patent on it.
As more drivers and trucking industry movers and shakers make use of social media, we may find that it’s just as indispensable as the once revolutionary GPS or CB.
Life used to come at a trucker at 70 miles per hour. Now it’s coming 140 characters at a time.
Read Social Media 101 to learn about Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter in the trucking business.