Taking it to the e-Streets

This heating season, the Pellet Fuels Institute is launching a social media beta test in selected markets across the country in an effort to increase consumer awareness of wood pellets as an option for residential heat.
By Tim Portz | October 02, 2018

This heating season, the Pellet Fuels Institute is launching a social media beta test in selected markets across the country in an effort to increase consumer awareness of wood pellets as an option for residential heat. This effort is the PFI’s first salvo in a broader initiative geared toward increasing the frequency of consumers selecting a pellet-burning appliance when choosing a new heating option for their home, outbuildings, barns or businesses.

By the time this edition of Pellet Mill Magazine reaches your desk, targeted ads featuring pro-pellet messages will be delivered to the Facebook and Instagram accounts of consumers that match a targeted profile in select markets across the pellet-burning regions of the U.S. Our beta test is already yielding important lessons, and giving the organization a line of sight on the dizzying social media universe. At the top of the list is the simple realization that, vendor-sponsored content plays a huge role for retailers in their social media programs. Putting messages in front of consumers’ eyeballs requires resources, and increasingly, retailers are asking for the manufacturers of the SKUs (stock keeping units) available at their locations to carry some of those expenses. Many of the country’s biggest brands have already realized that once a consumer enters a retail outlet, they are bombarded with choices, and make brand decisions for everything from fertilizer to work gloves and everything in between, including heating appliances. Savvy manufacturers are learning that anything that can be done to predispose a consumer to favor their product over others should be done. Of course, this has always been the game, but clearly, the field of play is changing, and presently, social media platforms are where consumers’ attentions are fought over.

Our social media test will serve as a signal to our retail partners that the PFI is actively working toward a better understanding of the wants and needs of the consumers that use our product, the ways in which those consumers can be reached, and the messages most likely to move them to take the action we want—the purchase of a pellet-burning appliance. Interestingly, throughout the test, the PFI brand itself will not be featured prominently, if at all. Additionally, the brands of our sponsoring members will not be featured, and everyone will take a back seat as our messages seek to move people toward a pellet decision with no tie to a specific brand. This strategy closely aligns with our belief that every pellet appliance sold increases market demand, and our members are eager to and capable of competing for that new market share. That said, I won’t be surprised if our members begin to apply the lessons we learn during our brand-neutral test to raise consumer awareness for their brands in campaigns of their own. In fact, I fully expect that will happen.

Finally, our social media beta test marks the beginning of a new era in consumer outreach at the PFI. Our board and membership agree that it behooves our organization and the industry to learn as much as we can about consumers in the market for a space heating solution. What ultimately drives their decision-making process, and what messages are effective at achieving a pellet appliance decision? Social media platforms aren’t the only pathways available to us to reach consumers, and many of my members are quick to remind me of this—by no means is this test an indication that the PFI is taking a digital-only approach to consumer engagement. Still, the sophistication of the platform, the ability to measure consumer reactions and the price-friendly budget made it a slam-dunk place for the organization to start.


Author: Tim Portz
Executive Director, Pellet Fuels Institute
tim@pelletheat.org
651-398-9154