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O n a day in October 2018, Adam Weitsman confessed on social media that he originally got into business at a young age to make money and acquire as many material possessions as possible.

Weitsman, the owner of Upstate Shredding, Owego, New York, has become somewhat of a social media celebrity over the years because of his real-life posts, which garner thousands of likes. More than anything, he uses social media to showcase where he’s been and where his business is heading.

Real talk

Weitsman is honest on social media about every stumble and fumble in his personal and professional journey because that’s what people can relate to, he says.

The Upstate Shredding owner knows social media is a window into his life, and having experienced many ups and downs, he’s up for sharing his story with not only customers but also with followers from around the world. It started several years ago with his personal Facebook page; but, in the past two years, Weitsman has become active on Upstate Shredding’s Facebook account.

“It’s a new way to reach our target audience,” Weitsman says. “A lot of them are very mobile. People are looking not just on computers, but on their cellphones.”

Posting positive memes is rare for Weitsman, 50. He’d rather talk about when he went to prison at 20 or how his old ways of thinking helped change the culture at Upstate Shredding. Every aspect of Weitsman’s life—the good and the bad—is there for the public to see.

“Nobody’s life is perfect. Nobody wants to read that,” he says. “We don’t make it generic and just post pictures of scrap metal. You have to make it interesting,” Weitsman adds, saying it shows “what people in the business go through every day.”

While some posts are personal—about his weight loss journey or his twin girls— other posts focus on his business. Weitsman recently wrote about the day he woke up and realized his employees are his greatest asset and “not [his] biggest expense.”

He says, “You’re putting yourself out there when people follow you. Your competition, they know stuff about your business. As I get older in life, I’m just telling the story of the ups and downs. It relates to everyone, not just the scrap business. So many people know our company because of social media.”

Being transparent is key to how Weitsman markets Upstate Shredding on social media.

“If there’s a fire, if someone gets hurt, we post about how we need to do better,” he says. “You have to make things real and relevant. If it’s public relations, no one is going to buy it.”

His transparent demeanor on Facebook is how his following has grown to more than 130,000 people on his personal page and to more than 10,000 people on Upstate Shredding’s Facebook page. His story has appealed not only to friends and customers but also to young business owners, he says.

“It tells the story of hitting rock bottom and working your way up,” Weitsman adds. “I’m 50 and just went back to school. We’re the fourth largest scrap metal recycling company on the East Coast. My competition, the top three, are better educated. For me to compete, I had to go back to school. Those are things I post about. Those are the things people can relate to.”

Pictured above: Adam Weitsman, Upstate Shredding. Photo courtesy of Upstate Shredding.
Pictured above: Adam Weitsman, Upstate Shredding.

Keeping things positive

Because the average person spends 135 minutes per day, or five years and four months of their life, on social media, according to Statista, an online statistics and market research portal headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, it has become an integral part of the culture and marketing strategies at many companies. Approximately 2 billion internet users use social networks.

Scrap yards use social media to tell their stories in ways they were never able to before—with photos, videos and hashtags. They also are able to connect with a wider audience outside of the industry.

Peter Van Houten posts to social media in between meetings and conferences. He created a personal Facebook page a few years ago to connect with family. Soon after, he made an account for Bob’s Metals, a small family-owned scrap yard based in Portland, Oregon, where he works as general manager.

“General managers wear a lot of different hats,” Van Houten says. “We’re just a small family company, so our marketing is handled by whoever has that skill set.”

He manages the company’s Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. LinkedIn is where he connects with potential business partners, customers and competitors, he says.

Facebook is where Van Houten shares positive news about Bob’s Metals, such as when employees trained on forklift safety or when the company distributed backpacks and school supplies to their employees with children.

Over the summer, Bob’s Metals partnered with Portland Fire & Rescue, and Van Houten took the opportunity to share pictures of the training on Facebook.

Another recent post highlights the owners of Bob’s Metals, who sponsor a Creating Hope dinner each year to raise money for Providence Cancer Center.

“If we’re doing advocacy work on behalf of the industry or anything that benefits the community, we post it,” Van Houten says. “It shows two things: We’re a good company to work for, and we’re a good company to do business with. People come away from it knowing they’re dealing with a company that cares about their employees and cares about their customers.”

The benefits of connecting

Although Weitsman says he has reached the maximum number of connections allowed on Facebook, he attracts hundreds of new followers every day. “I always respond and reach out to everyone that sends me a message,” he says. “People are surprised that I answer it myself. The customers and people that follow you deserve your time.”

Van Houten says he’s satisfied with making a few new connections here and there because that helps the company build relationships online.

“We’re not out to get a lot of likes,” Van Houten says. “In fact, I don’t even count them. However, we do have a sign out in front of our pay window that says, ‘Like us on Facebook and comment,’ and we do get a couple customers that like us, or they’ll post a comment.”

The author is digital editor for the Recycling Today Media Group and can be reached at kmaile@gie.net.