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How does a new small business outside of Calgary, Alberta a) connect with a family in Florida; b) help that family address a major need; and c) inadvertently achieve exponential brand awareness growth, all in the space of a month?

Social media, of course.

After discovering a family in need using Sprout Social’s Brand Keywords, Ballast Blankets—a maker of premium weighted blankets designed to naturally improve sleep and reduce anxiety—reached out. News of the situation spread on social and the company experienced a 186.7% increase in engagements and 675% rise in messages received month over month.

Beginning With Bedtime

Ballast Blankets proves that necessity truly is the mother of invention.

“We started the company in late 2017,” said Stephanie Neilson, founder of Ballast Blankets. “It started as a real solution for our daughter’s sleep challenges.”

In addition to three teenage sons, the Neilsons have a one-year-old daughter who struggled to sleep at night.

“We looked at a variety of sleeping aids, like lighting and background music or different temperatures for the room,” Stephanie said. “We even looked at the services of sleep consultants.”

In the course of their research, the Neilsons came across studies touting the benefits of deep touch pressure and weighted blankets.

“So we developed some prototypes and test materials and … it just works,” Stephanie said. “The studies demonstrated the positive effects of weighted blankets on serious conditions like PTSD, autism, restless legs syndrome and general insomnia. We saw a huge difference in how our daughter was able to sleep.”

It wasn’t long before the couple’s sons wanted weighted blankets of their own.

“Our boys are elite athletes and they were interested in sleeping better,” Stephanie said. “As teenagers, they were sort of able to park their brains and get to sleep much faster and feel much more rested.”

Active on various social media groups, Stephanie told other moms how well the Neilsons’ weighted blankets were working.

“People started saying, ‘Hey, we’d love to try it as well,’” Stephanie said. “It was through there that we realized there was a business opportunity and we created Ballast Blankets.”

Blankets Without Borders

The Neilsons knew it would take a long time to gather the resources necessary to engage in regional or national advertising using traditional channels.

“We want to use social media to increase awareness of the effectiveness of Ballast Blankets and reach a larger market beyond our local community,” Stephanie said. “We see social media as being the best way to help inform people and put them in touch with an all-natural solution to their sleeping and anxiety challenges.”

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However, the Neilsons also realized how time-consuming properly leveraging social could be. They started researching social media management platforms.

“We needed to balance our need for features and functionality alongside the cost of the platform and we also needed a platform that we could get comfortable with and begin using with a minimal learning curve,” Stephanie said. “Ultimately, the deciding factor for us was the excellent customer service of the Sprout team. They were approachable and spent the time we needed one on one.”

It was after a meeting with the Sprout team regarding Brand Keywords that the Neilsons came across a story on Twitter about a young boy in Florida whose family couldn’t afford a weighted blanket for him.

“Earlier that day we’d had a training session with the Sprout team and been introduced to the Brand Keywords feature,” Stephanie said. “So we had begun experimenting with some keyword combinations that were relevant to our business. Within an hour or two of getting that set up, we came across the story from Florida. We would never have found that story otherwise. The Twitter message from the father on behalf of his son was heart-wrenching. Their young son is autistic and had experienced a pretty traumatic event at school…. we felt moved to respond and offered to send the family a weighted blanket as a gift.”

Solace Through Social

Stephanie wanted to lend a helping hand to a family in need and doing so inadvertently led to a strong response from social audiences.

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“We noticed through monitoring our Google Analytics on our website that that same day and a couple days following, we had about a thousand more visits to our website than normal and 90% of that new traffic was from social media,” Stephanie said. “We had several sales from all four corners of the continental U.S.”

The experience proved the power of social. Something as simple and human as helping people find solace from stress, anxiety and sleeping problems could quickly result in intense online interest.

“Our plan with using Sprout going forward is to find audiences with whom we can engage in conversations and share information about the direct link between the importance of sleep and how weighted blankets are an all-natural, non-prescription solution for people wanting to improve their sleep,” Stephanie said. “What we’re seeing from Sprout is that it allows us to leverage our time and extend the reach that we can achieve as a small team in an efficient and cost-effective way.”

Thanks to the encouraging response online and off, Ballast Blankets is developing new products based on deep touch pressure, as well as expanding its line of weighted blankets to include sizes for adults in addition to children and teens. Helping others find relief has given the Neilsons another reason to go to sleep with a smile.

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