I recently came across this article (are social media right for all manufacturers? maybe not) on AJ Sweatt’s blog. First of all – his blog is a fantastic resource for anyone (especially marketers) in manufacturing. I’ve just started to dive into the content there and have found several fantastic articles.
This article in particular takes a look at social media and the payoff for manufacturers. (It also refers to and briefly touches on another insightful article by Mike Collins – Industrial Marketing is Not Consumer Marketing, but that’s a discussion for another time). AJ breaks down 3 weaknesses of the use of social media to serve industrial and manufacturing buying cycles;
- Serving Discovery
- Serving Research Behaviors
- Building/Sustaining Your Brand
AJ makes some valid points about adoption rates among our peers and the negative effect that has on social media results. (Most of us just won’t have hundreds or thousands of customers following us on Twitter and friending us on facebook). While everything he says is for the most part true right now industrial marketers shouldn’t be abandoning their social media efforts – but instead carefully considering their strategy and setting realistic goals and expectations.
Reading AJ’s words did make me stop and think about what we’re getting out of social media, particularly our time spent on twitter. We may not be hitting on everything AJ laid out, but here are some things we are getting out of it:
- Building relationships with our peers– the number one, most important, key objective of spending our time on Twitter is to build relationships with our peers. They may or may not be our potential customers, right now that doesn’t really matter – because they serve a greater purpose. They are companies and individuals we learn from. They feed us important industry news, they advise us in decisions we make, they answer the questions we couldn’t even ask before. Our social network actually helps fill a knowledge gap that Mike Collins addresses, giving us the industry training and knowledge we probably didn’t receive in school or previous consumer-facing jobs.
- Endorsements, referrals, evangelism – while it may be near impossible for any manufacturing or industrial organization to connect with thousands of their customers through social media right now it is becoming easier and easier. More and more members of the supply chain are getting in on twitter. Manufacturers, eps, distributors, OEMs and of coarse consumers are all out there, and every day they become more and more engaged, active, and aware of the relationships they can build through social media. The daunting task is finding and connecting with these key contacts.Those relationships we mentioned previously actually do most of the driving for us on this goal.
There is an overwhelmingly positive cycle of promoting (not self-promotion, but promoting others) in social media. Take for instance #FollowFridays (or #FF) a Twitter-wide Friday tradition of suggesting your favorite Twitter accounts to follow. And even #FBLT Facebook Like Tuesdays – a manufacturing-centric tradition of promoting each others’ Facebook pages every Tuesday.Every week we find ourselves forging relationships with relevant – potentially synergistic companies and individuals, generally thanks to the endorsement, evangelism, and promotion our network provides.
- An opportunity to share our content – I know, I just said social media is not about self-promotion, that’s not what I’m talking about here. As any marketer involved in online, social, web2.0 etc marketing knows – when it comes to driving traffic to your website, creating inbound interest and generating organic leads – content is king. AJ mentions that a manufacturer’s website is the place where all the information industrial buyers need should live. The dilemma? Driving traffic to your site where all that hard-earned content lives.Social media is an appropriate place to share and even promote your own content – when done in the right way. We post several links back to our blog several times a week, we link to our own website on regular occasion, and don’t feel there’s a problem with that because we keep the content relevant to our audience and we don’t overwhelm followers with the density of shares. If we were to look at all of our tweets, only a small fraction (perhaps 1 in every 30 or so) tweets promotes our own content. Everything else is about our followers and the folks we follow.
There are also no secrets about the importance of social media in SEO. More and more search engines are indexing social content and weighting their algorithms towards social shares, visits from social networking sites, and authority of social profiles. Want to show up higher in Google? Social networking will help you work toward that goal.
So, do we [manufacturers] belong in social media? Our answer is an overwhelming yes. While the goal of any industrial or manufacturing organization is to drive sales, the way to get there is often a long and winding path – one that includes several strategies, methods, and sometimes the occasional hope and prayer. Involvement in social media will not drive an immediate increase in website visitors, brand recognition, and certainly not sales. It will however, if cared for properly, make a difference in all of these things over the long haul. We promise you’ll learn a thing or two along the way, forge some fantastic relationships, and feel more connected to your peers in manufacturing than ever before.
What’s your take on social media for manufacturers? Are you seeing the same benefits we do, or something different? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments. And check out AJ’s blog.