For most manufacturing companies, social media is viewed as something for kids. Marketing on social media is perceived as being better suited for B2C companies or large national brands, if it is right for business at all – certainly not for a manufacturer of a highly specialized, technical product like, say, custom gears.
Many manufacturers cling to the traditional marketing channels they have used for years, such as print ads and industry trade shows, and have been slow, even reluctant to change. After all, they already know the buyers at the OEM’s, and the industrial engineers who influence purchases, and those people just don’t use social media, right?
The fact is, the majority of engineers and industrial professionals now have social media accounts, according to a recent survey by IHS GlobalSpec, and many manufacturing companies – your competitors – are successfully working their social media marketing plans. Manufacturing companies can no longer afford to ignore social media.
Reasons for Manufacturers to Use Social Media
The survey showed 52% of industrial engineers and technical professionals the use social media primarily to stay up-to-date on the latest company, product and technology news. Forty-eight percent use social media to network with colleagues and connect with additional contacts. Social media is also used to find peer reviews, expertise, new suppliers and new employment.
However, the results also show that social media is not as highly valued as other online resources, such as general search engines, supplier websites and online catalogs, mainly due to “too much noise and not enough substance.”
This is an important note. Having a social media presence will only produce benefits if you interact with this audience in a relevant, substantive manner – by publishing meaningful and useful content and engaging with customers and prospects in a way that keeps their attention and helps them do their jobs better.
How Manufacturers Can Get Started with Social Media Marketing?
Some suppliers and manufacturers start using social media because they simply feel they should, or they see their competitors using the social networks. Yet, even companies that use social channels successfully may not see as big a benefit as they could from their social media marketing.
Before jumping in to social media marketing, or any other marketing channel for that matter, it’s important to understand how your prospects and customers use it? Here’s how industrial engineers and technical professionals are using various social networks.
Industrial engineers are a serious bunch. Among this audience, the most popular social media platform is LinkedIn, the professional networking site. The survey showed 63% of respondents use LinkedIn to network with other industry professionals. 79% use LinkedIn to search for contacts, while 40% read product or industry news.
Organizations can also create company profiles on LinkedIn, and promote their products and services. Individuals or organizations can create and join Groups that provide a forum for discussion, networking, content distribution and promotion. Sixty-seven percent of industrial professionals belong to two or more Groups on LinkedIn; 62% read their Group’s discussions, although only 23% actually participate in those discussions.
Google Plus also showed growth among technical professionals, with 37% of these professionals having accounts. Google Plus includes Circles for sharing content only with certain people, and Hangouts for viewing video. Google Plus also allows organization to get recommendations from customers, among other social benefits.
While Facebook offers “Pages” that are associated with companies or brands, the culture of Facebook tends to be more personal in nature. Although the majority of technical professionals have a Facebook account, it’s usage as a professional social network declined to 54%, from 65% in 2011.
The study showed that, while engineers and technical professionals do participate on social media, they prefer to read and watch video, rather than publish, post and comment. In fact video watching is the top usage of this audience, with almost half of engineers (47%) using a video sharing website like YouTube for work-related purposes.
Product demos (85%) and how-to videos (80%) are the two most popular types of video content. The industrial audience also watches videos on new trends and technologies (63 percent) and interviews with product experts (39%).
Social media has established its niche in industrial marketing. This is not to say that social media is the next big trend in industrial marketing. Social media is one strategy. It is important and should be part of your mix, but only to the level of investment and resources that you can devote to maintaining your social media conversation.