Many manufacturing companies have now set up one or more social media channels. By ‘set up’, I mean they have established a page about their company and products on various platforms deemed as “social media”. According to Content Marketing Institute’s annual research report, "B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing – 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends in North America”, B2B manufacturers favor the big 5 platforms in this order; YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Further, the average number of platforms used is five. But, is social media for manufacturing companies the right marketing tactic? In this post we'll explore the answer.
*2016 B2B Manufacturing Content Marketing Trends – North America: Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs
Just because other B2B manufacturers are present on social media does not mean your company should be present on social media regardless of the channel!
In determining if social media is right for your business, you must first ask yourself (and the leadership team that determines business strategy) whether or not your target audience is active on the particular platform you have chosen or are about to set up. For example, if your business is on Facebook or if you are considering a Facebook company page, it is imperative to first determine if the people who comprise your target audience are looking for work related information on Facebook? Note the “work related information” part of that question. If they are active or present on Facebook just to share family pictures or debate politics, it’s most likely not an appropriate business channel? Ask and answer the same question about each and every social media channel before you set up a presence or before you continue a presence.
Recent CFE media research discovered that only 18% of engineers find social media ‘very’ or ‘moderately’ valuable as sources of content. If the people in your target audience are actively looking for information about the challenges they face in their business lives on a certain social media channel, you should be sharing information on that channel. Put another way, if you do not have a business reason for establishing a presence on a certain channel, then do not waste your time and resources.
Suppose you have asked the questions and determined that your audience is actively looking for work related information on a certain channel and you have made the decision to build a presence on that channel. You must first outline a strategy to use the channel to achieve your objectives. Using social media as a sales and marketing channel should be developed and executed just like any other channel. The strategy should include at least these components:
- Goals and objectives
- Success metrics
- Frequency and cadence
- Editorial plan
- Team assignments
- Evaluation plan
Most manufacturers that choose to devote resources to social media are doing a poor job of it. They post information about their company, products or their employees. This type of information is just boring to your target audience. Here’s the tough love part of this post; nobody in your target audience cares about your company, your products or your employees. If your goal is to grow your business, create awareness or even get sales leads, you must share posts about something your audience cares about. They care about information that helps them to solve a problem or to be better at their profession. They don’t care about your office move or your new CFO.
When posting on social media, you should not lead with product or service information, but it is important to connect your brand and the useful information you are posting to the company offering. Therefore, I recommend a 4:1 posting ratio. Share 4 posts containing helpful, work related information to every 1 post about your product or service. Here are a few other tips for using social media once you determine it is a channel where you can engage with your target audience:
- Be consistent in posting cadence and stick with it for at least 3 months before you determine if it will be effective,
- Measure results against success metrics and business/marketing goals on a regular basis.
- Don’t be afraid to pull that page down and abandon a channel if it isn’t meeting the goals.
Make it a point to understand how often your posts are gaining exposure to the target audience. Many social media platforms have converted or are in the process of converting to a pay for play model. In other words, if you want your business posts to show up at all in the feed of your audience, you have to pay for advertising.
If you are the leader of the marketing function and you’re operating with a lean team, it is important to focus resources where you get a strong return. Social media may or may not be the best place to expend resources. As with any sales or marketing activity, it is crucial to understand if the tactic is delivering on the chosen goal. Evaluate each social media channel as described above and don’t be afraid to say “no” when it doesn’t make sense, even if more than70% of your contemporaries (including your competition) are present on the channel.