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Grow up and get social

By Phil Paranicas

Without a social media strategy, companies risk not being seen 

May 5, 2014 - When you go to a trade show or seminar and strike up a conversation, how do you know that the interaction produces business? Maybe it did. Just because you can’t instantly chalk up a sale doesn’t mean you didn’t make an impression that will pay off.

The same is true for social media.

Social media is about dialogues that influence

LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs are dialogues—just like the conversations you have at industry events. They’re an opportunity for you to influence thinking and perspective, and to bring new ideas and new solutions to the table. Which is why social media has just as much a place in a manufacturer’s marketing plan and budget as trade shows. Maybe more because, unlike trade shows, social media is an ongoing opportunity that continually attracts a target audience.

Numbers back this up.

According to a recent ThomasNet Industrial Purchasing Barometer study, 56 percent of industrial buyers recommend that suppliers be available through social media if they want to do business with them. One buyer says, “Social media has made it easier to see more about the services and tools available and helps us make our purchases.” Nearly half (46 percent) of buyers who responded advise suppliers to use LinkedIn, while 39 percent would recommend using industry-specific forums. Matt Eggemeyer, vice president and COO for Keats Manufacturing , based in Wheeling, Illinois, puts it this way: “This is where new generations are going; if you’re not there, you won’t be seen.”

When all is said and done, social media is nothing more than another marketing tool that, when used efficiently and thoughtfully, has the power to build brand awareness and reputations. And effectiveness depends on having a strategy—one that, oddly enough, looks and sounds much like a strategy for any other marketing channel. It has to answer three basic questions.

1. What’s the business challenge or opportunity I need to solve?

2. What are the primary audiences I want to reach?

3. What is the messaging platform/value proposition/positioning statement I want to reinforce?

For instance

Take Etratech , which develops and produces electronic controls for original equipment manufacturers  around the world. The Ontario company’s wireless technologies are found in everything from elevator doors to irrigation systems.

Bill Burrows, Etratech’s business development manager, wanted to accelerate sales by increasing its name recognition. The company saw new opportunities in sectors ranging from kitchen appliances to aerospace. But in a worldwide market with many competitors, that recognition was harder than ever to achieve. As Bill notes, manufacturers, unlike consumer brands, usually don’t achieve household-name status.

Etratech had built its business on word-of-mouth referrals, and Bill felt that a social media program would help deliver those referrals in today’s digital age. He wanted Etratech to become the go-to guys within the electronic controls market. He envisioned a program where he could reach engineers and purchasing professionals in target industries, contributing a unique point of view on “all things wireless.”

ThomasNet helped Etratech develop a comprehensive social media program that includes a blog, a YouTube channel, and regular postings on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Through the program, Etratech began commenting on everything from the reinvention of the microwave to space elevators of the future. 

As Etratech became more engaged with social media, amazing things started to happen. The program began generating additional web traffic and new sources of leads. When prospects called, Bill didn’t have to go through a courting stage. These potential customers had already learned about Etratech through social media and the website, and that shaved three to six months off an already-long sales cycle. As a result of all this activity, Etratech has made new sales. 

Follow through

An effective social media program like Etratech’s takes commitment. Especially in the manufacturing space, where there are some unique challenges. Namely, you’re engaging very intelligent engineers and technology folks who only respect those who deliver useful expertise in their niche markets. That’s why whoever creates your content and becomes your social media representative has to be deeply engaged in your industry, and able to contribute to the conversation with specific, knowledgeable information. In addition to the right content, the other must-have is frequency. It’s important that you have a social media calendar—just like you would develop a media calendar for paid media or an editorial calendar for public relations. Manufacturers should also monitor conversations about their company, or about issues/trends where they have a unique perspective to contribute.

Indeed, social media programs need constant care and feeding, and many manufacturers lack the resources and time to give them dedicated attention. ThomasNet developed its social media program to help manufacturers make this commitment. A staff of industrial communications specialists handles everything from strategy sessions and goal-setting, to writing and posting unique content for each company. That includes providing a blog and publishing on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

However you choose to handle social media, make sure you are fully engaged and the results will follow. The proof is in the stories of Etratech and others, who are finding that conversations through social media are opening doors for them every day. FFJ

Phil Paranicas is the Director of New Product Development at ThomasNet.com

 

Sources

Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

IRONWORKERS

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

LASER TECHNOLOGY

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

Mazak Optonics Corp.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SecturaSOFT

BEVELING

TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. SigmaTEK Systems LLC
Steelmax Tools LLC

LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Trilogy Machinery Inc. Striker Systems

COIL PROCESSING

MTS Sensors

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

STAMPING/PRESSES

Bradbury Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Burghardt + Schmidt Group EMH Crane Rolleri USA Nidec Press & Automation
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc.

PRESS BRAKES

STEEL

Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial AMADA AMERICA, INC. Alliance Steel
Tishken

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

Automec Inc.

TUBE & PIPE

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies MC Machinery Systems Inc. BLM Group
Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

SafanDarley HGG Profiling Equipment Inc.

DEBURRING/FINISHING

Cincinnati Inc.

PUNCHING

Prudential Stainless & Alloys
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit Hougen Manufacturing

WATERJET

Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc.

SAWING

Barton International
Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. Behringer Saws Inc. Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

Cosen Saws Omax Corp.
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. DoALL Sawing

WELDING

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MetalForming Inc. HE&M Saw American Weldquip
Beckwood Press Co.

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

Savage Saws Strong Hand Tools
Triform Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

T. J. Snow Company

TPMG2022 Brands


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