Social media is seen as a necessary evil by many marketers; with billions of users “live” on these networks worldwide, you need to participate to maintain and expand your audience. If you don’t, you are likely to get leapfrogged by your competition. Content Marketing Institute shows that 85% of manufacturers were using social media content as a marketing manufacturing tactic.
However, it is not enough to have a presence, in fact a neglected or poorly managed social channel can be more damaging than no social at all. Social media takes time and every business knows that time is money. But it also requires thought. If you do jump in without thinking through the consequences, not only will you waste precious time, but you may end up doing damage to your organisation’s reputation and bottom line.
How to define a clear social strategy
Social media marketing only succeeds if you produce content that is interesting to your prospects and customer. Your messaging and calls to action need to be compelling enough to encourage them to click through to find out more. But, you also need to ensure your social media activity serves your business and delivers real return on investment.
Before you start writing your social media strategy you should listen to your audience. Find out what their preferences are online – what sites do they visit, what communities are they members of, and what channels do they use for communication?
Then listen in for a while and identify both positive and negative aspects of their conversations. Find out what they are saying about the challenges or problems their business's are facing, or what successes and results they are celebrating.
Use this intelligence to help formulate your strategy and define clear SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) objectives.
The three main considerations need to be: which social channels to choose, staff time and resources and measurement.
Find your Audience
B2B marketers use, on average, 6 different social networking platforms. However, there is no one size fits all and every industry sector is different. The top three for the manufacturing sector are: Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (Content Marketing Institute).
Facebook is probably the first social network that comes to mind, with 1.94 billion monthly users worldwide it is a giant. It is unlikely to generate new business leads for manufacturers. But, Facebook should not be discounted as an important channel for your manufacturing company.
Your ‘fans’ will receive content updates from your company page in their newsfeed, raising your brand awareness, and giving you the ability to deploy and track advertising, collect detailed audience insights, and chat with users who seek customer service.
However, your content needs curb appeal for it to get noticed. You need a clear strategy and to think creatively on how to make your products, services or manufacturing processes look compelling. The aim here is for likes and shares of your content.
The 2017 State of Inbound report cited video as the “main disruptor,” with 24% of marketers naming it as a top priority. A great and often quoted example is the long running and highly successful Will it Blend campaign – which features videos of Blendtec's blenders being used to blend all sorts of mad items such as trainers, glowsticks or iPhones.
LinkedIn is strictly a professional network, meaning it is extremely important for B2B companies to have a presence. Research shows that 80% of B2B leads generated from social come from LinkedIn. LinkedIn is also the only major social channel that has more users aged 50 to 64 than they do aged 18 to 29 so it is likely that most of the key decision makers you need to target at least have a presence on LinkedIn and they use it for professional networking.
LinkedIn offers many possibilities to manufacturing companies such as showcase pages for specific products, recruitment and can be a good way to connect with potential customers. It also offers interesting options for sharing content on LinkedIn Pulse and LinkedIn Groups, which, when used properly, can help build your influence as thought leaders in your field.
As with Facebook, your content has to appeal to your audience and be relevant. Resist the urge to talk about yourself or your products with every post. Instead you need to be helpful and informative and add value to conversations. Before you post think to yourself: Would I take the time to read this?
Twitter allows for regular updates, conversational language, and direct interaction with your audience and it gives you the opportunity to see what your audience are talking about on a regular basis. With this, you can learn how to best relate to them.
Twitter is a good channel to choose to promote your blog content to a wider audience and by using hashtags you can tailor your content to ensure the right people will find it.
Twitter is the fastest-paced social network. On average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted every second. If you want your tweet to get noticed re-share the same blog several times, the logic being you will reach different audiences at different times on different days. However, if you do follow this tactic ensure you use different visual elements to make your Twitter feed more diverse and appeal even to those followers who saw it first time you tweeted the same URL.
Manage your time and resources
Getting your social messaging right takes time and expertise. Many, if not all, of your staff already use social, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
It’s a curse because any of your employees could be using social media in a way that does not benefit the business or, even worse, in a way that may be sabotaging it (intentionally or not).
On the other hand, it’s a blessing, as all those employees could be a collective force for good – adding significantly to the marketing effort and engaging directly with customers and prospects, providing an authentic voice for the company.
This is where a social media policy comes in – an essential document that should promote, guide and control the use of social media for your manufacturing business.
A social policy needs to explain the strategy and thinking behind your organisation’s use of social media, actively encourage people to take part and give them a clear coherent framework within which to post, including an overview of the kind of behaviour that won’t be tolerated and the disciplinary measures that might follow inappropriate action.
You need to be realistic about the amount of time an active social presence takes to manage and recruit appropriately. If you simply add social to your marketing’s teams current list of duties and expect great results, you are likely to end up with overstretch, disgruntled staff and a poor social performance.
Measure the results
As a manufacturer, you will understand the importance of measuring your processes and systems. You should also measure every aspect of your marketing to ensure the effort you put in delivers more value to the business than it costs and you are getting a good ROI (return on investment); and social is no exception.
To know if you are getting value from social, you need to work out the cost to the business. Time is the biggest cost, so it’s vital this is accounted for fully. The second half of the equation is measuring and costing the benefit to the business. Metrics to measure include:
- Community Growth - Month-over-month follower growth
- Impressions / Reach - The amount of people being served your content (reach) and the amount of times your content is being served (impressions)
- Engagements – number of people doing something in response to your post (e.g. like, share, retweet, comment)
- Website visits – How many people have come to your website from your social posts.
- Conversions – How many people from your social posts then converted into leads
By following these four steps social media has the potential to be a very powerful ally for your manufacturing company, increasing your audience and reach and ultimately driving more leads and sales for your business.