Business-to-business (B2B) companies are starting to embrace social media to a greater extent these days. According to a report by Forrester, roughly 81 percent of B2B companies reported that they used social media in 2011. The increased adoption of social media among B2B companies indicates that companies are finding more value out of ramping up their social presence online.
One industry that’s been relatively slow to adopt social media, however, is manufacturing. The Forrester report found that only 30 percent of global manufacturers thought they would increase social media spending in 2012. To me, the fact that global manufacturers are gravitating to social media is an indication that small- to mid-sized manufacturers should consider creating an online presence and start utilizing the social tools available.
Why? While social media adoption is still in the early stage of adoption for the manufacturing industry, it will only grow in importance as buyers of every kind continue to flock to the Internet to research before buying. Creating a strong social media presence now can help manufacturers improve their brand visibility to win more business - now and in the future. Here are three things that manufacturers can do to get off on the right foot using social media tools.
1. Create a Blog to Tell Your Story
Blogs give manufacturers an opportunity to do more than just promote their brand. Blogs are a great forum for communicating with customers and prospects in a rich form of media that allows for stories to be told. When creating a blog and generating content, it’s important to mix up the content and alternate between providing company information and industry knowledge. No one wants to read a blog that’s simply about what the company does. Manufacturers can use the blog to share important company news, such as developing a new prototype or winning an award. However, sharing general industry news and trends goes a long way toward keeping the content balanced. In striking a balance between promotion and information sharing, manufacturers can gain a thought leadership position that will help win customers later.
2. Start a YouTube Channel to Enrich Content
Of course, videos are also a great way to communicate with customers and potential prospects. As technologies have matured, video equipment and the cost of production have decreased dramatically. In fact, you can shoot quality footage with a camera purchased for a few hundred dollars. Manufacturers should create a YouTube channel to showcase product demonstrations, give a tour of the factory, or provide testimonials from satisfied customers. I think one of the important notes here is keep the video fairly short and always include a call to action. On the web, attention spans are pretty short so you need to bring your point across quickly and make it clear how customers can contact you. One of my favorite YouTube videos produced by a manufacturer is this Carr Machine and Tool video. The video provides customers a walk-through of how their orders are handled while showing the company’s dedication to service.
3. Use LinkedIn to Help Fill the Sales Funnel
A final tool to consider is LinkedIn. In order to get the most out of LinkedIn, manufacturers need to do more than simply become a member of the social network. Manufacturers can use LinkedIn to prime the sales funnel if they leverage their connections. Considering that after you have a few hundred connections your network extends into the millions, LinkedIn can be a great way to get in touch with potential sales contacts. At the very least, you can usually find someone in your network who can help you strategize on how to get in touch with your prospect. Beyond using LinkedIn for networking, participating in Q&A forums and group discussions can help increase brand visibility. For instance, if you can answer a tough prototype design question, you could win a contract that you would have otherwise missed.
About the author: Derek Singleton is an ERP Analyst at Software Advice, which he joined after graduating from Occidental College with a degree in Political Science. He writes about various topics and trends in the manufacturing and distribution industries. To visit the Software Advice website, click here.
Photo by Nan Palmero via Flickr.