How Can Manufacturers Use Social Media to Grow Their Business
by Ron Mattocks
What can social media do for manufacturers? Why should they even consider it? The answer may surprise you.
Social media is having a big impact on the manufacturing industry to help sell, develop, and recruit new associates. It has become a great way to share ideas, identify new opportunities, recruit new employees, and find collaborative partners around the world.
Social media is not just about sharing vacation and lunch photos, keeping up with friends, or watching funny cat videos. It has become one of the most effective communication and marketing channels since radio stations started airing advertisements. Here are a few statistics to keep in mind:
- 74% of engineers use social media for work one or more times per week.
- Millennials (people between the ages of 20 – 40) are more likely to use social media than other generations.
- 2.65 billion people use social media around the world; that number is expected to grow to 3.1 billion by 2021.
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Why Social Media is Important to Manufacturers
Social media is for more than just marketers and PR people. For example, engineers are especially interested in it as it has benefited their work. According to Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector – IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions’ New Research Report:
- 54% use it to read product reviews.
- 52% use it to find company and product news.
- 43% use it to find experts.
But engineers aren’t the only ones who can use social media to benefit their work. HR professionals use it for identifying hard-to-find talent in specialized industries, such as programmers of a little-known computer language or people with advanced manufacturing skills.
For example, if you need someone who knows a particular computer language used in your warehouse management system, rather than just putting out ads in various trade publications. Your managers and recruiters can turn to LinkedIn or specific online discussion groups and search for people with those particular qualifications. It’s just a matter of recruiting them directly. No job fairs, no headhunters, no prowling conferences hoping to bump into the right candidate.
You can also crowdsource — ask the crowd to provide information — answers to specific questions, like recommendations for inventory software, ERP software, or a particular consultant.
And of course, your PR and marketing people will need to use social media, as that will be one of the lowest-cost, most effective methods of communicating with potential customers.
Not only does it cost less, but you can track the performance of all your different posts and status updates. Simply plug them directly into your CRM software to see which social channels and messages are generating the most sales. You can’t do that with magazine ads or TV/radio commercials.
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What Social Channels Should You Use?
There are thousands of social networks around the world, but there are really only four or five you should concern yourself with. According to the Manufacturing Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report from the Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and IEEE Global Spec there are only five networks that manufacturers concern themselves with: LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
- 70% of manufacturers have increased their use of social media for content marketing compared to the previous year.
- 53% employ social media as a means to research target customers.
- 68% have used paid social media tactics to reach audiences.
And according to the Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector – IEEE Engineering360 Media Solutions’ New Research Report we mentioned earlier, engineers use these social channels:
- 81% use LinkedIn, mostly as a research channel related to a purchase. This makes it a useful recommendation tool, and can be used to find potential customers.
- 80% use Facebook to follow company pages. It’s a great way to see what your competitors are doing, but also to recruit talent.
- 40% use YouTube, especially for how-to videos, product demos, tutorials, and training. You can learn a new skill, troubleshoot a problem with a machine, or even use it to demo your own products.
- And 35% use Twitter to follow companies or industry groups. You can see what your competitors are doing, and they won’t even realize you’re monitoring them.
There are social groups, discussion topics, and even special lists available for nearly every type of job within your industry and organization. Facebook is such an integral part of people’s lives these days. There are plenty of people who have created Facebook groups for their trade associations and job types so they can connect with other people in their industry.
Whether it’s marketers within the poultry industry or HR representatives in the metal foundry industry, there are LinkedIn groups and Twitter discussions going on about specific topics.
What Kinds of Content Should You Share?
The kind of content you should share — articles, press releases, photos, videos, podcasts, etc. — will all depend on what you want to accomplish.
Are you trying to build awareness for your brand and/or product? Trying to increase sales and revenue through lead generation and account targeting? Do you want to increase loyalty and lifetime value of your current customers? Or do you want to recruit skilled labor, new expertise, or backfill an aging workforce?
Social media can help you with all of this, and do it for a lot less time and effort than the traditional channels we used 15 – 20 years ago. For example:
- You can use YouTube to create and share how-to videos, tutorials, training, and product demos.
- You can create product reviews and share your expertise on YouTube, but also on a company blog.
- Write blog articles that delve deeply into your different frequently asked questions and share those in your LinkedIn groups.
- Write about company news, product updates, and new technologies as blog articles and share them on Twitter and your LinkedIn general feed.
- Share photos and videos from your different trade shows and conferences. Include your customers and vendor partners and tag them in those updates. Ask them to share the content with their own followers.
Whatever you share, you need to make it more about your customer than about you.
What are their pain points? What are their problems? And how can your products help them? That’s the kind of content you should be sharing on the social networks where they spend the most time.
How Do You Know It’s Working?
Just like good manufacturing, good social media measures its results to make sure everything is working properly. Social media professionals use different measurement tools including Twitter Analytics, Google Analytics, and other measurement tools to determine the reach or effectiveness of each of your campaigns.
- If you’re trying to increase your brand awareness, you can look at factors like engagement with your content, how many impressions your different updates have gotten, and the number of views each blog article has received.
- If you’re working to beef up your recruiting numbers, you should look at the reach and engagement of your blog articles and LinkedIn status updates as well as the conversion rates of things like job postings or blog articles about what it’s like to work at the company.
- And your lifetime value numbers can be measured by the number of email newsletter subscribers you get, the number of followers on each network, and even the shares and retweets of your different content updates.
Want to learn more about how marketing can help you find, recruit, and hire new employees? We would be more than happy to help answer those questions.
Learn how manufacturers can get value from social media.
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