Let's face it: when it comes to using the Internet and social media, the typical customer of a manufacturer isn't the most active online community member.
Even I have wrestled with the question of how to engage people who are likely working in the field as maintenance managers, or coding a fine-tuned CNC mill all day.
We all know that social media is being touted as the greatest thing since modern plumbing, but can social media for manufacturers really make a difference?
The answer is yes, but it needs to be done right.
Facebook for Manufacturers
Facebook is a tough sell for any industrial manufacturer because the most successful pages seem to do best with B2C relationships. Manufacturers typically want to sell to other businesses, whether it's to a coal mine or a party supply store. The trouble is, Facebook is a personal, non-professional social network. People don't necessarily gravitate to Facebook when looking to buy heavy steel or party hats by the thousands.
Facebook does, however, have great influence over a manufacturer's ability to drive traffic, gain online authority, and show a human side to their business. Contrary to popular belief, Facebook is not a walled garden. Company Facebook pages can be found in search, and even things like Facebook likes are becoming factors in the way that a company stacks up in Google search.
While Facebook is admittedly not the best social network for manufacturers, we recommend posting your best content on your Facebook page to share with your following. Whether those followers are employees, industry partners, or potential customers, it can't hurt to post regularly and build online rapport with people who find your company interesting enough to follow on Facebook.
Twitter for Manufacturers
When it comes to sharing content, nothing beats the potential of Twitter. Using this powerful micro-blogging service, manufacturers can engage with the millions of twitter users around the globe. Twitter is great for manufacturers because they can reach out to members and the relevant media of niche industries with relative ease and start conversations about industry issues by sharing blog content and interacting with other users directly.
To find relevant profiles to follow, we recommend using FollowerWonk. The free portion of this service allows you to search twitter biographies for specific keywords, which allows you to follow and seek to engage people in specific industries, regions, and occupations.
Once you're interacting on twitter, it's important to use relevant subject hash tags to engage in specific conversations. Hash tags like #CNC and #MFG will specifically engage people with CNC machines and in the manufacturing realm.
Google+ for Manufacturers
Google+ is a powerful tool for enhancing search results with your company's social credentials and influence. By registering authors through Google+ and posting articles to your company page's, you can enhance your search listings with rich snippet previews of the author's photo. People love visual content, so even having a personalized image can make your #3 result more popular than it's #1 competitor.
Google+ Communities also provide an excellent platform for discussion, gained insight, and ultimately relationships formed. Everyone knows the power of networking, why not do it online?
Plus, it's hard to imagine that a social network created by Google won't influence your search rankings at all.
LinkedIn for Manufacturers
LinkedIn is perhaps the most lucrative opportunity for manufacturers to interact on social media. I would go so far as to say that if you are looking into social media for your company, but can only really invest in one platform, LinkedIn is the one.
Start by creating a LinkedIn company page and encouraging management, marketing, and sales to join LinkedIn as well. Once joined, members should join and engage in industry groups. These memberships should be balanced between broad and niche groups alike. Do not spam the groups. Groups are quick to identify and take action against spamming members. Your best bet is to participate in thoughtful discussion, and occasionally share relevant and engaging content.
If you're wondering when to share content and when to participate in discussions, our rule is 10:1. With this rule, we only post one article for every 10 thoughtful posts. For more tips, check out our blog post on generating leads with LinkedIn.
In the end, social media is an important part of a holistic strategy called inbound marketing. This process draws together a suite of marketing strategies to generate leads, create lifelong customers, and grow your business.