Last week I gently suggested that, even for older valve industry professionals, it wasn’t such a bad idea to dip some toes into the roiling waters of social media. Hopefully you’ve at least opened a LinkedIn account and linked up with VMA.
But don’t stop there! Opening up an account is one thing, engagement is another. Here is where the challenge begins.
Join the conversation
You have to make a commitment to use your social media account(s) to interact with the people you’ve just connected to. You have to post, comment, and otherwise open the conversation. It’s like being at a networking event or party. Everyone around you is talking, sharing ideas and contacts. If you just stand there watching and listening to them, they won’t pay any attention to you, and they won’t know what you have to share. Consequently, you might not get invited to the next party.
Referring again to the report by IHS GlobalSpec, survey results show that industrial professionals are passive users of social media. According to the report, “This is really no different from how the typical internet user interacts with social media. Industrial professionals prefer to read and watch content rather than starting or commenting on discussions.”
So that leaves it to you, as a supplier, manufacturer, distributor, to provide the purchasers, engineers, project managers, whoever your audience is, with content that matters to them. While those people may not chime in on the chat, it doesn’t mean that social media lacks value as a component of your marketing mix. It just means that you need to match your social media strategy to what your audience seeks from these channels.
Since 52% of respondents indicate they use social media to keep abreast of the latest company, product, and technology news, it’s probably a reasonably good use of time to use the social media channels to reach that audience.
Content truly is king
Also, about half of the respondents to the IHS GlobalSpec survey said they use social media to find peer reviews, new suppliers, and industry expertise. If you are a project manager and your peers are using social media as a resource for purchasing decisions, are missing out on the advantages they have if you are not so engaged?
For suppliers, social media is a great channel to market content. It can be a very efficient way to disseminate white papers, research reports, product announcements, and press releases to your target audience. If you’ve built a good network, your information will be at the forefront when they are choosing products.
A purchaser may learn about your new products through social media if it is business oriented, like a group on LinkedIn. And here is where the new kid on the block, Google +, which recently took over the number 2 spot behind Facebook from Twitter, is proving to be so valuable. Why? Because it has Google power, meaning that its own search engines favor any post, picture, article or link posted on Google + over any other postings.
Also, a purchaser reading the aforementioned releases and announcements from you, the supplier or manufacturer, will also have access to postings his or her peers may have shared about your products. For the purchaser, this can be a valuable resource when trying to wade through piles of specs and white papers. And while it’s true that most purchasers of valve, actuators and controls are not going to start their search on social media, they could use it to help whittle down the choices.
Engaging your audience on social media
Bottom line, as someone with something to market, you have to give your audience content that is valuable to them. It’s not necessarily that your followers will comment on you posts or videos, but they are reading and watching. So, the adage “content is king” is absolutely true.
It has to have value. It must offer solid, valuable information that can get your company’s products and/or services noticed by your prospects and picked up by the search engines. There is much discussion amongst the “experts” about whether your content needs to be long or whether it just needs to be good. I’m not sure the answer is a simple one, because, if you are in an industry where there really isn’t a lot to write about, there’s no point writing just for the sake of writing. Just posting about an event or a new product may be enough. But whatever you write or whatever video is posted - it must be interesting and engaging.
Measuring your success
The measurements that determine the value of your social media efforts are reach, engagement, sentiment and conversion.
Who are you reaching? Are you keeping them engaged in the dialogue you’ve started? What do they think about that and, perhaps most importantly, how many of those you’ve reached take the action that you want them?
Readers: Take a stand
For all you passive consumers of content – if something does strike your fancy, or is of particular value to you, you can use it to your advantage within the social media realm as well. By commenting, you can illustrate your own or your company’s likes, dislikes, needs, questions. You can share good content with colleagues to help make their jobs easier, or a process more efficient. Let those of us who are creating content know what you would like to see. And I don’t mean photos of kittens in teacups.
So now you have a couple of extra tools in your professional toolbox. What are you going to do with them?