How to Use Social Media with a Purpose

Social media use among technical professionals is holding steady, and social media should have a place in your marketing strategy. Recent research shows that the majority of industrial companies now use social media, yet many still do not have a clear purpose, goals, or means of defining or measuring success. Wherever your organization is on the social media scale—ignoring, listening, or regularly contributing—you’re at the right place to step back for a moment to assess your strategy and to plan a logical, effective path forward.

Set realistic goals and objectives

Social media is oriented towards interaction, dialog, education and networking, and therefore may not be a direct driver of sales. But before you shut down your social media efforts, you should realize that technical professionals regularly participate in social media and in particular find it useful at the early stages of their buying cycle.

Recent research shows that the top three uses of social media among technical professionals are to keep up with the latest company news/products/technologies, to find product reviews, and to find new suppliers. These are all activities related to the early buy cycle when customers are engaged in gathering information and surveying the supplier landscape.
So if you are investing in social media in order to generate fast leads and sales, you may be disappointed. However, if your social media goals are to build thought leadership, foster a community, and generate brand awareness that will lead to engagement opportunities, then you may experience a high level of success.

Hang out with your customers

Doesn’t it seem like there’s always the next latest and greatest social media platform getting all the attention? It’s hard to keep up. And it’s almost impossible to spread your social media efforts across every platform available. That’s why it’s important to know which social media channels technical professionals like to use and to concentrate your efforts on one or a few of those channels.

According to IHS GlobalSpec’s Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report, LinkedIn is the most popular social media channel among technical professionals. Facebook and Google+ are next in usage, although in the past few years Facebook usage has stagnated and Google+ usage has increased among technical professionals. Twitter has yet to see widespread adoption with this audience.

Use this information to help direct your social media efforts. Establish company pages on these channels if you haven’t already. Post news and content to it. Invite customers and prospects to follow you. You’ll learn pretty quickly the types of content that resonate and you can start customizing each channel’s content to its audience.

Deliver Useful Content on Social Media

One of the biggest challenges technical professionals report about using social media for work-related purposes is that there is “too much noise and not enough substance.” The company that can rise to the top in social media is the company that provides “substance” in the form of useful information about new technologies, how to solve problems, relevant news and more. Use social media to deliver this type of content. You can post and link to white papers, articles, webinar invitations, interviews, news alerts and more.

Video is also a popular medium for social media users. Technical professionals use YouTube and other video sharing sites for work-related purposes. They’re looking for product demos, tutorials, how-to’s, and training videos. Establish an account on a video-sharing site and link to all your videos from your social media platforms.

Use Metrics that Matter to Measure Success

Technical professionals are passive users of social media. That means they prefer watching a video to creating and posting one. They prefer reading discussions more than contributing to them. Their most common activity on LinkedIn is to search for contacts. On Facebook and Google+, it’s to find and follow other groups or businesses within their industry.

By understanding what your audience is doing on social media, you will be able to define the metrics that are important to track. In this regard, the number of relevant people following your company on social media is what counts. If this number is increasing, you’re probably doing it right, and are increasing your brand visibility and gaining a reputation as a thought leader.

Integrate with other Marketing Efforts

Social media is one component of your marketing strategy, and like all components, needs to be integrated into your overall plan. Technical professionals still consider other online resources more valuable than social media for researching a work-related purpose: online catalogs, general search engines, supplier websites and GlobalSpec.com all rank high. Therefore, make sure that your social media presence is integrated with these other marketing channels. For example, links to your social platforms should be highly visible on your website. Or you can take advantage of integrating your social posts and videos on your GlobalSpec.com page.

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How do you use social media for industrial marketing? How do you measure your efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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