Social media participation in the industrial sector currently remains low, but there is no avoiding the buzz and noise around social media, and usage is only going to increase. Many suppliers are not sure what level of commitment they should make to social media at this time.
Answering the five questions below will help you develop the right approach toward beginning or expanding your social media efforts.
1. To what extent does your target audience use social media and what social media platforms do they use?
The first question to ask in evaluating any marketing strategy is to what extent it will help you connect with your audience. According to GlobalSpec’s social media survey of engineers, technical, manufacturing and industrial professionals, usage of social media varies by platform. 42% have a Facebook account, although it is not used much for work-related purposes. 32% have a LinkedIn account, with 82% of those belonging to at least one group in LinkedIn. Only 12% of individuals, and 9% of companies, indicate that they have a Twitter account.
Of those that do use social media, the majority of users are passive: they are much more likely to read and watch content than to actively participate by creating content such as commenting or posting. Many of them are probably holding back and evaluating the usefulness of social media platforms, which means that suppliers who engage in social media must, above all else, be useful and relevant to their audience in order to build a network of followers.
2. What are your organization’s goals in implementing a social media initiative?
Again, this is a basic question that must be asked of any marketing program. When implementing the type of online programs that your customers find most valuable for work related purposes—general and specialized search engines, online catalogs, and supplier Web sites—your goals are likely to generate qualified leads and increase brand recognition and visibility in your target markets.
With social media, goals are slightly different. You can increase your followers and therefore build brand awareness. You can build relationships with the community. You can conduct product research and gain feedback from your customers and prospects. You can establish your organization as a thought leader in your industry. Think about the goals you want to achieve, and determine if social media can help you get where you want to be.
3. What people, time, and budget do you have available to invest in social media without taking resources away from other online marketing efforts?
It’s important to remember that social media is not “instead of” other marketing; it’s always “in addition to” other marketing efforts because you can’t sacrifice your proven online marketing programs for an early-stage phenomenon. Also, although setting up accounts on the various social media platforms is free, monitoring social media initiatives and creating a regular flow of fresh social media content is not.
Social media can be resource intensive because it requires frequent content creation and participation. If you write a blog, who will post to it and how often? If you establish a Twitter account, who will “tweet”? What will you tweet about? Who will maintain your company’s Facebook page? Who will participate in or monitor LinkedIn groups? One person is probably not enough to handle it all; you may need a coordinated team and a group effort. So be sure to evaluate and line up your available resources before committing to social media.
How will you integrate social media into your overall marketing strategy?
Marketers know that integration is the key to successful marketing. Make sure the goals you set for social media complement your overall marketing goals. Also, look for ways to integrate your social media initiatives with your established marketing programs. For example, promote your social media presence on your Web site and in your e-newsletters. GlobalSpec offers suppliers the ability to include their social media links such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and to add video on their company profile page, helping to cross-promote their marketing and build awareness and relevancy for their social media efforts.
How will you define success and measure ROI on your social media investments?
All marketing should be accountable and measurable, and social media is no exception. If you want executives in your company to embrace your social media ideas, you must be able to measure the results of your efforts. You can measure social media metrics such as number of fans/followers and activity (page views, discussion threads, comments, etc.). You’ll also want to analyze how social media helps increase traffic to your Web site and online catalog, as well as generate any new sales leads.