The manufacturing industry has been somewhat slow to accept social media as a marketing tool. This is largely because it can be difficult to see how social media plays into the larger business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategy. That, however, appears to be changing. According to a Forrester report released in March of 2011, 30 percent of global manufacturers intended to increase social media investments in 2012.

As global manufacturers increase their social media spending, the case for small- to mid-sized manufacturers to invest in social media grows stronger. The opportunities are particularly attractive in the contract and job shop manufacturing segments, which have traditionally relied on word-of-mouth marketing to win new business. I’d like to share two ways that manufacturers can start using social media today to improve their brand visibility and win more business.

1. Create a Blog to Tell Your Story
Blogs give manufacturers an opportunity to do more than just promote their brand. Blogs allow manufacturers to communicate with their customers and prospects using a richer form of media with longer-form stories. They’re also a great avenue for sharing company information and providing industry knowledge. Manufacturers can use blogs to announce major company milestones, such as getting ISO 9001 certification, as well as share general industry trends and news. By striking a balance between promoting a brand and sharing useful information, manufacturers can gain a thought leadership position that will help win customers later down the road.

2. Use LinkedIn to Help Fill the Sales Funnel
For manufacturers, getting the most out of LinkedIn requires more than just becoming a member of the social network. Manufacturers can use LinkedIn to prime the sales funnel by using their networks to gain access to sales prospects. Once you get a few hundred contacts, your typical network usually reaches into the millions. This network can be used to get an introduction to a potential sales contact – or at the very least to connect with someone that can help strategize on how to contact the prospect. LinkedIn can also be a great place to demonstrate industry expertise by participating in relevant community discussions. Answering a difficult question in a Q&A forum, for instance, could very well lead to an unexpected contract.

Derek Singleton is an ERP Analyst with Software Advice, a company that helps buyers find the right software, including Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP) software, for their business. To read the complete article, go to How Manufacturers Can Use Social Media to Win Business.

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