Social media has found its place in the manufacturing sector. According to the 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing survey, 60 percent of industrial marketers are using social media. LinkedIn, Facebook and video sharing sites like YouTube are the top three social media channels.

Yet even though a majority of marketers are incorporating social media into their plans, only a paltry 20 percent are satisfied with their social media efforts. Which means 80 percent are struggling, floundering or unhappy. Why is this happening? And what can you do about it?

Setting Expectations
One reason industrial marketers may be dissatisfied with their social media efforts may have to do with unrealistic expectations. If you’re using social media in hopes of generating a flood of ready-to-buy engagement opportunities, you’re going to be disappointed. While your target audience uses social media to follow their favorite brands and companies as well as keep up with the latest news and technologies, they still rely more on other digital channels such as online catalogs, supplier websites, and e-newsletters to search and discover products, parts, services and suppliers.

Setting realistic goals for social media and a having clear idea of what you want to accomplish will help with expectations. In the industrial sector, social media is probably best suited for building brand awareness, distributing content and establishing thought leadership than it is for lead generation. If you focus on these objectives and measure results in these terms, you might find you are doing a better job meeting your expectations. It’s not that you’re lowering your expectations, you’re simply re-setting them based on reality.

Benchmarking Efforts
Your social media efforts might be getting better results than you think they are. For instance, have you benchmarked your social media presence against what your competitors are doing? Are they getting better engagement than you are? Chances are, your competitors are in about the same place you are.

You can’t really expect huge engagement numbers in terms of likes, shares and comments. Industrial professionals are largely passive consumers of social media. They prefer reading and watching to initiating discussions or adding comments. What’s most important is that you are trending in a positive direction in terms of having more of your target audience following your company on social media and being exposed to your content. Those metrics demonstrate you are doing something worthwhile.

Choosing channels
It seems every industry expert is shouting that you must do more with social media. And doesn’t it also seem there are new social media channels popping up all the time? Marketers tend to get anxious about shiny, new toys, not wanting to be left behind. But who has the time and resources to engage with every social media channel? Ninety-three percent of industrial companies do not have a full-time employee dedicated to social media, so it’s almost impossible to keep up. Plus there’s the danger of spreading yourself too thin and getting back very little in return for those efforts.

It’s better to focus on one or two social media channels that you know your customers and prospects use and that you’re comfortable using. Contribute regularly, post content, and engage with your followers. As you find success with these channels and gain confidence in your social media efforts, you can begin to explore other channels as well.

Remember that social media is just one aspect of your overall marketing effort—and not the most important one. Keep your resource and time investment at an appropriate level, your expectations in line, and devote the majority of your efforts to the digital channels your audience uses most often.

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Have do handle your social media efforts? What tips and ideas would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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