MLR

Put Social Networking Sites to Work for Your Manufacturing Firm

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If you think social media is just for teenagers, think again. More than half of those logging on to social media sites are in their mid-thirties or older.

Traditional media outlets such as newspapers, radio and television, have long served the purpose of delivering one-way messages, like your firm’s advertising. Social media, by contrast, uses web-based platforms to not only deliver your message, but to allow the recipient to participate.

You’ll find a number of technologies under the umbrella of social media, including e-mail, instant messaging, blogs and social networking websites. In fact, sites like Facebook and Twitter have now surpassed traditional search engines when it comes to reaching many segments of the buying public.

The end result? Social media is not only changing the way your customers access news and information, but how they do business. If your manufacturing plant has not yet embraced the power of social media, it might be time to take another look.

Social Networking Websites

Separate from our professional lives, many of us have profiles on at least one social networking website. That’s why many businesses, large and small, are employing this innovative new marketing tool. Manufacturers are no exception.

Adopting these technologies, however, involves more than creating a profile or fan page for your company. To really be effective, it requires a shift to a culture of transparency. And, it is this window into your company that makes it more important than ever for your message to be consistent at every point of contact with current and prospective customers.

How Social Media Puts You Out Front

Establishing a presence on social networking sites can give your manufacturing plant a competitive edge in several ways, including:

1. Brand Enhancement. Profiles, fan pages and participation in groups all serve to build awareness about your brand. They also provide an opportunity to interact with current customers as well as begin the relationship-building process with prospects.

2. Open Communication. Social media, including social networking, is based on the principle of two-way communication. Your company can benefit from both the positive experiences and negative feedback that customers voluntarily share. Not only can you address these customer concerns publicly, but you then have the chance to make any necessary improvements. You have the unique opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons.

3. Target Marketing. Establishing a presence on social networking sites can help you identify, and subsequently target, potential customers. While the need for advertising through traditional media outlets may not be eliminated, the ability to target marketing communications reduces overall costs and provides a greater return on your marketing investment.

Tapping into social networking analysis tools may also assist with targeted marketing efforts. What if, for example, you knew that conversations about one of your key products had waned during the prior 12-month period, while conversations about a similar item from your product line increased significantly? Now, there is some market intelligence to take under advisement when developing your marketing message. It is important, however, to remember that overt advertising on social networking sites can be received negatively, so your message should be developed with that in mind.

Social Networking Best Practices

Whether you are new to social networking, or a seasoned veteran, it’s important to:

Make a Commitment. Social networking, like most marketing tools, requires a commitment to time and possibly finances — perhaps even cultural change within your manufacturing plant — in exchange for successful results.

Be Visible. Make sure that your brand remains consistent between the various social networking sites. Develop a communications plan that keeps your company visible, but that does not overwhelm your online following.

Listen First, Respond Second. Once your program is established, monitor the social buzz daily to keep a pulse on both current and potential customers. Much like a dinner party, you must listen before you respond. Then, once you have a clear picture of what is being said online, you can determine a course of action.

Keep it Local. Customers and prospective customers alike want to do business with local companies. Keep this in mind as you develop and refine your social networking plan.

Make it Easy. Remember to make it simple for people to find you. Add social networking information to business cards as well as your company’s website.

If your manufacturing firm hasn’t yet gotten its feet wet in the world of social networking, it may be time to rethink your marketing strategy. Establishing a presence on social networking sites can be particularly effective when it comes to heightened brand awareness for your company and for identification and targeting of potential customers. In addition, finding ways to tie social networking initiatives into community efforts can create a win-win situation for everyone involved.