What Is It?
Social Media are Websites & platforms that allow people to connect, communicate, share information and interact with each other. This rapidly emerging medium is still in its early stages and is constantly changing. Examples of the most popular Social Media sites are facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.
Why Is It Important?
Social Media present a dilemma for small & medium manufacturers building an effective, sound marketing plan with few resources and tight budgets.
On the one hand, Social Media are the most adopted, fastest growing and popular development seen on the Internet since search engines were introduced. The sheer volume of users and rapid adoption rates around the world mean that huge numbers congregate on these platforms and allow manufacturers to develop relationships, build groups and communicate with those groups efficiently. Other advantages include:
potentially strong channels that lead to your Website
strong search engine optimization (SEO) qualities
potentially strong channels to develop relationships, build groups of prospects, interact with customers, and exhibit your knowledge leadership
On the other hand, correct Social Media techniques for small & medium custom machining and manufacturing businesses require a level of effort and resources that you likely don’t have. Before launching a facebook page, Twitter account(s), YouTube channel or creating a Social Media identity for your shop, consider these limitations:
working Social Media channels regularly and consistently via monitoring and conversations are where their benefits are found. Merely launching an identity and expecting it to work itself can cause more harm than good
many of your prospects and customers are not yet using facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to find machining or manufacturing partners to add as nodes to their supply chains. Engineers, buyers and sourcing professionals instinctively go to search engines or professional directories to support those efforts; the rate of return likely will not warrant the expense or time
It is critical for you to assess the requirements and responsibilities you are putting on you and your staff before establishing a Social Media presence.
Key Elements & Considerations:
First ask yourself: “Do I have the time or resources to monitor and engage these channels regularly?” – Social Media are a dialogue; only start what you are willing and able to sustain for the long run
Even if you’re fortunate enough to have those resources, the design, engineering and sourcing leads you’re looking for may not be there - yet
Consider what the Social Media platform is enabling its audience to do. While Social Media are extraordinarily popular and offer many small businesses in some markets powerful tools and access to audiences, you will likely find your prospects there looking to socialize or find employment/employees rather than engage you for specific manufacturing services
Posts and communications on Social Media channels decay rapidly, meaning that once information is posted on them it is often lost in the wave of posts from others that follow. Continuous, regular postings ensure the highest rewards, and in that regularity is why many small manufacturers find it difficult to maintain cadence
Automation of a Social Media can be harmful for any business – it totally defeats the purpose of Social Media’s strengths and can backfire by making your company appear to be unresponsive
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Social Media for your shop is the ability to store multimedia and create channels to serve your business. Creating a YouTube channel for videos or an account on flickr for image portfolios of jobs, facilities and processes require little effort after the media are posted, and they offer strong search engine optimization qualities when linked to and from your Website
Currently, LinkedIn’s groups can offer a level of specificity and targeted audience that may offer more value from your marketing efforts. For example, joining groups that serve your prospects – like Supply Chain Management and Procurement – attract your prospects and offer you a chance to converse and interact directly (see Internet Forums)
Don’t let the sheer number of members in a Social Media network convince you to create a page or account for your business. It’s much less about quantity than it is about quality – who are there, and what they are doing when they are there
The best bet for your shop to get the branding and Social Media-like benefits are to engage professional online directories, listserves and other specific sites that attract and serve the industries and prospects that you want to communicate with and attract. Associations, industry groups and some collaborative products companies (like those that develop CAD/CAM software) can offer excellent opportunities for targeted outreach without the demands of general Social Media sites