7 Tips for Successfully Leveraging Social Media as a Machine Shop
Machine shops are finding new ways to engage potential customers and forge identity on social media. These best practices provide some guidance for getting started.
Using social media successfully can seem like a daunting challenge, especially while running a machine shop. Creating content and managing your social channels takes time and money with a return on investment that, going in, can be difficult to envision.
But effective use of social channels provides several benefits for businesses:
- Brand awareness regardless of where the prospect is in their buying cycle: They might not be looking for your services right now but still be interested in your content.
- More opportunities to convert a prospect into a sale: Most posts should not be pushing a sale, but each is an opportunity to create engagement with your audience and eventually a conversion.
- A “trust signal” for potential customers: Brands that have a lot of followers and engagement may be seen as more trustworthy than brands that don’t.
- Finding the influencers of key decisions: Reaching the right people and getting them to know, like and trust you can drive leads and sales.
- Insight into market trends: Understanding which and what sorts of posts create the most engagement may help you to identify the kinds of problems your customers have.
Once convinced of its usefulness, the next step is to understand how to build an effective presence and create engaging content. As a mechanical engineer in the defense industry, I found that many businesses struggled with communicating their skills and often relied solely on word-of-mouth marketing. That may have worked years ago, but the industry is becoming much more competitive, and more customers are going online to find solutions to their problems. Here are seven best practices that machine shops have leveraged to build successful social channels and engage their audience.
1. Choose platforms you can consistently update
Especially when first starting out with your social media marketing campaign, stick with the platforms you have a good understanding of and can efficiently update consistently. This approach will ensure that you make the most of the time you devote to finding and creating quality social content. When first starting out, pick a single platform and focus exclusively on creating content and engaging users. As you become more comfortable and efficient, branch out into additional platforms. It pays to start small and work up gradually.
In other words, stick with what you know and what you can commit to updating regularly before attempting additional platforms. Quality is more important than quantity in this case.
2. Use your profile description to highlight important features and business information
The profile description of whatever social media platform(s) you’re on is useful for highlighting important features and contact information for your business. This info can include the industries you serve, certifications you’ve obtained as well as the special manufacturing services or capabilities you provide. If you aren’t sure what info should be added, ask your customers the reasons they chose your company. It’s completely acceptable to use short phrases or just keywords.
It’s important to add a link to your website in any social media profile. If you don’t have a website, you can direct your customers to another social media platform, if applicable, which will help them get to know you and your business better. (However, your best bet is to create a website for your business as soon as you can, because it serves as your home base on the internet.)
Additionally, it’s also a good idea to include the phone number and/or email address for your business in your profile information so that customers can contact your business directly from your profile without having to leave it.
Your main goal is to always highlight your business and what it offers quickly and clearly to anyone who arrives at your profile while offering them a reason to learn more about the services or products you offer.
3. Keep your branding consistent across all platforms
Just like the large brands do, you want to keep a consistent look and message across all of your social media platforms. This is actually a lot easier than coming up with different designs for every platform. Your brand will also look more professional when all of your platforms are unified.
One way to make this happen without a lot of difficulty is to use a consistent logo or icon for all profile images. Company logos can be difficult to use and many brands use only a single attribute or feature. Whatever you choose, use the same design for every platform. (Different platforms have differing size and shape restrictions for this, so make sure your image asset can work across them.) Along these lines, keep your background image identical or at least related as well.
4. Form a content schedule and publish accordingly
You wouldn’t run your shop successfully without thoroughly scheduling your jobs; likewise, you should approach managing and maintaining your social media channels by using a focused and scheduled effort across all platforms. You can use a monthly calendar to plan your content ahead of time. Third-party platforms like Hootsuite enable users to manage, monitor and schedule multiple social accounts from one screen, which may also be helpful.
With a schedule, you’ll know what types of content you’ll need to create and when, instead of trying to dig something up at the last minute to share that may not be of the best quality.
A great way to make this task easier is to assign specific types of content or topics to specific days of the week. For example, Monday’s content could include CNC how-to info, Wednesday’s content could be about your current projects, and Friday’s content could contain thoughts or opinions.
By way of example, Saunders Machine Works’ popular YouTube channel, NYC CNC, breaks up some of its videos into theme-of-the-day content like this. “Wednesday Widget” videos cover CNC machining, Arduinos and making things, while “Fusion Friday” videos are about CAD/CAM topics.
5. Create engaging content
The biggest issue for any company using social media is finding and creating quality content to share on a regular basis. The best way to begin creating great content is to research the types of content competitors are sharing and get a feel for the most popular posts. This will vary by platform and brand but will give you a good understanding of what to start posting. You may find that the most engaging content is unexpected and not something you would find in a traditional marketing campaign.
Here are some ideas from other manufacturing content creators:
Share a relevant article with your page subscribers. Bonus points if it’s about your business. When you share links, it’s a good idea to include your thoughts in the text part of the post.
Short videos from the shop floor are always in style. Here’s a time-lapse video from a lathe cell. Be sure to include keywords to give the viewer context for what they’re seeing.
Social media works best when you let yourself play a bit, like when NYC CNC made a video montage of a bunch of bloopers, goofs and machine crashes:
Besides how-to and review videos, which comprise most of NYC CNC’s YouTube content, the channel also plans for interesting seasonal (which means scheduled) projects, such as machining the company logo out of a pumpkin.
Machine shops on Instagram excel by showing off their shop floors and the work they’re doing through pictures and video. Definitely use hashtags to index these photos to popular search terms on the site. A popular hashtag on Instagram among machinists of all stripes is #instamachinist.
A post shared by Clint (@cnccustoms) on Aug 17, 2017 at 11:30am PDT
The Mills Cell, looking good! 💪🏽⚙ #mkprecision #cnc #haasautomation #madeinamerica
A post shared by @mkprecisioncnc on Nov 11, 2015 at 8:05am PST
Twitter is an ideal platform for finding and disseminating industry news. Applications like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck enable you to create custom feeds based on search words and hashtags so you can stay on top of news and share it.
As with Facebook and Instagram, short and interesting video can be a good way to demonstrate your capabilities and day-to-day shopfloor practices (and also to have fun).
6. Develop your own personal style and voice
When posting to your social media accounts, don’t worry too much about what other people are doing, no matter how successful they are. Stick with and try to develop your own personal style and voice, while paying attention to what works or doesn’t work on your platform(s).
Your own unique personality is part of what draws people to you. This is also true for social media which, for the most part, operates as an extension of your unique qualities. So use it to your advantage, and soon you will develop your own style for interacting with your followers.
7. Use hashtags effectively
For platforms that allow hashtags (such as Twitter and Instagram), using them correctly can be the difference between making your content visible to the target audiences you want and sharing with an empty room.
Hashtags are created in posts by adding a “#” in front of a word or phrase. Accordingly, anyone can create their own. Clicking on the hashtag will display all other posts on the site that contain it, making it a great way to get content seen by people outside your immediate followers and index it to similar content.
The nature of hashtags means that some will be relatively stable while others come and go, so you should do your own research to figure out which hashtags will suit your social media efforts and when.
About the Author
Steve Murphey is a mechanical engineer turned marketer. As
the director of Albedo Digital, a digital agency focused exclusively on the manufacturing industry, he helps machine shops improve and grow their online presence. After graduating in 2003 from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, he worked for Spectrum Astro and General Dynamics designing, testing and building spacecraft. In 2009, he earned his MBA from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Find him on LinkedIn.