In the most recent Content Marketing Institute (CMI) manufacturing research about how Manufacturing Marketers are using social media, 89% of respondents claim to be using LinkedIn, 83% use YouTube and 80% use Facebook. Overall, 85% use social media as a marketing tactic; number 3 behind eNewsletters and Videos. In other recent research presented by Trew Marketing about the target market of many B2B Manufacturing companies, engineers, 42% report social media as not valuable, 34% as unsure or somewhat valuable and only 24% as moderately or very valuable. This research, as well as my own experience with manufacturing companies, indicates a pretty big disconnect between manufacturing marketers and their technical audiences.
Let’s give the marketers a break, it may not be their fault. How many of us have experienced the Monday morning meeting with the CEO or GM where he comes in all excited about social media. Maybe he tells a story about how his high school daughters had a couple of friends over and they loved this cool social media app called [Pinterest, SnapChat, fill in your own blank]? He proceeds to tell you, the marketing professional, that we need to get on the social media bandwagon? Check out the “Woo Woo” video from Adobe Marketing Cloud for a more humorous (or sad) portrayal.
B2B manufacturing companies should forget about social media and spend time and budget on something else. Typically, manufacturing companies have very lean marketing staff and budgets. Every single choice you make is not only a budget choice, it is an opportunity cost. Spending time on a marketing tactic that your target audience does not value is a lost opportunity for spending time and other resources on a marketing tactic that reaches them with a tactic that they do appreciate, value and use on a regular basis. Most research data supports the conclusion that the majority of engineers and/or technical audiences are not found on the social media channels.
If you, as a manufacturing marketer, are sure your target audience is using social media and you can prove interaction or, even more important, revenue attribution, then by all means continue. If you are not sure or unable to prove interaction with the people in your target audience, STOP, PULL THE PLUG, CEASE and DESIST using social media immediately.
Instead, divert those resources (people, time, money, opportunity) to these marketing tactics where engineers and a technical audience go for information.
- Start an opt-in enewsletter. Your technical audience values enewsletters that are short, easy to read and contain technical content or application stories that are relevant to their professional lives. Use your company’s expertise to create useful white papers, best practice guides, FAQs, etc. DO NOT start an enewsletter about your company people, events, products, etc. DO NOT dump your whole database in as subscribers. Instead, invite them to subscribe to learn about a subject where your firm’s expertise intersects with their pain or passion. Opt-in subscribers will engage 5x to 10x more than the email blast receivers.
- Create an educational webinar series. This may sound daunting if you haven’t done webinars. You are also likely to get push back from your executives or your sales people. But, I encourage you to persevere. Educational webinars done well can attract hundreds or even thousands of people in your target audience. The temptation and pressure to create webinars about your products will be strong. RESIST! DO NOT create webinars about your products if your goal is deeper and wider engagement with your target audience. [shameless self promotion – KMI offers turn-key webinar production for manufacturing companies]
- Create educational, useful and relevant content. This one supports your overall marketing strategy. As a manufacturing marketer, you likely have outbound and inbound tactics. The more useful and relevant content you can create to use in your enewsletters, website and outbound paid advertising, the more meaningful and broader will be your audience engagement. As a manufacturer, you probably have tons of content about your products. That’s a good thing because every manufacturing company needs to have that content for the later stages of the buying process. You probably do not have a lot of educational content that is not directly about your product. This is your gold mine for audience engagement. Engineers love to download PDF documents. In fact, according to the TREW Marketing research, 90% of engineers prefer the PDF document format followed by 66% preferring pictures, diagrams and illustrations. STRONG CAVEAT – the content must be useful and helpful to the people in your target audience.
If social media is a component of your current marketing plan, it might sound scary to abandon the tactic altogether overnight. Perhaps your particular B2B manufacturing target audience does prefer and value social media as a channel. If that is the case and you can truly prove it to yourself, your team and your executive leadership, then, by all means, you must continue. If you have robust marketing resources or marketing people looking for things to do, then, sure, dabble in social media where you could connect with that 15% of the technical audience who do value social media. For the rest of us, research indicates that if your audience is engineers or technical professionals, the majority does not use nor value social media in their professional lives. Most manufacturing marketing teams have limited time and resources, so use them wisely and put your message in a place the majority audience values. Make the message about something they value. Provide that information in a format the majority prefers.
Good luck! Feel free to call on KMI for help with content strategy, turn-key educational webinars or leveraging your content with marketing automation.
Resource: (download this report from GlobalSpec). This report confirms the fact that the greater industrial audience does not value social media in their professional lives.