7 Things CNC Machine Shops Should Know About Social Media
Manufacturers from small CNC machine shops to multi-billion dollar companies face the daily challenge of retaining current customers and finding new ones. Accomplishing these tasks falls under the broad umbrella we call marketing – a function that has changed radically in recent years. The primary game-changer is the evolution of digital communications technologies, especially the Internet.
We all know that part of our customers’ buying process is identifying and evaluating resources. This is nothing new, of course. What has changed is the way in which they gather this information. That’s why a company’s Internet presence has become so important. Which brings us to social media. Facebook recently passed the one billion user milestone. Twitter is used hundreds of millions of times each day. YouTube reports they have more than 800 million unique visitors daily. With these numbers it’s no wonder that all major business-to-consumer and many business-to-business companies are including social media in their marketing programs.
So should you be using social media for your CNC machine shop? Before deciding, consider the following:
- Remember that social media is not a magic bullet that, alone, will bring customers rushing to do business with you. It’s one of many channels of communication with customers and prospects. Which means it should be part of a comprehensive, integrated marketing program that includes some or all of the promotional tools such as personal selling, advertising, public relations, direct marketing, Internet presence and sales promotion, as well as social media.
- It’s a misconception that social media is “free.” True, unless you buy advertising on a social media site or, in the case of LinkedIn, upgrade to a higher level, there is no direct cost. However the real cost of effectively using social media is time. Either you, an employee or an outside service provider must manage the social media program. This means preparing and uploading content, monitoring customer activity and responding to customer comments.
- The nature of social media is to build relationships with others. It’s not an effective “selling” channel for manufacturing businesses. Rather, it is an opportunity to listen to what your customers are saying about you (if, in fact, your customers use social media this way) and to drive people to your Web site by offering information they believe is useful.
- Because the primary value of social media for manufacturing customers is to drive people to your Web site, you first need to take a critical look at your site and make sure it has meaningful, easy to find content. The content your customers are looking for is information that can help them do their jobs better, solve problems and make their lives easier. Certainly, specifics about your products, capabilities and services are important. However you need to provide more than product information. You need to demonstrate how your company would be valuable to the customer.
- Consider establishing a blog by your resident subject matter experts. Providing useful information about your industry, technologies, case studies and other such material helps position you as an expert in your field. Plus, some site visitors will use social media to inform others of a worthy article in your blog, and drive more people to your site. To be effective you must frequently add to your blog, so be sure your blogger(s) are committed to maintaining a regular schedule of updates.
- Adding rich content to your Web site can kick up search engine rankings that will attract viewers who will, again, post links on social media. By rich content we mean videos, photos of your products, customer installations, new capabilities (such as adding robots or other new technologies) and interactive devices such as ROI calculators and checklists.
- So which social media sites make sense for manufacturers? In descending order of value (because you may not have the resources to maintain all platforms):
- YouTube is where your customers go to learn about new products, technologies, and how to do things. Therefore, you should have a YouTube channel and regularly upload videos of your products, applications and “how to” programs. Important: make sure you include text that explains what is going on in your video that contains key words that will show up in YouTube’s search function and on Google and other search engines.
- LinkedIn is to business what Facebook is to consumers. Potential customers go there to find out about companies in which they have an interest. But beyond listing your company’s pertinent information, join a LnikedIn group that targets your customers and provide content with links to useful information you have on your site.
- Wikipedia is where many people go to learn more about a subject, and anyone can post content. So it may make sense to write an article for Wikipedia about something your customers may be interested in like “Tips for Machining Titanium” with a link your site.
- Photo Sites, like Pinterest and Flickr get tremendous traffic. It’s hard to say how effective posting your product or installation photos will be, but it may be worthwhile if you have the time.
- Twitter & Facebook are, of course, the 800-pound gorillas of social media sites. However the value to manufacturers, at least at this point, is questionable, especially in light of the time commitment involved. If, after you have optimized your Web site, created and maintain your blog, YouTube, LinkedIn and Wikipedia, and still have the resources to do so, you can take a crack at these sites. Like chicken soup, it couldn’t hurt.