Do you think social media isn’t for manufacturers? Don’t be so sure. According to the Content Marketing Institute, about 85% of manufacturers are already on social media. If you haven’t yet joined them, you may be missing out on the potential customers they’re already reaching.
Worried that social media is too difficult and time-consuming? It doesn’t have to be. Using some valuable insight and best practices, you can make the most of your time on social media to broaden your audience and expand your leads. It all starts with a social media strategy.
What Is a Social Media Strategy?
So, what’s a social media strategy? According to HubSpot, it’s an outline of the content you’ll post, the responsibilities of the social media team (internal or agency), and the social media channels you’ll use to promote your business. It includes goals that complement your overall digital marketing strategy and what success looks like for your social media strategy.
What does that mean in practice? It’s the master plan you’ll use on any social media platform. It includes:
Writing this information in one place will allow anyone on your team to pick up the document and post to social media without your audience being aware anything had changed.
Why Do You Need a Social Media Strategy?
You wouldn’t drive across the country without a plan. Or try to bake a seven-tiered cake without a recipe. That’s a great way to wind up in the wrong place or create something inedible. The same applies to social media. It’s not just a place to throw up pictures and type in messages. A solid social media plan can yield great results like:
Build brand awareness. Your potential customers are already on social media. By having a presence there, too, and offering content that engages them, you’ll make them aware of your solutions. When they need them, they will think of you.
Generate leads. Social media is a great way to make people aware of you and your products. Even niche industries need new customers, and social media is an inexpensive way to grab their attention and turn them into customers. You might consider adding something they value, like a webinar or e-book where they have to enter their name and contact information to access. That enables your sales team to follow up with these leads and turn that interaction into a relationship that leads to a sale … which will hopefully turn them into a long-term customer and advocate for your company.
Drive website traffic. The great thing about social media platforms is that you control what goes on them. So, you can link to website pages you want potential customers to see, like specific product pages, videos, frequently asked questions, or a contact us page. By driving web traffic to those pages, you can help move the reader through their buying cycle and convert them into a customer.
How To Create a Social Media Strategy
Now that you see the benefits you can get from a solid social media strategy, how do you create one? There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Your social media strategy will depend on your business and your audience. But here are some ways to get started.
Find the right channels. You don’t need to be everywhere. Go where your audience is. Employees of companies in need of your products probably aren’t hanging out on TikTok, which skews towards young audiences. Instead, try platforms like LinkedIn, where professionals congregate and are open to work-related messages. If your product is geared toward general consumers, you might try Threads or Facebook. YouTube might also be a great place to post product demos, videos aimed at recruiting, and more.
And don’t just stick to posting on your own page. Some companies find a lot of success joining and following LinkedIn and Facebook groups centered on their industry. Forums like Practical Machinist are also great options because they let you answer questions of consumers in real time.
Determine the Metrics. Your goals will determine what you track. If you want to boost engagement with your brand, you’ll want to pay attention to things like shares and comments. If you want to drive traffic to your site, you’ll track things like page clicks and conversions.
Pick a brand voice. How are you going to come across to your audience? Friendly and caring? Witty and intelligent? Fun and carefree? It depends a lot on your business and your audience. Put yourself in the shoes of your buyers. If you were them, you might feel great about buying a T-shirt from a brand with a funny social media presence. But when it comes to, say, a heart surgeon, you might look for a more serious public image. So, consider the kinds of things you make and the audience who is buying them when selecting the tone you’ll use.
Gear your messages to the channels you’re using. Social media isn’t the place for a one-size-fits-all approach. While it might be easier to write one post and repeat it across all social media channels, you’ll get better results if you tailor each message to each platform’s audience. That means you might sound more professional on LinkedIn than you would on Facebook, where you might opt for a slightly more casual tone.
Create great content. Remember, the content shouldn’t be all about you. It’s about your audience. What can you give them? Any industry news? Which of your products might they need in common situations? Answers to commonly asked questions? Do you have any testimonials or case studies to share? Reliably offer something they value, and they’ll keep coming back.
Pick a posting schedule. How often should your audience hear from you? If you have frequent specials and events or new products every week, it might make sense to post a couple of times a week to promote them. If you tend to offer the same products year-round with few changes, you might need to post just a couple of times a month. It’s important to design a posting schedule that works for you and your team. Consistency is key. Social media can’t help you if you forget to post.
Measure and adjust. It’s important to remember your ‘why’ when it comes to being on social media. Make sure your goals are clear before jumping in. Your first steps into social media are an experiment, and experiments are measured by their results. So, take a look at how much traffic is coming to your website from your social media channels. Gauge how many people are sharing or commenting on your posts, clicking links or downloading content. Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn have built-in analytics for business accounts to make this easy. Once you see what is and isn’t performing well, you can adjust your plan and keep going. You may even find one particular platform doesn’t have enough followers or interaction to warrant the amount of time you’re putting into it. In that case, feel free to try another platform until you find what works for you.
Best Social Media Practices for Manufacturers
Ready to test the waters of social media for your business? Try these best practices.
Share interesting photos of your products. A picture is worth 1,000 words. And an interesting one can make your potential customer stop scrolling and click a link to learn more about what they’re seeing. And videos are great for customer testimonials, instructions, and other topics that might seem dry in writing.
Offer something of value. What does your audience want to read? If you give them something valuable, they’ll keep coming back for more. Consider offering thought leadership and industry solutions pieces, new product announcements, case studies, testimonials, industry news, relevant conventions, how-to blog posts and videos, whitepapers, and anything else your audience is looking for.
Find ways to answer common questions. Do callers frequently ask for the measurements of your products? Are they always wondering how long shipping will take or where they can find replacement parts? Do they want your terms and conditions? Help them out by sharing answers to common questions. You’ll cut down on phone calls to your reception desk and increase their level of trust in you. You might also try linking to FAQs and customer history. Linking to the answers on your web page will also increase traffic to your website while helping your customers answer questions that might otherwise stop them from buying from you.
Follow your competitors. It’s always best to see what everyone else is doing. But resist the urge to copy them. You’ll stand out by doing your own thing and attracting customers who like what you stand for, not by following the crowd.
Boost posts. Do you have social media posts that performed well among your followers? If they got more likes, shares, and comments than usual, they could be perfect candidates for boosting. This is where you pay a social media platform to share your post more widely. It will show up as a sponsored post in the feeds of people who don’t currently follow you, which can increase your engagement and expand your audience. You can even select the demographics and location you’d like, so you’re not wasting money appealing to people who aren’t likely to need your product.
Add hashtags. They can help your content be seen by people searching for something specific. That means someone who may not have ever heard of you could be looking at your content and you now have the chance to turn them into a customer. Tools like HootSuite can help you research the right hashtags for your business and schedule posts in advance.
Use QR codes. A QR code is a squiggly barcode that takes your users directly to a URL when scanned by a smartphone. On social media, you can use it to direct followers to register for a webinar, book a meeting with you at an upcoming expo, or attend an open house.
Publicly respond to comments. Engagement with your audience is vital. It doesn’t just benefit the customer you’re interacting with; it can also help give anyone considering your product the final nudge they need to purchase. So, if someone complains on your Facebook page, respond politely and offer a contact number where you can resolve the issue. If your social media platforms are a minefield of comments with no response, it’s a red flag to potential buyers about your customer service. It’s best to be seen taking care of the issue.
Follow up on leads. One of the main purposes of your social media strategy is to attract leads. So make sure all that effort isn’t wasted by having a process for who is responsible for following up on them and how those employees will be made aware of the lead. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool can help you track those leads and tools LinkedIn sales navigator can help you find and nurture additional leads.
Consider getting help. You’re an expert on manufacturing, not social media. So, if you’re struggling, reach out to a marketing agency, such as Clariant Creative Agency or Growth Hive. They can help you craft a winning social media strategy that will set you apart from your competitors and turn curious clickers into brand loyalists.
And if you’re looking for even more support, consider an independent manufacturers’ representative agency. We can help manage your sales and marketing strategy, so you can focus on what you do best: manufacturing. Read our guide to outsourcing sales with an IMR here.