You’re curious about how social media can help you market. You’ve probably asked about it in the past and been bombarded with off-the charts adoption stats such as 1.23 billion monthly active users on Facebook. Or the fact that Americans spend an average of 37 minutes per day on social media, making it the dominant form of online activity, ahead of even email, which occupies only 33 minutes of average Americans’ daily lives.
In other words, there are a lot of people spending a lot of time on social media. But how many of them are interested in industrial products and services? And how do you find and engage with them? What, in other words, are the benefits of social media for industrials?
A new report from IHS GlobalSpec begins to answer the first and second questions. Below you’ll also find some answers to the third. But the only way to really discover the benefits of social media for industrials is to begin using social media for yourself. It’s relatively easy, inexpensive, and simply doing it can have positive effects on business development, branding, and website traffic.
The IHS GlobalSpec report, “Social Media in the Industrial Sector” confirms the hunch that social media has not seen overwhelming adoption among industrials. According to the report, 56 percent of technical professionals surveyed spend less than one hour per week on social media for work. While they may be logged on to a social network for more than four hours per week like the average American, most industrials spend less than a quarter of that time using social media as part of their job. Still, this number is significant enough not to be dismissed.
The same goes for social media adoption rates by channel among people working in the industrial sector. They aren’t off the charts, but they are significant. LinkedIn is by far the most popular social media network, with 74 percent of technical professionals having accounts. Facebook is a runner up, with 61 percent adoption, followed by Google+ (41 percent) and Twitter (17 percent). All of the social networks other than Twitter have seen more and more technical professionals steadily joining over the last two years.
Where the IHS GlobalSpec report really begins to get interesting is when it moves beyond just commemorating the presence of industrials on social media and starts documenting how industrials use social media. One statistic in particular stands out: 78 percent of technical professionals never post news or information about the company they work for to any of the social networks they belong to. This means that when most industrials use social media, they use it to network amongst professional peers, share information, or engage in research, rather than promote the companies they work for.
The way that most potential buyers in the industrial sector use social media informs, in turn, how companies should use social media to address them. Below are five ways industrial businesses can benefit by establishing presences on the major social networks to engage customers as they network, share, and research.
Social media is a great way to build your company’s professional network. An initial contact with a potential customer via social can lead to more in-depth communications and eventual sales. Establishing connections with partners, publications, and professional organizations can also broaden your company’s opportunities. With a 78-percent adoption rate among industrials, LinkedIn is definitely the social network of choice for networking.
If content marketing is part of your marketing mix (and it should be), social media is a great way to distribute your communications. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 86 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing. Ninety-four percent of those marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content; 88 percent use Twitter; and 84 percent use Facebook. Distribution of content goes hand in hand with networking efforts, which help aggregate an audience for your content and gives them material to share and circulate to their audiences in turn, increasing your reach.
The very social nature of social media makes it a key branding activity. Your brand can “speak” on social media. It can also respond directly to comments and get involved in conversations. Having this sort of direct access to customers has massive potential when it comes to demonstrating responsiveness, establishing trust, and showing what sort of company you are.
While most of your social media posts shouldn’t be overt plugs for your products or services, if promotional posts are well executed and strategically distributed, they can be an effective way to drive website traffic. According to Shareaholic.com, 23.39 percent of website referral traffic comes from Facebook as of June 2014. This means that if you have a Facebook profile and give readers a compelling reason to visit your website, there’s a good chance they will click through.
Social media also has the capacity to improve SEO, indirectly increasing website discoverability. While the specifics of how search engines such as Google and Bing assess social media are shrouded in the mystery that cloaks their proprietary algorithms, both Moz and Searchmetrics give Facebook and Google+ significant weight in their annual search engine data correlation studies, which analyze all the different factors that can contribute to higher search-engine rankings. Searchmetrics also ascribes positive effects to “nofollow” links, which come from Google+ and Twitter.
At this point, you’re probably wondering what the catch is with social media for industrials. The biggest risk is commitment. To reap the benefits outlined above, you have to become involved. It’s not just a matter of establishing social media profiles for your company. At the very minimum, you need to post regularly, keep an eye on what people in your field are discussing on social media, and simply “be present” on the networks. In other words, be social.
There are lots of great tools out there (e.g., Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social ) that can help you organize and streamline this process. Or, you can work with a trusted partner to manage your social media presence.
If you’re interested in learning more about these possibilities — or the benefits of social media for industrials in general — please get in touch.