Twitter for Manufacturers, Part 3 – How Industrial Companies Can Use Twitter

Posted on May 27, 2010 by Kerry O'Malley

social-networking-twitter

 

If you’re an industrial marketer and a social media skeptic, it will be hard for me to convince you that Twitter can be valuable to your business. I’m not going to try and do that. Because Twitter is arguably the last major social media frontier for industrial businesses, this post speaks primarily to those of you who already see some possibilities for social media use in your business and marketing plans.

I won’t even completely disagree with the skeptics, because there are some industrial companies who will be hard pressed to find their customers and prospects ON Twitter. I’ll admit, that can be a little discouraging; but it will only dissuade those who think that the only thing social media is good for is sales. Social media – and especially Twitter – are SO much more than sales and marketing tools.

In fact, for the skeptics: consider what Shel Holtz, author of “Blogging for Business: Everything You Need to Know and Why You Should Care” says on his blog:

“The benefits of social media to B-to-B companies is simple: It’s all about relationships. B-to-C companies nearly always need to get their messages to large, amorphous groups of people; the companies have no relationship with the vast majority of those people. In most B-to-B environments, companies know exactly who their customers and prospective customers are. Social media provides B-to-B companies with a channel to have conversations that you’d like to have one-on-one with every customer and prospect, but just can’t.”

First things first
Before you can use Twitter for anything, you need to start following some people (and gaining some followers of your own.) Your Twitter experience will only be as good as the quality of your “tweeps.” There are plenty of articles in the blogosphere about how to find the ‘right’ people for you and your business on Twitter. You can use search.twitter.com to find people in your industry, but the results can be overwhelming since it pulls every result for your keyword in tweets, not just when it shows up in profile information. I personally like to use Twellow.com. Twellow scans bios, names and locations while ignoring tweets. On the flip side, make it easier for people to find YOU by carefully crafting your Twitter bio to include keywords related to your business, industry and profession.

Build brand awareness
For me, this is one of the main reasons any business should be on Twitter. If you’re able to find customers and prospects on Twitter, you have an incredible opportunity to build brand awareness and credibility. Twitter allows a company to create a ‘personality’ for itself. The person behind the company tweets is the face of the personality and the tweets are the voice of the personality. Craft your Twitter presence with your company’s brand messages and desired image in mind. Tweeting ‘on brand’ does not mean blasting out self promotion 5 times a day. It means tweeting about things that are important to your customers and industry in such a way that you are perceived to be an expert or authority. As your Twitter following grows, your company will be perceived as ‘larger,’ ‘more knowledgeable,’ ‘more worthy,’ even ‘famous.’ (OK that might be pushing it.) However, over time, persistent and consistent tweeting that is ‘on brand’ WILL strengthen your brand’s identity, recognition and credibility.

Enhance customer support
Whether your customer base is 20 companies or 20,000 companies, Twitter is a great tool to use to monitor your customer’s conversations – which may include either positive or negative statements about your company or industry. One of the first things I did when I got on Twitter was check to see if any of my clients were on Twitter. My business is small so I was able to do that easily myself. If you have a lot of customers, delegate this responsibility to an admin. Follow as many of your customers as you can find, and make it a practice to check their conversation streams at least once a day. Reply with helpful information. If there’s a complaint – take care of it. If there’s a problem they have that you can fix – offer to help. And by all means, if they say something positive about you or your company, thank them! Do you want to know what your customers REALLY think? Take your questions to Twitter. Many large corporations are using Twitter in this way and gaining favorable brand recognition, appreciation, and loyalty.

Create buzz
Give something of value away for free. Offer discounted pricing for a period of time. Announce a contest or free drawing that will culminate at a trade show or other special event. Promote free ‘lunch and learns’ or webinars. Do something meaningful or charitable in your local community and let your followers know about it. I know it’s not as easy for a manufacturing or industrial service company to create excitement as it would be for a retail business with a large, local customer base; but get creative. There’s got to be things you can do and tweet about that will stir some conversation about your company within your follower base.

Recruit employees or search for jobs
Twitter is a great place to search for new hires and people or companies to partner with. Stop using expensive recruiters or newspaper classifieds. Conversely, it’s also a great place to locate new jobs and hiring managers if you’re looking to create a career move. I’ve engaged with a number of people through social media channels who have either become collaborators or have brought business to my company. With advanced search features, Twitter is a great resource for finding people with certain skill sets or qualifications.

Research competitors
Because I’m in the marketing communications field, I have lots of competitors on Twitter. It’s interesting to follow a competitor and see what they’re tweeting about. It’s also interesting to look at that competitor’s list of followers. Like me, I’m sure if you do this, you’ll find among that competitor’s followers potential customers. The beauty of Twitter is that you can follow anyone! Nobody has to approve you, so it’s instant access to the conversations of anyone you choose.

Find partners, collaborators and vendors
As I mentioned before, I have found several collaborators and a strategic partner through social media. Because you can search Twitter profiles, it’s easy to find a group of people or companies who are potential partners for your business. Think about non-competing companies who sell to the same customers you do, and search for them. You could possibly help each other get business. What about vendors? I like to find good vendors and give them the majority of my business; but we all need fall-back options. On Twitter, you can see how people interact and engage before you make any kind of commitment. You don’t even have to meet them face to face. Follow them for awhile. If you like the exchanges you have with them, arrange a phone call so you can learn more.

Develop new business
Yes, it absolutely is possible for an industrial company to gain a new customer through Twitter. It may not happen often, but the potential is there. You are building relationships with people. Who says that over time, a potential customer can’t be approached directly and asked for a meeting? The trick is to walk the social media line of interacting and not selling. You approach prospects AFTER you’ve interacted with them for a time, without pitching them. I know social media success stories for industrial companies are few and far between; but my take on that is that manufacturers are too busy manufacturing to be spreading the word about the new customer they found on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Become more knowledgeable
If you build a good following on Twitter (customers, prospects, competitors, potential partners and vendors, and any other individuals you can learn from) you WILL become more knowledgeable overall. Interact, listen, read the news items or blog posts that people tweet. You’ll find that eventually you have more of a bird’s eye view of your industry and business. (Bird’s eye view – Twitter – get it? Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

And finally . . .
The most important reason to be on Twitter, in my opinion, is that social media is here to stay. If you resist learning about and embracing this ever expanding communication tool, you may wake up one day and suddenly realize you are a dinosaur. Commit to it. Live it. Don’t give up if you don’t immediately see evidence that it’s ‘working.’ Always keep in mind that building a social media presence that your customers will trust in and interact with takes time and energy. As with most of life, you get back what you put in.

Author: Kerry O'Malley

omalley@marketectsinc.com

Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

4 responses to “Twitter for Manufacturers, Part 3 – How Industrial Companies Can Use Twitter”

  1. Jeff W says:

    Great points Kerry. Manufacturing is a tough industry to gain traction with social media. It isn’t as sexy as retailing, food, or other industries but the companies and people in manufacturing that are using social media are just as great to connect with as other industries. You’r right that it takes a lot of work to find the good ones and get in the groove but it only takes a few good ones to locate more good ones. Most companies just beginning should make it a goal to find “several” other good companies in their industry and see where it leads. It’s amazing how much great info is available once you know where to look and make a few connections.

  2. Kerry O'Malley says:

    Thanks for your comments, Jeff. It’s funny, just in the time since I wrote this post, (why isn’t there a date on this? It has probably been a year) Marketects is getting a LOT more inquiries from manufacturers about managing Inbound Marketing programs for them. There is definitely a tipping point coming! Good for you for taking advantage of a competitive opportunity!

  3. GFP63 says:

    I just finished reading part 3 of ‘Twitter for Manufacturers’ and will be looking for parts 1 and 2 right after I submit this.

    I work at a marketing firm that has a number of industrial clients in niche markets that we have established and manage social media accounts for.

    The question, or conflict, I personally have has to do with *what* to tweet/post about on their behalf. We try to follow the 4-1-1 rule, but those 4! What content (“Bobby cut his finger off on the plasma cutter!”)? What we’ve found ourselves doing is finding relevant articles, blog posts, etc. – initially looking for those specific to the products/services the clients offer, and working out to more general topics – and commenting on and linking to them. In quantity I am not sure how useful this really is and this regurgitating of existing content, to me, seems not wholly in the spirit of what social media is intended for. Would you agree with that and, if so, what are the alternatives (aside from giving something away, offering discounted prices, etc.)?

    • Kerry O'Malley says:

      I see your point about the “regurgitating of existing content.” However, you have to post SOMETHING.

      We actually use an 80-20 rule: 80% of our posts are non-promotional (related to the client’s actual products or services); only 20%.

      This is what we have found most effective in posting on Twitter for our industrial clients:
      1. Start with a keyword strategy and look for content that contains any of your keywords. Any content you post with your clients’ chosen keywords can turn up in search results. We tell our industrial clients that one of our primary objectives in their social media marketing is improved SEO.
      2. If your clients don’t have a blog on their website – convince them they need one. Add blog posts containing keywords from your list, even if you can only write 2 per month. This gives you content linking back to your clients’ website that you can “regurgitate.” We post all blogs at least 3-4 times on Twitter, different days, different times.
      3. Look for content that you know will be of interest to your clients’ business followers. It doesn’t have to be strictly related to the markets they sell to. We post news and articles about the cities, communities, and states our clients are in, as well as general information related to their industry. We even post inspirational quotes (if the client is engineering driven, the quotes will tend to be about innovation, imagination, etc.) There’s also nothing wrong with a comment about something exciting happening with your local sports teams, city-wide events, dramatic weather events, etc.
      4. Posting job openings always drives a lot of traffic from Twitter to our clients’ websites, particularly if the openings are at a more junior level. If they’re looking for executive level personnel, LinkedIn will produce better results.
      5. Find people and companies to follow on behalf of your clients that actually have something relevant and interesting to say – then reply to them, retweet relevant posts – make your client “known” in their corner of the Twitterverse. For me, the “spirit” of social media is engagement. This can’t be accomplished if the communication is only flowing in one direction.

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