When a high profile B2C brand like Nike or Red Bull posts online, it might get thousands—sometimes even millions—of social media likes. That’s impressive until you realize that the Kardashians get the same response when they share their latest “news.”

As a B2B company, you might wonder about the value of social media for manufacturers. After all, the biggest cost of social media marketing is time—time that can be spent streamlining operations, exploring new markets, developing employee skills, and building a strong work culture.

Yet social media marketing can work to a manufacturer’s advantage. I know because I’ve helped several B2B companies develop online strategies that build trust and boost brand loyalty without getting in the way of daily operations.

Social Media for Manufacturers: 5 Practical Tips

1. Offer Consumers a Behind-the-Scenes Peek

Consumers want to understand how products are manufactured. For proof, watch How Its Made which airs on the Science Channel. Episodes show the making of everyday items (bubble gum, aluminum foil, toothpicks) as well as the unexpected (accordions, Yule logs, suits of armor).

One thing I’ve learned working with manufacturers is that you don’t have to be on the cutting edge to attract social media attention. In fact, the more “old school” you are the more fascinating you become. (Read “Even Unsexy Brands Can Hit Paydirt on Pinterest” on this blog.)

Share interesting statistics from your production line, post historical photos from your company archives, or upload a short behind-the-scenes video from your smart phone. Keep things simple. People are more interested in the authenticity of your story than in its production value.

2. Let Employees Help Tell Your Company Story

Let employees showcase their talents and express their company pride through first-person photos and work-related stories. In doing so, you put a likeable human face on your business and automatically expand your library of shareable content.

To avoid potential problems or “off-brand” discussions, establish a process whereby employees send materials to an authorized social media administrator. He or she can approve and edit posts, and upload them directly to the appropriate social media platforms.

(Speaking of appropriate social media platforms, how do you choose? Read “Make the Most of Your Social Media Effort…and Stay Sane” on this blog.)

3. Share Your Product and Industry Knowledge

A benefit of social media for manufacturers is that it offers something for different types of learners, from visual learners to auditory learners and read/write learners. Whether it’s through product demo videos, whitepapers, blog posts, podcasts, slideshows, infographics or more, B2B marketers have a multitude of outlets for sharing their knowledge and driving sales.

YouTube in particular has been highly effective for B2B marketers. With over one billion users (one-third of all people on the Internet), YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google with searches related to “how to” growing 70% year over year.

Many manufacturers are finding that a single well-optimized YouTube product video can be more informative and engaging than multiple pages of text. Video is also more likely to propel them to the top of search engine results while building brand visibility and customer loyalty.

4. Converse With Your Customers and Network Within Your Industry

Social networks can be effective for collecting customer feedback and for networking with other industry professionals. As with any real-world dialogue, online conversations should be balanced and not overly promotional. For B2B companies, this means sharing ideas from other industry professionals when relevant to the audience in question.

(A good rule of thumb is to link back to your own content about 40% of the time while “curating,” or sharing, content from other sources about 60% of the time. Read more here.)

There is also the issue of immediacy. Unlike other forms of communication (e.g., email, online contact forms), social media doesn’t allow for delays. A business must address compliments and complaints promptly, professionally and personally. This means foregoing generic messages and using social media monitoring tools to keep track of what people are saying. B2B manufacturers can either designate a savvy social media person within the company, or contract with someone externally.

5. Direct People Back to Your Company Website

Love it or loathe it, social media is not likely to go away anytime soon. Today’s social media channels may be gone tomorrow—only to be replaced by the next big thing. The only guarantee is that the rules of social media marketing will continue to evolve. (Remember when you could post something on your company’s Facebook page and not have to “boost” its visibility with advertising dollars?)

Bottom line: Social media is just a rental property. Your company website belongs to you. Your social media efforts should drive people back to a company website that is informative, intuitive, and designed to convert browsers into buyers

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Does your B2B or manufacturing business need assistance developing, launching or maintaining a social media strategy? Contact Ellen Galvin (ellen@galvanizinggroup.com) for more information.

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