Five Ways Manufacturers Can Prevent Social Media Screw-ups

July 2, 2014

Flo (the Progressive Insurance lady) has a Twitter account, and it’s ridiculous. She tweets about unicorns, rainbows, candy and takes selfies….but rarely, if ever, mentions insurance. Insurance is one of the most newsworthy, controversial and customer-complaint riddled industries around, so you’d think one of the major players would use the public face of it’s organization to engage customers rather than document her march towards diabetes. This is social media gone wrong, and it typifies why many B2B executives are apprehensive about the medium - it tries to be too cute.

B2B organizations, especially manufacturers, are selling complicated products that have a simple goal - save money by increasing efficiency. This pitch doesn’t exactly lend itself to marketing through sex appeal, puns and cats. However, social media isn’t all fluff. Some B2B organizations, such as container shipping company Maersk Line, have harnessed these outlets to interact with customers and strengthen their brand. So then, how do you know if your organization is primed for successful use of social media?

Have an audience

No one will sign-up for social media solely to engage with your company. Luckily, 73% of all online adults partake in social media, so chances are your customers use either Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn. Discovering which platform best suits your business is tricky, but important. Take time to survey customers, search for topics related to your industry and talk to your sales reps - find out where your audience is so you don’t end up playing for an empty theater.

Have a goal

Social media marketing is an abstract idea for a lot of people…likely including some higher-ups you’re trying to impress. Thus, it’s important to pick an objective (improve customer service, develop the brand, encourage engagement) and metric (5-star service reviews, webinar registrations, qualified website traffic) that quantifies your social media efforts.

Maximize Social Business has an excellent (though admittedly slightly old) post that illustrates the variety of ways B2B companies judged the success of their Twitter marketing. The examples vary from a small communication firm that bench-marked performance based on media exposure, to a multinational provider of IT solutions that looked at Twitter’s contribution to closed sales. Though the metrics differ, they are all attainable goals that bring the flimsy notion of social media success to a single, concrete number.

Have a plan

Upon picking a destination, i.e. “encourage engagement by increasing webinar views”, you’ll need to map the journey. Even though your customers are using social media, they are likely checking tee-times, exchanging triathlon heroics or swapping vacation photos - not relentlessly searching for your business. Thus your plan should focus on relating to the personal interests of your current/prospective clients with your social media objectives. Neenah Paper’s Facebook Page excels at connecting with customers. Rather than touting their new stock, Neenah constantly promotes design competitions, posts event photos and highlights memorable print campaigns. The content provides graphic designers with quality to aspire to; quality that Neenah’s products can help achieve.

Have the personnel

Avoid social media if you don’t have an employee capable of dedicate a significant portion of their time to managing it. Simple social media execution can take at least 6 hours each week. Running a major campaign is easily a full-time job requiring research, content creation, graphic design and responding to comments/tweets. The result of under-staffed social media is hilariously outdated, inaccurate and occasionally offensive content. Keep in mind, these posts are online…forever.

JP Morgan Social Media Fail

Have realistic expectations

Social Media streams are carefully tailored to deliver users two types of content - information they’ve expressed interest in and information advertisers have paid for them to see (such as sponsored tweets). So unless you’re willing to pay for advertising, it’s going to take a while to get campaigns off the ground. Even after you accrue likes, followers or connections, it’s no guarantee that they will see your post. Make sure your success milestones are practical, otherwise your social media campaigns will be sentenced to failure before they’re even implemented.