Did you know that for the first time, social media has surpassed company websites for consumers’ research on product information.
If you are one of those business leaders who thinks social media is only for big companies, it’s not relevant to your industry, or you’re thinking about social media but not sure where to start and how to measure its success, this blog series is for you. In Part 1, we’ll outline the five key benefits and 3 myths about social media. We’ll dispel these myths with real-world examples that illustrate why social media not only cannot be ignored, but with a clear strategy and plan, can truly enhance your company and marketing program. In Part 2, we’ll cover social media planning, how-to’s and tools and measurement tips.
So what are the key benefits of social media? Here are our top 5:
- Gain deeper insights into your target audience and industry trends more affordably
- Push relevant content around the clock through third-party endorsements and ease of sharing
- Reach and engage new audiences that your traditional communication channels may not be touching
- Increase credibility by being a valued member of and contributor to your community
- Improve your search ranking through deeper links with social integration
Myth #1: “My customers are highly technical scientists and engineers. They don’t post on Facebook or have time to tweet.”
Reality: Don’t make the assumption that because you aren’t on social media, other engineers or prospects aren’t either. You might not be looking in the right channels for your highly technical interests. For instance, LinkedIn is a treasure trove of key decision makers across various industries. The largest population are ages 35-44 years, followed closely by 45-54 year olds.
Below is a screen shot of a LinkedIn group discussion, answering the question “What do you feel is the #1 challenge or threat to IT today?” The topic was posted in the CIO Network Group, which garnered 422 comments, many of which reveal deep insights and thorough analysis of the IT industry and provide on-the-fly market research. For more information about LinkedIn’s demographics and useful business practices, see blog post, “Social Ad Showdown: 5 Ways LinkedIn Takes Care of Business.”
Another example is Twitter. This can be an overwhelming channel if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Although Twitter has fewer members compared to other social sites (Pew Research estimates put it at approximately 10% of the global population), the channel’s users are very active spreading messages to new audiences you wouldn’t normally reach. For example, let’s look at trade shows. With tighter travel budgets, people are not attending like they used to, but through online forums, those who stay home can still follow the events of the conference and discuss. The image below shows the Twitter discussion and promotion at IP Expo, a conference serving the IP converged network community. In addition to people talking about the show off site, IP Expo uses Twitter to create a community, so people can continue the conversation after it’s over.
Reality: While much online buzz is focused on the entertainment and fashion industries, social media also influences less consumer-focused industries such as the agricultural, electronics, and medical fields. In fact, the most unlikely products can generate tremendous online buzz. This doesn’t magically happen for B2B companies; typically it’s a result of careful marketing tactics, integrating online advertising, PR, shareable content, and offline activities to get these results. Here’s an example where one B2B engineering firm reached nearly 44 times more people through social media.
In August of this year, engineering firm Wineman Technologies and European-based applied research lab, Tecnalia Research, announced their release of Dynacar, a fully validated, real-time vehicle model simulator for developing and testing passenger and light commercial vehicles. TREW Marketing executed the product launch around trade show NIWeek and results included coverage in print, in video, across the web, and in social media.
The graphic below illustrates the relevant impact of social media around Dynarcar’s launch. Wineman made their announcement on their website distributing to their 125 Twitter followers,which was amplified by 8 key influencers in the engineering field, who retweeted the message one or more times, reaching a total of 5,845 people on Twitter.
Myth #3: “I’m a small business and can’t afford the resources necessary to manage social media”
Reality: Social media is not free. Although it doesn’t cost you anything to create a Facebook or LinkedIn site for your company, it does take time to learn the landscape, keep up with the latest tools and trends, and maintain a consistent presence. And as we have said before and outlined in our guidebook, Smart Marketing for Engineers, we strongly encourage you to invest in social media only after you have developed a marketing plan, website, strong content, and an email marketing program.
When you are ready to begin a social media program, keep in mind some powerful statistics that may alter your future marketing allocations:
- 8 out of 10 companies of all sizes are using social media. The relatively inexpensive nature of this channel is the cause for rapid and widespread adoption of it, helping smaller businesses compete with their larger competitors (Omniture, page 3).
- Approximately 50% of companies plan to increase their social media and email marketing budgets for 2012 or in the near future (Omniture, Page 4).
- 70% of consumers reported turning to social media for objective information about a product, and 68% rely on the company website to obtain further specifications of the product. As mentioned above, for the first time, social media has surpassed company sites for consumers’ research on product information. Consumers are increasingly relying on social media for objective information about your product, then going to your website to purchase (Omniture, page 5).