Social media is everywhere. It’s on our desktops, phones, televisions – I even dream about Facebook (it’s sad, I know). I have a marketing degree and a strong social media presence, which is why I was surprised to find during my 3-year tenure in corporate America that a lot of businesses are not taking full advantage of social media. For example, my first “after college” job was with an international logistics company. They had a Facebook account but didn’t use it…ever. After 2 years of working for this logistics company, I realized two fatal flaws of social media for this type of organization. First, from an internal and external perspective, there is a perception that this type of organization does not have any fun, cool, or interesting content to post to social media to engage that consumer base. Second, the logistics company simply didn’t need social media to track down customers (or so they thought). Word-of-Mouth was this company’s safe haven, and it wasn’t broken…so why fix it?
I have been confronted with the same question recently in my new position at Calibre Engineering. During my interview process, I focused quite a bit on current social media use at the company. I was not surprised to hear that they only used LinkedIn. From a business perspective, LinkedIn is the most professional social media platform. For Calibre’s goals as a company, LinkedIn provides the perfect platform: it keeps them in touch with fellow engineers and partners, it keeps the brand in front of the customer, and it helps to elevate the perception of the brand from an intellectual perspective. That being said, Calibre has focused on Linked in, while Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (for example) were discussed but never implemented. For sheer numbers, I was intrigued by the question of why any company wouldn’t at least use Facebook. As of December 2015, Facebook had on average 1.04 billion daily active users and 934 million mobile daily active users (Facebook Newsroom, 2016). But, like the logistics company, what Calibre has been using seems to be working. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?
I came across the linked ENGINEERING.com article (thanks John Hayes!), and it helped to reshape my social media perspective. ENGINEERING.com posed a survey with the sole purpose of seeing whether marketers could use social media as a way to get their messages across to engineers. They asked about social media use in two realms: Personal life and Work life. The survey clearly showed that social media was being used personally and at work by engineers. So why the lack of social media presence from a marketing standpoint?
Hayes’ Engineering.com article tells us that:
“[w]hat we’ve found at ENGINEERING.com is that having a large social media following is useful, but not sufficient, to get the word out. When we press “publish” on Facebook, for example, our stories will generate another 100-200 views as a result. Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and Slideshare all have their place as well. Social media is only one of several ways that we promote stories along with email newsletters, web presence, mobile apps etc. We look at it this way – engineers have extremely fragmented consumption habits, and it’s our job as marketers to be everywhere they are, in any format they want.”
In the end, social media as a tool has different functions for different organizations in different industries. For the distribution company, as for Calibre, the purpose is not to find and bring in new customers. The purpose can range from brand recognition to brand raising and from engaging existing clients to a straight-forward “don’t forget about us!” reminder. Social media is a way of helping us do what we are already doing but better. So, when it comes to social media, the key is striking a balance between using every platform available and being absent from the social media scene. It’s about utilizing the platform that is best suited for your audience and the content that your audience wants to interface with online. And it’s about coupling social media with any number of other marketing outlets. Does this mean that Calibre’s social media presence is complete with LinkedIn? Not necessarily. If, as ENGINEERING.com shows us, engineers and their clients are using social media to read articles that apply to work, an argument could be made that either Instagram or YouTube could be used to engage staff and existing clients as visual learning tools. Social media might also help engineering firms to promote new in-house services. What I’ve learned, then, is that social media must be crafted to the industry and to the client and used purposefully to execute strategic goals.
Further, marketing is about flexibility. Sure, we could do 100 things. We could do everything. But the key is knowing when only 3 things are needed to be successful. It’s about knowing your product and your client-base and knowing what works.
Thank you ENGINEERING.com
Facebook statistics: http://newsroom.fb.com/company-info/
Engineering.com article: http://advertise.engineering.com/digital-marketing-for-engineers-blog/does-social-media-marketing-reach-engineers-survey-results