PCB Manufacturers Discuss Using Social Media, Part I

Reading time ( words)

For today’s column I wanted to talk about social media best practices and lessons for manufacturers. But then, I figured, “Why not use the words from those I've interviewed to illustrate these ideas?” So, this week and next, I will share the opinions of PCB manufacturers using social media.

Question: How did Printed Circuits get into social media?

Bob Burns, national sales and marketing manager at Printed Circuits Inc., replied, "I noticed that when my two sons needed information or had a question on something they were not going to use Google. They were going straight to YouTube and looking it up there. Here I was spending all my time working on search engine optimization to get us ranked higher on Google, and I realized that maybe we're missing out with all of the young engineers going straight to YouTube or Facebook for an answer."

Burns showed a lot more awareness and self awareness than many would have. It would have been very easy to ignore his observations and continue with his pre-occupation with search engine optimization (SEO).

Question: How did you decide and what prompted you to try social media?    

Keith Araujo, marketing manager, and Corbett Smith, marketing coordinator, with Epec Engineered Technologies, answered, “We decided we had to do it. Initially, we saw social media as a way to get our message out to more people via more methods.”

While the company's first inclination was to see social media as just another advertising outlet, the first short sentence in this answer speaks volumes about the company. You get the sense that they understood something was happening and they needed to be involved. While too many companies stand on the sidelines for too long, I think it is remarkable that Epec saw an opportunity of which they had to take advantage.

Question: How did you get buy in from management?

Araujo replied, “We've been fortunate in that our CEO is a big proponent of using social media. He uses it himself. We started in 2009--Twitter first, followed shortly by Facebook. We added LinkedIn and Google+ as they gained momentum. The first four years were more “do it as we find the time to do it,” but then Corbett came on board last summer (2013) and part of his mandate was to handle our social media.”

Araujo was fortunate in obtaining the immediate support of his company’s management. And that is because social media is usually judged more harshly than other marketing efforts (when was the last time anyone asked for a detailed report on the return from the $20,000 spent on the last trade show?). Support from management is critical.

And speaking of returns...

Question: What do you measure? How can you tell if it’s working?

Araujo and Smith, once again replied: “There are lots of things you can measure--likes and followers for example--but what really matters to us is engagement. Do our followers do something? Do they sign up for webinars or just comment on a post?”

This is what most people who don’t like social media latch onto: Counting likes and followers. But social media is like any other type of marketing and companies need to figure out what is important. Sending 10,000 e-mail newsletters means nothing by itself. Getting a higher percentage of people to open and read the newsletter does. With social media, it may be getting people to download a paper, sign up for a webinar, or comment in a LinkedIn group discussion. Araujo and Smith understand this. Social media isn’t voodoo. It can be measured.

Question: What do you do for content?

Burns says, "If there's an article that I find interesting, I am thinking our customers will too, so I post those."

This comment from Burns displays two best practices for social media marketers: They are always looking for content they can use and they are humble enough to realize they don’t know everythin--even in their field of expertise. The customer comes first. It is more important to get something useful out there for the customer than it is to be the author of that information.

Question: How much time is required to for social media each week?

Judy Warner, director of sales and marketing at Transline Technology Inc., says, "Three to five hours on average."                  

And how much does your social media cost you?

"There are no capital or recurring costs to social media."              

Social media has no capital cost. In effect, you get a free trial. Forever. So why aren’t more companies using it?

Next week in Part II, I hear from PCB manufacturers using social media about what has surprised them so far, what they would have done differently, and how social media fits with other marketing efforts.Bruce Johnston is a sales consultant specializing in social media and especially LinkedIn. He has over 25 years experience in high-tech sales and management. He can be reached at brucej@practicalsmm.com or through his profile on LinkedIn.



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