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IMTS Exhibitor Workshop Report: Social Media Step One, Learning to Participate

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If your sales team took customers to dinner or attended a convention to find and network with prospects, you’d consider that time well invested, right? Those relaxed, informal conversations cement relationships. Further, every good sales person knows that people don’t buy from companies; they buy from friends or people they like.

“Think of social media activities as being in the same realm as in-person customer conversations, and as equally deserving of corporate support,” says Monica Haley, Creative & Design Consultant to AMT — The Association For Manufacturing Technology. Haley, along with marketing “gunslinger” Steve Miller, discussed the importance of social media during the January 25 IMTS Exhibitor Workshop (note that this article provides an introduction to social media; future articles will become more specific on using social media to support your IMTS efforts).

Haley noted that 74 percent of all adults use social media. She emphasized that even if you don’t personally use social media, the 74 percent statistic means most of your customers certainly do … and if your customers are there, you should be, too.

“Social media can create strong brand recognition, increase exposure and help your business develop a loyal following, to name just a few reasons to participate,” she says.

Start by Exploring and Listening

For those uncomfortable or unsure about jumping into an online forum with comments or making Facebook posts, Haley emphasizes that passive participation can provide a wealth of information. You’ll learn who is talking about what, as well as determine the tone of the conversation. For example, how do engineers in the aerospace industry view additive manufacturing? Go online and find out!

“That’s valuable market research, and it’s free,” says Haley. “When your marketing team engages in social media listening, it’s not that much different than when your engineers are attending an IMTS technical conference.”

When evaluating social media, consider which platform best suits your business model. Given the highly visual nature of manufacturing technology, YouTube, Vimeo and Instagram are leading favorites for IMTS attendees. LinkedIn provides a connection between professionals with its online forums, and Twitter and Facebook provide an excellent way for fast communication, especially to those who rely on mobile devices.

The next step is finding out where your customers “hang out.” To research the best sites, find out where industry experts, influencers, bloggers, customers, competitors and suppliers are going and “follow” their activities.

Create and Follow

When you “follow” someone on social media, it means you can automatically receive notices when they post new content. However, to follow, you’ll need to create your own account. When creating a corporate or professional profile, consider your name/user name, include a well-written profile with appropriate keywords and choose a good photo/logo/graphic (and name the file image so it shows up in a keyword search, e.g., AcmeMachine vs. IMG_0264.jpg).

After creating your profile, devote next efforts to following others whose updates will appear on your platform feed. This lets the world know what you care about. Don’t overthink it; you can always update your audience. Do pay attention to demographics and where your own comments and content will fit.

“The important thing is that interacting precipitates interaction — this is the foundation of social media,” says Haley. It’s OK to do more observing than participating to start. Your knowledge of network behavior will grow enormously through observation and benefit you in the long run.

When you encounter content you like, share/repost/retweet or otherwise endorse the ideas. Add to the conversation with comments that help others get more from social media. Join various groups to connect with like-minded people, businesses, organizations and communities. Some of the most valuable exchanges and opportunities will occur among these members.

The Time Factor

As you can see, suggestions run deep when getting started on social media. You may wonder if this is going to be a full-time job for someone yet to be hired or something you’ll need to squeeze into your workday when no perceived time permits. The amount of time you spend on social media is your call, but if you want to be effective, be consistent. Don’t think you can create a profile, follow a chosen few and let it go.

“It’s crucial to remember that even if you are not aware of social media conversations, they are occurring,” says Haley. “Because these conversations affect you whether you realize it or not, it only makes sense to participate.”

More Information

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