Everywhere one looks, smart devices, especially smartphones, are out and in use by people of all ages. In fact, according to statista.com, the number of smartphone users is projected to grow to 2.5 billion worldwide in 2019, and in 2018, 77 percent of United States citizens had a social-media profile. Statista.com also reports that the current number of worldwide social media users reached 2.34 billion in 2018 and that number is expected to grow to 2.95 billion by 2020. Just 20 years ago these statistics would have seemed incredible, and yet, here we are.
MoldMaking Technology has been paying close attention to social media in recent years, and has profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Moldmakers have also begun to adopt social media as part of their sales and marketing efforts, so we asked a few shops who got on board earlier than most to share their views on it, including what social platforms they use, what works for them and why social media is an important part of their sales and marketing strategies.
Connecting and Branding is Key
Of the companies surveyed, all responded by saying that social media is key to making a connection with people in the industry. This is undoubtedly an expected response but for several companies, social media is intended to enhance branding or in other words, the image of the company to achieve varying goals. For example, Tim Galbraith, sales manager at Cavalier Tool and Manufacturing Ltd. (Windsor, Ontario), says Cavalier recognized several years ago that social media provided an opportunity to do several things, including differentiating the company from the pack. “While social media was not new, at the time there were few in the moldmaking industry using it,” he says. “We found it to be a cost-effective way (no capital investment required) to increase our presence in the industry over and above the typical direct sales efforts augmented with print advertising and trade shows.” Cavalier is currently active on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Westminster Tool Inc. (Plainfield, Connecticut) also employs Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. “Each of these outlets has its own purpose and is managed accordingly by our marketing team,” Hillary Coombs, sales and marketing, says. For Westminster, Twitter is used to connect with industry and the media, while LinkedIn provides a way to connect with industry experts like customers, prospective customers and suppliers. “We believe that social media is a critical component to building brand awareness, referrals and word-of-mouth marketing.” She explains that a year ago, the company realized that its following and engagement on each social media channel was different and attempting to duplicate posts across all channels was not as worth the effort as originally imagined. “Of course, there are still instances where sharing posts across all channels makes sense, but sometimes a post might not be suited to one or more channels. An example is posting pictures of cultural events, as not all of these would be appropriate or relevant for LinkedIn where people are looking for learning opportunities and connections. Instead, it is perfect for Facebook where our community interacts with us and the people who help recommend our company get to see the culture (including family members of employees).”
Like Westminster Tool, Accede Mold & Tool Co. (Rochester, New York), uses each of its social media platforms differently. “We are active on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube,” Camille Sackett, director, Business Development and Engineering Support, says. “I have a widget so our Twitter feed displays in real time, keeping our website fresh and relevant.” She adds that though each medium has a different purpose, branding and messages are consistent across all platforms.
YouTube and LinkedIn are important platforms used by R&D/Leverage (Lee’s Summit, Missouri), according to Robert Schiavone, global marketing director. “We use social media as a branding support channel for various target audiences. While we do use Facebook for personal, internal communications, I am not a fan of it for business purposes,” he says, explaining that, for him, Facebook lends itself to more unprofessional posts compared to LinkedIn.
Our customers are using the web — to learn something new, find a piece of information or to build connections. Moldmakers must begin to transition to ensure we are in front of our customers, wherever they are.
Similarly, Cavalier’s Galbraith says Facebook is currently used more for employee and social news, although the company does promote its presence there. “We want customers to realize the kind of company we are — our social culture,” he says. “Twitter is used more for announcements and business news; and LinkedIn is used for events and announcements that won’t fit within Twitter’s 280-character limit.”
Making a Social Impact
Amanda Wiriya, manufacturing support manager at Wepco Plastics Inc. (Middlefield, Connecticut), says social media plays a large role in the company’s marketing strategy and community engagement. “It supports all our efforts to highlight our capabilities and services while affording us the opportunity to make a social impact,” she says. “For example, we put a lot of effort towards workforce development, education and being a good community member.” Wepco currently uses LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Blogger. Blogger, owned by Google, is an online blog-hosting site that the company uses primarily for its newsletter campaigns.
Cavalier also uses photographs and graphics in posts within all three social platforms. “They seem to increase reach and traction,” Galbraith says. “We do not have a formal plan. Our strategy currently is to simply be relevant and non-controversial (unless it is politically motivated for our industry).”
While Cavalier does not formally plan its social media campaigns, Westminster Tool, R&D/Leverage, Accede and Wepco do prepare social media calendars. “We try to plan our social media efforts at the beginning of the year,” Schiavone of R&D/Leverage says. “We first plan out our newsletters, what topics we will cover (like injection or blow molds or mold repair, etc.) and set the publishing schedule, which dictates what we will be sharing on LinkedIn.”
Wepco prepares and follows a social media calendar each month, focusing its posts on its calendar of events, such as industry happenings, on-site events or those planned in the community. “National days, sales initiatives, current events and holidays also influence our social media schedule, in addition to allowing for spontaneous posts including liking, sharing and commenting on others’ posts,” Wiriya says. “We also encourage our team to post individually when representing Wepco Plastics at events, training, etc., and we always try to post videos, photos or other media that will encourage our followers to interact with us.”
“Posted content includes Accede news, like new equipment or business alliances, promotions about where we are exhibiting or recruiting and community outreach events,” Sackett says. “All content is intended to communicate who we are and what differentiates us, and it works to strengthen the bonds we have with our connections.” She adds that she finds Instagram is a preferred platform for young people (aka Gen Y and Gen Z) and calls it “Twitter light.” “I definitely see this platform growing and phasing out Twitter and Facebook. Our moldmakers, their families, individual customers and more use this platform.”
Westminster Tool’s plan is housed within a Google calendar where content ideas like blogs, events and planned social media posts are outlined and prepared. “We also create posts whenever needed to highlight things going on within the shop and community,” Coombs says.
Assessing Social Media Engagement
Asked whether social media has led to actual sales for their companies, responses leaned more toward the side of uncertainty, but none of the companies discounted the value and strength of their efforts.
“Cavalier Tool has just started to formally track engagement so we can dial in our strategy to optimize its effectiveness,” Galbraith says. “I can say that we have had inquiries from companies that have heard of us through social media, and the image we are building has helped us to become better known in the industry.” Galbraith explains that results came after a false start. “We established LinkedIn and Facebook pages and hired an outside consultant to manage our media and gain visibility for us. It did not take long to recognize the error in our ways. Without the technical knowledge, our efforts lacked any value to the audience, and we were not getting any traction. We brought it in house and basically learned as we went. We are still not rock stars in the social media arena, but we are getting better. We have one person in house assigned to the ‘corporate’ feeds, and several of us work our personal accounts to complement the company feed and increase our reach.”
Social media is an extension of the content in your website but in an open dialogue.
Westminster Tool’s Coombs says, “It is tough for me to put an actual number, but I do believe it has helped. Our coverage from a recent article and video published in MoldMaking Technology and Modern Machine Shop magazines led to 50 percent of our pageviews in January. In 2018, we connected with at least five new prospects or industry suppliers through LinkedIn, and most of all, we are constantly building indirect connections with prospects and customers online, which leads to conversation starters in person.” For example, Coombs says that, because of the company video featured in the magazines, a company reached out, wanting to chat about Westminster’s company culture. “Once on the phone, they told us they have some machining needs as well and requested a quote. In summary, they came to us for the culture but realized they could also use us for manufacturing (aka inbound marketing).”
Schiavone concurs, saying, “It’s very rare that we see a reaction from a social media post that interprets into an immediate sale. The key is tracking that lead, which can only be done with the help of the sales team. We currently use Constant Contact to collect data about who has opened and read our newsletters. We may then see they downloaded literature from our website, showing strong interest in our services, and have our sales team follow up.” He adds that it may take months and sometimes years before any actual work comes through, which is why he regards social media as an extension to existing branding strategies.
Accede’s Sackett says she sees LinkedIn as a professional channel that is great for networking. “This is a channel that has a broad demographic that is comfortable interfacing with it. A bigger network coupled with a great reputation for premium quality and innovative solutions does lead to increased opportunities, sales and revenue.”
“While we are able to trace specific revenue directly to specific campaigns or posts, social media is so much more to Wepco,” Wiriya says. “Sales is obviously an important goal, but we also use social media to advertise jobs, bring attention to issues we believe in, like workforce development, elementary through high school education, industry awareness and giving back to our community. We also use it to interact with local industry and regional organizations, like Women in Manufacturing (WiM), The Eastern Advanced Manufacturing Alliance (EAMA), American Mold Builders Association (AMBA) and Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP).”
Social Media Conclusions
For Hillary Coombs and Westminster Tool, social media is valuable because the entire world is becoming mobile. “We are shifting from an interactive buying experience to an independent and online experience,” she says. “While the manufacturing industry may never reach the status of the clothing industry on social channels, it is a fact that our customers are using the web — to learn something new, find a piece of information or to build connections. Moldmakers must begin to transition to ensure we are in front of our customers, wherever they are.”
To not be on social media widely limits the audience you reach.
“It’s one more channel that is a major source of information for so many people. To not be on social media widely limits the audience you reach,” Amanda Wiriya says. “Wepco has received business from people who only interact on social media that we would not have otherwise reached.”
R&D/Leverage’s Bob Schiavone agrees, stressing that, specifically in B2B models, the younger generations are increasingly using social media to scope a business, see what is posted and what is new. “Social media is an extension of the content in your website but in an open dialogue,” he says. “That is why we call it social media, because it is inviting commentary, while sharing news at the same time.”
“Social media creates impressions and shapes opinions,” adds Cavalier Tool’s Tim Galbraith. “Used masterfully, it is a relatively inexpensive tool that reaps rewards. Using it to promote your company will reach the leaders of tomorrow. Like any characteristic of companies on the cusp of our industry, whether it is IoT, Industry 4.0 or social media engagement, those that avail themselves of these tools will be the winners.”
For More Information
Accede Mold & Tool Co. / 585-254-6490 / accedemold.com
Cavalier Tool and Manufacturing Ltd. / 519-944-2144 / cavaliertool.com
R&D/Leverage / 816-525-0353 / rdleverage.com
Wepco Plastics Inc. / 860-349-3407 / wepcoplastics.com
Westminster Tool Inc. / 860-564-6966 / westminstertool.com
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