In 2004, a Harvard student and his buddies created a social network that we now know of as Facebook. Many would say that was the real beginning of social media because following that, has been the emergence of platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram. In today’s society, we couldn’t imagine a world without social media. Wherever you go, you see most people with their faces in their phones, absorbing the latest pictures of their friends, enjoying a meme, or browsing content from their favorite brands. With that being the case, today’s businesses need to embrace social media and its influence on their brand, especially for manufacturers (OEMs).
Manufacturers (OEMs) may not think of social media as a useful tool, especially manufacturers who depend on dealer networks to sell their products and aren’t interfacing with end-customers daily. But times have changed, and customers are looking directly to brands to tell their story and provide an open line of communication for customers to voice their joy for the brand, or their criticisms. Today, 58% of consumers visit a brand’s social media pages before visiting their website; this is why social media is becoming an important part of a manufacturer’s marketing strategy. It’s imperative that brands understand what channels they should be using, how to leverage those platforms and the potential benefits of each.
Intro to Social Platforms
It’s safe to say that in today’s digital age, most people have heard of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram. Many people may not understand the proper application of each of these platforms, especially for manufacturers. So, let’s break down each platform and its uses for communicating with customers.
Facebook is a community platform. It’s a space where manufacturers can speak about their company culture, community involvement, and communicate about new and exciting products and promotions. The audience on this platform is rather broad. You could be speaking to a potential customer, a dealer sales rep, competitors, or even a potential job candidate. Manufacturers have the opportunity to create private groups for collaboration and discussion about their products for different audiences.
Twitter is a “breaking news” sort of platform. Manufacturers can use this to their advantage by sharing new and exciting products and promotions or announcing a new partnership or revolutionary feature. It’s also a platform for sharing. Manufacturers have the opportunity to connect directly with their end-customers by retweeting customer messages that they have been tagged in and sharing in successes. It can also be a great way to communicate in real-time. The audience for this platform is also broad, like Facebook, it can include end-customers, dealer sales reps, or competitors.
LinkedIn is a platform for professional relationships, and for most B2B businesses, it’s the platform of choice. You won’t see a lot of fluff and cute dog videos here, LinkedIn is a place where professionals come to connect, share industry news, and network. It’s also a great platform for sharing press releases or blog posts about a manufacturer’s newest products or innovations. The audience is professional and can include dealership owners, industry buffs, competitors, or job candidates.
Video has become the preferred way for customers to consume information about products; in fact, 96% of people say they’ve watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service. YouTube is a channel that manufacturers should use to differentiate their products from their competitors. It’s versatile and can be a standalone platform, or videos can easily be shared on other platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn. Because your videos can be viewed on YouTube or other platforms, the audience for your videos is a full spectrum.
Instagram isn’t an obvious choice for some brands. Instagram is a very visual platform, focusing on photography and video content. Manufacturers with a visually appealing product benefit from this. For instance, an automotive manufacturer who wants to showcase their trucks or new features may benefit from having an Instagram account. On the other hand, an HVAC manufacturer may not see the same benefits because the product is less visually appealing. But results can vary, and with the right strategy, your brand can still gain traction. Instagram generally has a younger audience, so this is something to consider when developing your brand’s presence on the platform.
The Benefits of Social Media
As stated earlier, social media is a large part of how our society consumes information and it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. So, it’s imperative for manufacturers to understand the benefits of social media why they should be making the investment into these platforms as part of their marketing strategy.
- Communicate new products and promotions with dealers and end-customers
Social media is a tool that can allow you to share updates on new products and services with your customers. Think of your social channels as a retention tool, keeping your current customers and followers coming back for more (and hopefully sharing with their friends and connections). Have a new product feature in your latest truck model? Share it. Are you rolling out a new special financing promotion? Share it. The possibilities are endless.
- Control the brand narrative and messaging
Social media is a place where you can be in the larger conversation. You can control your message and the general perception of your brand through your various channels. You can express how your company contributes to the community, helping customers reach success, product innovation, and more. For manufacturers who don’t interact with customers face-to-face, social media provides the opportunity for your company to speak directly to the people.
- Speak directly with end-customers and receive feedback
Social media is a two-way street, you can speak to customers, but they can also speak to you, providing feedback, good or bad. Customers with good feedback can become brand ambassadors to spread the right message about your brand. On the other hand, customers with bad feedback can also become strong brand ambassadors. It’s been demonstrated time and time again, that a customer’s bad experience can easily be turned into a customer for life if handled properly. The bottom line is that social media gives you a unique ability to communicate with customers you wouldn’t normally have contact with since your products are sold through a dealer network, so take advantage of it.
*A quick note: If you’re a manufacturer already engaging in social media, make sure that you respond to comments on your channels, good or bad. Having social channels with no engagement with your followers isn’t really taking full advantage of the potential.
Social media is powerful. With lots of platforms to choose from and a variety of benefits, it can seem overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you. Manufacturers have a unique opportunity to leverage social channels to send out their unique messages about their products and the benefits they provide. If your brand isn’t live on social media now, it may be time to start thinking about it.