In a recent article here at Weidert Group, I explained how manufacturers can use each of the Big 4 social media networks to generate leads and increase awareness for their company. From Facebook to YouTube, and especially Twitter and LinkedIn, each network has it own set of pros and cons, but all 4 can be used to your advantage if you know which tactics to use, what type of content to promote, and what tone/voice to have.
That being said, knowing how to do all of this is certainly easier said than done when it comes to social media for manufacturers. Manufacturing companies aren’t known for having “fun”, consumer-facing products that are easy to promote, and their target audience is much more niche and professional.
Because of this, when it comes to actually generating leads for company—rather than just generating awareness—Twitter and LinkedIn are the two best social networks for getting visitors back to your site and having those visitors convert into leads (YouTube works great too, but that deserves its own article). Both networks have a large number of professional users looking for and sharing manufacturing-related content; both networks make it easy to start a conversation with another user, and both networks are easily searchable.
To help you make the most of your social media efforts and actually turn your social audience into paying customers, here are some effective strategies manufacturers can use on Twitter and LinkedIn to generate more leads and new business opportunities.
Part 1: Social Selling Etiquette
Before you dive right into the social selling landscape, it’s important that you know the right social selling etiquette on the networks you’ll be using. No one wants to do business with someone who’s annoyingly over-promotional, and being too invasive and creepy certainly won’t do you any favors, either.
On both networks, the best way to connect with new users is to start by interacting with them on one of their Tweets or a post they shared on LinkedIn. This can be as easy as Liking their post, sharing it, or leaving a comment or reply. At this point, all you’re trying to do is break the ice so you don’t come off as a total stranger when you invite them to connect later on.
For Twitter, this is much easier to do, because it’s totally acceptable to follow and talk to strangers without having any prior contact with them. One of the main goals of Twitter is to grow your following, and just about everyone has gotten accustomed to random users following them hoping for a follow back. Where you need to differentiate yourself from all the impersonal followers, however, is by making a genuine effort to make a formal connection action after the initial like, retweet, or follow.
After liking a few tweets and following a prospect, try to strike up a conversation by replying to one of their tweets. If I wanted to connect with our Marketing Manager, Jamie, for example, I would try something like this:
From here, I would hope to strike up an actual, non-sales-y conversation, and eventually build a rapport with him to the point where we exchange email information, or even connect on LinkedIn.
On the other hand, with LinkedIn, social selling etiquette is much more formal from the start. LinkedIn users aren’t necessarily trying to maximize their followers, and the posts they share only appear in the feeds of their connections (unless someone shares it), making it hard to engage in any light social selling prior to connecting.
In most cases, your sales team will have to invite prospects to connect before they can start nurturing them, so it’s important that you send a genuine, personalized invitation to get the ball rolling. In fact, think of it like being at a networking event, and introducing yourself to a prospect for the first time.
Once they accept your invitation, you’ll both be able to see each other’s updates—including updates whenever you publish long-form posts—providing more opportunities to engage with them and promote your content.
Part 2: Social Tactics for Generating Manufacturing Leads
Now that you have a good idea of what it takes to connect with prospects on a 1-on-1 level, you can start implementing your social lead generation strategies and converting followers into customers. Both Twitter and LinkedIn have a lot of useful tools and capabilities that can help you generate real, actual leads, so make sure you’re using the strategies below to maximize the results:
1. Share Interesting Content Via The Company Profile
Whether you’re on Twitter or LinkedIn, it’s important that you regularly share interesting articles, news, and updates on your company profile to grow your audience and establish authority as a thought leader. Every new follow, like, comment, and share is another potential lead you can pursue, so make sure you’re posting on a regular basis to attract as many interactions as possible. You don’t want to post too often, however, as your followers will get annoyed with the over-saturation.
2. Have Employees Use Their Personal Profiles for Content Promotion and Social Selling
In addition to regularly posting on your company profile, you can greatly increase your company’s exposure and opportunities for new leads by getting your employees involved in the social selling process. Make sure they’re trained on the proper social selling etiquette for each platform, and encourage them to build relationships with other manufacturers and prospective buyers. When it comes time for those prospects to choose a manufacturer, you could be at the top of their list thanks to your employee’s social media presence and engagements with them.
3. Use Paid Advertisements
While a lot of companies like to keep their social media marketing organic, both LinkedIn and Twitter offer highly-targeted paid advertising options that are effective at generating leads. With LinkedIn’s Sponsored Content, for example, you can promote your latest advanced content piece in the newsfeed of users who don’t already like your page, based on criteria you’ve chosen, such as:
- Time of day
- Viewing device
- And more
The same can also be said about Twitter’s Promoted Tweets, although Twitter is typically less effective for B2B advertising than LinkedIn.
4. Send LinkedIn InMail
In addition to Sponsored Updates, LinkedIn InMail also allows users to send messages directly to other users they're not connected with. Premium LinkedIn members can do this for free several times each month, but you can also pay to send sponsored InMail using the same criteria mentioned above to target prospects. LinkedIn will provide some tips on how to optimize your message, and allows you to send messages from either your company profile or a personal account. Prospects will be wary of these messages being spammy, however, so make sure your message is conversational and don't be too sales-y.
5. Publish Long-Form Posts on LinkedIn
If your company is creating content on a regular basis, try getting some extra usage out of it by repurposing relevant articles to be published as long-form posts on LinkedIn. Whenever you do this, whoever published the post will automatically have a notification sent to their connections alerting them it was published, providing yet another opportunity to get more eyes on your content and engage with other users. You can also place CTAs and links back to your site throughout these posts, creating even more chances to get prospects back to your site.
6. Participate in LinkedIn Groups
Though LinkedIn Groups have seen a drop in participation over the past couple years, they still provide a solid opportunity to connect with manufacturing prospects and potentially drive traffic back to your website. They’re also a great place to break the ice and do some light social selling before sending someone an invitation to connect. Keep an active presence by commenting on other peoples’ posts, and make sure you share some of your own from time to time as well.
7. Send Direct Messages on Twitter
This might sound like crazy talk for some marketers out there, but the way manufacturers use Twitter is a lot different than your typical user. A lot of manufacturing prospects aren't following thousands (or even hundreds) of people, nor do they typically have tons of followers themselves. With my audience of inbound marketers trying to grow their following, I receive about 10 spammy Direct Messages each week trying to get me to download something (most of which I ignore or delete with a quick glance). However, with manufacturers and their prospects, there's a lot less spam via direct messages, allowing you to use them for genuine communication with prospects. Just don't make it your first method of contact, as they'll likely think you're spam trying to sell them something.
Doing social media for manufacturing companies might be more challenging than it is for other industries, but that doesn't mean you won't see positive results if you take the time to do it right. Focus on LinkedIn and Twitter for lead geneneration, and your social media efforts will surely pay off.