I work with many companies in manufacturing and industrial markets. And most of the skepticism I hear about marketing from these folks has to do with Social Media.

While most understand the rapid Social Media growth rates and sheer numbers, they say they aren’t seeing the adoption by their customers or within their industries. Add to that the lack of marketing expertise in these companies, and it’s easy to see why they’re reluctant to dive in.

But I say, whether you’re with a manufacturing business that’s gonna “wait and see,” a business that’s tried it and didn’t find the value, or trying to find the right strategy, look to your supply chain(s) for success in your business through Social Media.

First things first – you should understand that Social Media’s value to all businesses is NOT solely to generate leads or find new business. If that’s all you’re looking to do with it, you’re likely to be disappointed. It’s important to understand that Social Media can get you in the game, and the game is more complex than just finding new customers.

In these times, I know that sounds like anathema … things are tough, and many of your businesses are looking for gold rings & easy answers.

But you can’t win if you don’t play, and your customers can’t tell the players without a program. If you’re not ‘there’ they’re not gonna find you. And, you may find it more difficult to find THEM. So, where’s the value – REALLY – for manufacturers at this stage of Social Media’s development?

These 5 steps and observations will help you discover opportunities that your industrial business might not have ever imagined.

  1. Define The Nodes In Your Supply Chain(s) – Identify the elements of your supply chains – not by actual names, but as categories that you interact with to sustain and grow your manufacturing business: Suppliers of materials, tooling, consumables; Technology providers, distributors & OEMs, software resellers & OEMs, consultants; Financial partners, banks, capital equipment lenders, CPAs, consultants; Service providersAncillary equipment providers, distributors & OEMs; Industry associations (with which your business has or might have relationships with); Customers & prospects – companies that you encounter anywhere (on or offline), that your business can help; and General – this category can contain any entity with strong affiliations to your industry, interests or business without necessarily being a strong business candidate. Think experts or information sources
  2. Create Lists Based On These Business Categories – Regardless of the platform you choose to engage – LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. – add entities and accounts you encounter online to these categories based on their possible relationships with your business
  3. Ignore Those That Do Not Fit Into These Definitions – This critical step will help you to communicate and interact with tightly focused, potential business partners & avoid clutter and wasted motion later, by reviewing or responding to messaging or information that doesn’t serve your business directly
  4. Assemble & Add New Contacts Over Time – Social Media for any company requires patience, and that’s especially true for manufacturers. As you collect these new and known contacts, you will be creating a network of business you can help AND that can help you when you need it
  5. Listen, Share & Participate – Once you’ve begun this process, get involved. Share information that resonates with your industry and that serves your business. Be gentle, don’t sell too hard & don’t seem desperate. Engage those you’ve met online regularly, but not necessarily often. Remember – patience is key

Tying Your Supply Chain & Social Media Together

Have you ever experienced a supply chain disruption? Of course you have, and so have your customers/prospects. How do you approach and apply technology or business improvements, or moving into new markets? How do you overcome unexpected derailment of projects, or failing suppliers? Social Media – when applied in this fashion – can act as a specialized toolkit for your business, there when you need it most to overcome disruptions and weakened links in your supply chain.

Networking is the new marketing. But it’s also up to you to use tools appropriately – otherwise, your business and your customers suffer. Social Media can help you – if you use them correctly – to assemble connections, alternatives, resources & opportunities that can have a real impact on your ability to serve your customers, grow your business and maintain the relationships it depends on to survive & thrive.

Start here. Begin with your business in mind. And enjoy the ride.