Machine Shop Online Presence
Sticking with the machine shop theme for a while, let’s consider machine shops and social media. The last blog post was on machine shops and their websites, so this makes for a natural continuation of that discussion. In the course of my business, I’ve reviewed the social media footprint for hundreds of machine shops, sheet metal fabricators, and other related manufacturing businesses. One common thread I find in this industry is completely ignoring social media.
In my forthcoming book, Content Marketing for the Technical or Manufacturing Company (out later this year), I go into detail on how to use various aspects of your online presence in social media to call attention to yourself and bring leads to the website. That’s the job of social media in a business to business environment, bring leads to the website. It’s the website’s job to convert leads into prospects.
Let’s look at some tendencies I’ve noticed over the years.
Machine shops tend to have fairly common names like Davis Precision. A Google search on Davis Precision during this writing produced almost 30 million search results. I wouldn’t be surprised if every state in the US had a machine shop operating under the name Davis Precision. It’s just not a distinctive name, so searching produces a lot of noise and not much signal. In this specific case, a Davis Precision operating in that environment has to fight all the others for the user’s attention. What’s more, the top listing in the search engine results page is an under-construction website with nothing other than a phone number. That tells me no Davis Precisions are taking steps to be found online.
So what does that have to do with social media? Indirectly, everything. Let’s assume you own a machine shop with a common name like Davis Precision. Let’s also suppose instead of being negligent, all the other Davis Precisions in the world have at least staked a claim on the major social media sites. Some lucky shop claimed all the names based on DavisPrecision. somebody else grabbed Davis_Precision, and another grabbed DavisPrecisionNY. What it boils down to is a lot of confusion and competition for the eyes of the user. If the user is looking for a specific Davis Precision, your Davis Precision in your town, it might be buried under the competition.
Fortunately, machine shops often have local customers, so the Alaska Davis Precision isn’t a real competitor for the California Davis Precision. What they do compete over are keywords and the name in social media. Keep in mind most social media platforms don’t have particularly good search engines. The owner of a Davis Precision wants to own the name in cyberspace, so that Davis Precision is the one that keeps coming up in searches.
Let’s look at the different major social media sites and see what machine shops tend to be missing.
I generally see two kinds of LinkedIn profiles for machine shops, if I see a profile at all. The first type is an automatically generated profile that often contains mistakes, is always incomplete, and never uses the company logo. The second type is the skeleton profile proving somebody actually logged in, but it has little more than a terse description to fill in the mandatory fields like website and phone. Often there is no logo on this type, either. Surprisingly, both types can have a relatively large number of followers. For instance, even 20 followers of an automatically generated profile is pretty good.
On the down side, there’s never any content posted to these sites. If I’m looking to learn more about machine tools, what they can make, and why your shop should make my parts, I get nothing. While 20 people might be following the shop’s site, it makes no difference because the users never see any content. Most followers probably don’t even remember following the company.
Of all the social media sites, Facebook seems to have the most machine shop presence. While most B2B users aren’t likely to look to evaluate machine shops on Facebook, many will find your profile anyway. Facebook is great for showing the human side of the company. Jacob’s retirement party, the company picnic, the president’s ice bucket challenge–these are all great ways to use a company Facebook account to show the company is made of real people. Leave the technical talk for LinkedIn and show the public your human side.
While a lot of machine shops do this that, where they fail is in frequency of posting. One, two, or even three posts in a year just doesn’t cut it. There has to be a reason for users to come back or follow. If they see frequent content, the shop’s name sticks in their mind. That’s what you are looking for–name recognition.
Twitter is probably the social media platform least understood by people over the age of 30, a group that includes most machine shop owners. After all, what can you say in 140 characters? A lot, actually. Twitter is a great megaphone, and its real-time nature makes interacting with leads easy.
Most machine shops don’t have a Twitter account at all. Often, the ideal name has already been taken, many times by a foreign company. Dealing with that takes some creativity, but it isn’t a show-stopper. Of the machine shops that actually do have an account, the number of posts is severely limited. Usually, they number a dozen or two, posted around the time the account was opened, and left sitting idle for a couple of years. One shop with a Twitter account had only one post that read “We’re on Twitter now!” This lonely post was over 4 years old. What’s the point?
Google+ is still trying to find its role in social media, but it’s important because it is Google-owned. While Google claims no interaction between Google+ and the search engine, it makes sense they would leverage their own IP and data to improve their flagship product, the search engine. I see a few different kinds of machine shop pages on G+. Often, there was an automatically-generated page (which they call an unofficial page) that may still be around. More and more, these pages redirect to Google Maps and simply show the user where you are. While that information might be useful, most users who want to know your location will simply search in Google Maps directly.
Some shops have no Google+ presence of any kind. Sometimes, the shop owner actually went into Google+ and set up a skeleton profile and verified the shop. There is a check mark near the logo signifying this is a verified local account. Most often, these accounts have no content at all, yet the page statistics show page view counts like 75,000 and even higher. That’s 75,000 sets of eyeballs that had nothing to look at after arriving on the page because nobody posted any content. That, right there, is wasted opportunity.
While a business to consumer company may have more obvious uses for social media, by no means can a business to business manufacturer neglect social media. Your future customers are there. You just have to allow them to find you.