29 July 2021

As part of our ‘Marketing Masterclasses for Manufacturers’ webinar series, we’ve created this article: which delves deep into our network and our own team to help manufacturers master social media marketing, and to attract more customers and specifiers. 

The ‘How to win with Social Media’ marketing masterclass webinar was provided by NBS and features the wisdom of panel members, including Robin Cordy and Amy Wemyss from NBS, Andy Lambert from ContentCal and Keon Dadgostar from Ridgemount. Read on to find detailed answers to the key social questions that were covered during the session.

Why do manufacturers need a social media strategy? 

According to VISA, social media influences 25% of all online purchases – and it continues to grow in popularity. Google estimates that, in the last 12 months alone, the UK has moved forward five years as a digital economy. The pandemic has changed the way that we live and work forever, and social media has been a critical aspect of this. 

Social media is a key tool that manufacturers should consider utilising. Unlike traditional advertising in print magazines, social media marketing can deliver quantitative data on its effectiveness. For example, you can assign budgets and then see metrics such as views and engagement, and even track enquiries made – removing the guesswork on the effectiveness of advertisements. 

Specifiers are social media users as much as anyone else. While they might not make product decisions as lightly as consumers making purchase decisions when looking for a new pair of shoes, they are influenced by their social habits. By being present on social channels – and understanding where and how specifiers use social media – manufacturers can get their brand and products in front of the right people. Doing so increases their chances of being thought of when specifiers are finding products for their projects and specifications. 

Andy Lambert from ContentCal told us that approximately 44.8% of internet users use social networks as their primary channel for performing brand research (GWI, Q3 2020). 

To put this all simply, social media is now such an important (and still growing) part of B2B marketing activity that manufacturers simply cannot afford to miss out on having a strong social media presence. 

How can manufacturers create effective social media strategies? 

Firstly, manufacturers need to avoid the main pitfalls of social media: time and targeting. When poorly done, social media can be a ‘time sink’ that eats away at resources. Improper targeting also means that your social posts will fail to attract the audiences you want. 

With those concerns in mind, a manufacturer’s social strategy needs to consider how to make the best use of time and target the right customers. In our NBS webinar panel discussion, a method known as ‘the 6 Cs’, submitted by Keon at Ridgemount, shows what a content strategy should include:

  • Context: your social strategy should be formed around objectives and metrics, giving you focus and trackable goals. 
  • Content: your business needs content to create interest – from product guides and blog posts through to graphics and videos. Your social strategy must include a content plan that will appeal to your audiences.
  • Conversation: your strategy must accommodate ways to track and respond to comments; this can be as simple as manually checking or setting up automated notifications through social monitoring tools like Hootsuite. 
  • Campaign: create posts in a series that tells a story about your products or services.
  • Community: consider ways to create a community that you can own; for example, a specifier group within your brand’s Facebook page where they can ask questions. 
  • Channel: vary your content for each channel. What works on Twitter may not be effective on LinkedIn, etc. 

If you’re struggling for ideas on how to attract specifiers, use NBS’ Specification Marketing Cycle. This cycle shows how specifiers make decisions online, so you can use it for your social strategy. For example, when specifiers are at the ‘interest’ phase, do you have social content that satisfies their needs? Sound confusing? Download the Specification Marketing Cycle to learn more.

How can you build a community? 

Building communities via social media should be the core of your strategy. By building and owning the community, you establish a direct line with your customers. However, building these communities isn’t easy. 

Think of ways in which you can unify your customers into a community that they’ll value. For example, you can create a subgroup for attendees at any CPD training courses that you hold, or create a ‘product champion’ group for experts in your products. Is there a topic in which you can position your business as an authority that is relatable to your audience? 

How can you make posts engaging? 

Manufacturing and B2B marketing can sometimes feel like difficult topics to make engaging. However, even something as simple as a roof tile or brick can form the basis of good content if you make a post that achieves at least one of the goals below:

  • Educates: does your post educate an audience in some way? How valuable is the lesson being taught? 
  • Inspires: does your post inspire or stir emotion in the audience? 
  • Entertains: can your post serve as comedic relief, or be entertaining to your architect/ specifier audience? 

Remember, it’s not just about products. A post about fire-retardant roof tiles, for example, could instead focus on educating architects on design issues that increase fire risk – with the product being just one part of the solution. 

Where should you post? 

In terms of global users, Facebook and YouTube are the two top social platforms. YouTube continues to grow rapidly, and even for B2B audiences, video content remains a vital way to research brands and products. 

With the advent of YouTube shorts, manufacturers have more opportunities than ever to create short video content that doesn’t require much editing or even videography. If you’ve got a high-end smartphone, you can shoot high-quality video and put it on YouTube. 

Construction professionals largely favour LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for their work interests – with LinkedIn being the most popular in terms of social platforms on which you can market products; this preference is also held by architects. 

Manufacturers should consider having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn – with the main focus falling to LinkedIn to attract specifiers. 

What is most worth doing? 

While paid advertisement might bring in audiences faster, long-term social strategies will ultimately bring more potential traffic over the course of their lives. This must be supported by site content that adds value through the elements we discussed earlier: education, inspiration or entertainment. 

Paid efforts do not often achieve the same effect as pursuing a genuine long-term content strategy. While it may feel disheartening at first to see low engagement, all of our panellists agree that many ‘quick-win’ paid techniques fail to return on investment. For example, influencer marketing and paid reviews tend to look inauthentic and turn users away – especially informed users like architects, who can quickly spot ‘fake’ social media efforts.

A paid technique worth exploring is that of sponsored posts and paid ‘boosts’ that allow you to target specific audiences. When used alongside a strong organic content schedule, using these methods can help boost engagement, and draw more and new eyes to both the paid content and your other posts. Success can vary heavily – but many social platforms allow you to set specific budgets, and often estimate the size of the audience to help you make informed decisions. 

How can you tell if it's working? 

While marketers love data, manufacturers that are looking to increase their social media efforts need to concentrate on impact alongside numbers. Are more architects interacting with you? Are you getting more questions or queries about your products than usual? These are the metrics that truly matter – but don’t be disheartened if you’re not getting immediate results. 

Marketing agencies or freelancers often report on metrics such as views, engagements and clicks. These metrics may feel a little bit useless if you’re waiting for architects to get in touch, but they do help complement and inform the long-term thinking that we encouraged in the previous section. 

While paid posts often deliver instant ‘boosts’ to metrics such as impressions, the reality of social media is that it takes consistent, long-term effort to see results. As you build your audience, you’ll find that the best results come from engaged users who get consistent value from your content. 

What new social media changes do you need to know about? 

Twitter and LinkedIn recently released a newsletter function that allows users to opt in to your content. So while you might run your own email newsletter, this could be a good idea if you’re getting good engagement and have a strong audience on either of those platforms – giving you a way to get your message out beyond your email database.

Realistically, though, our panel members all agree that is hard to keep up with the rapidity of social media changes. So, instead, manufacturers should focus on doing the basics right – with a content and social strategy that understands who your audience is, how you can communicate with them and how much activity you expect to perform. 

Final tips for construction manufacturers 

  • Lead via USPs: provide insights into how your brand is different. For example, does the business do something unique? Do your products have advantages that others don't? Before you start creating your strategy, understand your unique selling points. 
  • Break it down: creating social strategies is intimidating – especially if you’re not experienced. Break it down into simple chunks: who do you want to see your posts, and what are their objectives? What are your key messages and tone? Finally, do you have a budget? 
  • Lean on relationships: whenever you can, use your friendships and partnerships on social media to help amplify your messages. Dulux, for example, tweeted about NBS Source – so we naturally shared that in our own network, widening the audience for Dulux’s post. 

Ultimately, social media marketing is a fantastic tool for manufacturers that can’t be ignored. If you’ve been putting off creating a consistent social media plan, now is the time. As more of the UK shifts towards social media as a research tool, the manufacturers who can embrace it will find themselves in front of more specifiers than ever.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, watch the full webinar How to Win with Social Media, and stay tuned for future NBS marketing masterclass webinars and articles – designed to help manufacturers just like you to win more business. Also, remember to download NBS’ Specification Marketing Cycle to learn more about how specifiers make product decisions for their construction projects.

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