5 Essential Social Media Tools for Manufacturers

With so many social media options available, the biggest challenge in starting a campaign is deciding which systems not to use. Most successful social media campaigns will be multichannel, but starting with too many platforms is overwhelming. For most companies it will work best to start with a small, focused campaign, and gradually grow to include new networks and technology. With that in mind, here are five tools I consider essential for a successful social media launch:

  1. Photo Sharing: A recent study by Architect magazine found that most architects begin the design process by searching images online to find inspiration. I consider a good online photo gallery the most important, and most overlooked, part of your online presence. The big players right now are Flickr and Picasa. Photos should be clearly named and tagged to enhance searchability.  
  2. Video Sharing: First the web was about linked documents; text. As bandwidth increased it became about graphics. Now the big thing is video; more importantly, it's mobile video. Estimates suggest over 200,000 new videos are posted on YouTube per day, and that number is growing. Installation videos, project case studies, and video product announcements are all great material for video. The goal should not be to create the next big viral video, but to provide useful, searchable video information.  
  3. Blog: A major contributor to improved SEO, a forum for getting your message out, and a place to demonstrate your industry expertise; a successful blog is all of these. The topic of your blog is essential; if  it feels like an advertisement or a collection of links and fluff, no one will subscribe. But pick a topic that gets to the core of your message, and provide content that helps your audience do their jobs better, and you can build a community that sees every update, reads them, comments, and comes to you for more information.
  4. E-newsletter: It may seem archaic given the range of media now available, but email is still one of the most widely used internet technology. Constant Contact estimates that 90% of internet users use email (personally, I wonder about that other 10%). As I've discussed before, creating a newsletter can be very simple; use the most popular posts from your blog, add in important news and upcoming events, and be sure to include links to the rest of your social media activities. Pick a regular update schedule and stick to it, and be a firm believer in opt-in marketing.
  5. Wikipedia: Have you searched for your product category on Wikipedia? Does the page exist? If so, is your product properly represented? Remember that anyone can edit Wikipedia, so add your information if it's not there. Play fair, though. Wikipedia's community of editors will zap you if you don't, and the backlash can be worse for your reputation than missing information would have been. Read Wikipedia's guidelines, and when in doubt ask the community for help.
Conspicuous by their absence from this list are all the major social networking platforms. These networks can be very powerful tools for developing customer relationships with your brand, but for most buliding product manufacturers and reps providing useful content will be more valuable and beneficial than building a list of friends. Once you have developed content, however, use these tools to spread your message across the net.

Which social media tools are most valuable for your company?