Video Documentary

When Silvi Concrete set a production record of producing and placing 7000 cubic yards of concrete in just 12 hours, they had camera crews at their plants and on the site to document the job.  Now, when someone asks, "what can you do for me", they have a ready reply.  While it hasn't exactly gone viral, 1,000 views per month on YouTube is not bad.

Great use of YouTube by a building product manufacturer

YouTube is one of the top five most frequently visited websites; considering how many of the videos on Google and Facebook are hosted on YouTube, it's probably even more popular than the numbers suggest. More importantly, it has set the standard for online video sharing. Given its popularity, posting videos to YouTube can be a great means of drawing more traffic to your company's website.

Question is, how can building product manufacturers accomplish that? Products that are visually stunning or experience-focused can use finished project videos, and technically interesting materials can draw viewers using installation videos, but many products are too small or focused in their use to make either type of video engaging enough to go viral.

Staticworx demonstrates that you can create an engaging YouTube channel even for products that few people would otherwise be interested in. Staticworx provides static control flooring solutions; static is an increasingly important issue, especially in high-tech manufacturing, but few people would spend more than a few minutes considering the issue unless their job related directly to it.

Staticworx solution? Find a bunch of fun videos that use static electricity.

As I write the post, Staticworx has five original videos uploaded. These short videos - most are only about three minutes - have good production values, and clearly explain fundamental concepts ("What is Electro Static Discharge (ESD)?" and "Making Sense of ESD Standards", for example). These videos are great sales tools; after watching just one or two I feel very well informed about ESD, and, more importantly, would probably make Staticworx my first call if I needed more information.

In addition to these videos, the channel hosts a playlist called Fun with Static Electricity, featuring Mr. Bean, Mythbusters, Bill Nye, and several cats, dogs, and pranksters playing with static electricity. This is a great idea; I went to the site originally because I wanted to see the Static Electricity Cat video they tweeted about. Once I got there, it gave me a reason to stay and play, which then encouraged me to learn more about the company.

They also did a great job designing the channel. Graphically, they kept it simple; the color scheme matches the company website, black and yellow, and the avatar is a still from a recent video. The name of the channel is fun and interesting; usually I would recommend going with "The Staticworx Channel" to help strengthen brand presence, but this was a well chosen alternative.

I don't know if this will help draw additional search traffic, or if many laypeople searching for Mr. Bean videos would turn out to be purchasing ESD flooring, but it does make the channel a lot stickier. Professionals looking for information will spend more time on Staticworx's website, YouTube channel, and Twitter stream, which greatly increases their likelihood of making a purchase.

Good advice, in any language

Watch this:

This short video from Vodafone is remarkable for two reasons.

First, it's an excellent reminder to us all to be more aware of our computing environment. (As I type this I realize I've let myself slouch in my chair again. One moment please...that's better!) We as a species are still adapting to our sedentary lifestyle, and the stresses of sitting and computing all day can be very damaging to your body. Please take care of yourself: give your workstation an ergonomic upgrade, take regular breaks from your computer, stretch and move around, and stay well-hydrated.

In addition to the importance of the message is the way in which it is delivered. The video's title, descriptive text, and most of the comments are in Spanish, but the content is delivered so it transcends any language barrier. Using simple, clear animation they make a frequently confusing topic simple and universally accessible.

Social Media and the Paradox of Choice

On the way to work this morning I was listening to a 2008 episode of Radio Lab about choice. The lead story had Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, discussing that for most people decision-making capability drops sharply when they are confronted by more than seven options. Listening to him as I walked, I realized this could also explain one of the major obstacles to social media adoption: there are too many channels for businesses to make effective decisions about which to use. And if there are too many options for businesses, what is that doing to our customers?

The answer is not to limit choice, but to sharpen focus.
A new client recently asked me what I considered "essential social media" for a B2B company. Off the top of my head, I listed (in no particular order):
  • Blog
  • Twitter stream
  • Facebook fan page
  • LinkedIn profile for key executives and company
  • Email newsletter
  • YouTube channel
  • Online photo gallery
  • Website optimization
  • Wikipedia editing
  • Mobile landing page
...and then I paused to take a breath. Is it any wonder my client felt overwhelmed? Seeing the panic on his face, I considered the list and refocused. The first thing we did was narrow the list down by combining similar items:
  1. Website overhaul (which includes blog, mobile page, and SEO review)
  2. Online media gallery
  3. Social networking
  4. Email marketing
  5. Online brand monitoring
Suddenly we had a manageable list.  Sure, creating an "online media gallery strategy" takes more work than starting a YouTube channel, but it made it easier to see the full picture and start our next step: prioritizing.

We began with goal setting; what was the purpose of this online campaign? The client's experience showed that their existing sales network was very effective; the major needs were brand awareness, education, and maintaining customer loyalty. That suggested a single technology to me: email newsletters.

E-newsletters can be very effective at keeping your brand top-of-mind for both new prospects, who need education and awareness, and existing customers, who are reminded of past positive experiences. With the right set-up it is even easy to send multiple versions of your newsletter at once, each customized for a particular audience. Better yet, all of the other online options we discussed suddenly became part of a single project by contributing content to the newsletter, building awareness of it, and building a subscriber base.

It is also important to remember that no company can be successful in every social media venue, so it is always acceptable - encouraged even - to pick the few you want to focus on and ignore the rest. Redesigning the social media mix is fairly simple, so there is little opportunity cost involved. Still, this experience with my client was a good example of how asking the right questions and focusing on goals can change a seemingly impossible list of options into a single manageable project.

Remember the Convention?

Mark Kalin, FCSI, FAIA, CCS, SCIP, a leading specification writer, reminds us that good old-fashioned tradeshows are still an important part of your marketing mix.

"I don’t tweet, have instant messaging, nor a Facebook page. Visits to blogs are a rarity and if I could take a video with my phone, I wouldn’t know how to upload it to YouTube.

The best way for me to stay connected is to attend CSI Convention! My ‘human library’ is there to answer questions, and I can ‘feel the pulse’ of the industry.

The trade show was much reduced in size, but I’m using three products in current specs that I didn’t know about before the show. And old-fashioned me – I like to see people smile in person rather than on skype or a webinar.

We didn’t solve the problems in the economy, couldn’t completely abolish the 5-digit section numbers, nor find enough elbow room in the social at the pump house – but we saw and were seen, and I’ll be back next year! (It’s still the future that counts you know.)"

This is edited from Mark's article in the August 2010 issue of Fellows newsletter published by the College of Fellows of the Construction Specifications Institute.

"Be The One" uses QR codes to promote Gulf clean-up

As both an important environmental story and a creative use of social media technology, the "Be The One" effort deserves your attention. From their website:
In light of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, Women of the Storm is rallying to restore America’s Gulf coast now and for future generations. The “Be the One” effort intends to galvanize the nation around the cause of coastal restoration in order to demand that government leaders address this critical issue.
Considering one of their sponsors is YouTube I'm not surprised they're using social media well, but I was impressed by their use of QR codes to encourage people to sign their petition. Note the simple, but effective, customization.

In addition to QR codes on signs and billboards, they are offering a scannable t-shirt, taking the usual benefit of branded clothing a step farther. Now instead of just a passive, but mobile, poster, the shirt becomes a portable hyperlink to the site. Presumably, people who wear this shirt will wear it around similarly-minded groups, who would be highly likely to also sign the petition. In other words, imagine a couple of people show up wearing this at the next USGBC meeting. Talk about highly targeted marketing!

This is a great example of what's possible with QR codes: create a highly targeted landing page, put the code where it will have the most impact, and use some outside-the-box creativity. This could have a huge impact at trade shows, with your whole staff wearing scannable shirts as they're out networking. I want to see these in the product demo area at World of Concrete and the Concrete Decor Show; put one on the concrete artist your company is sponsoring, with the message, "Want to know more about the products I'm using? Scan my shirt!"

Please take a minute to check out the "Be The One" page and sign their petition. The Gulf oil spill is one of the environmental disasters of our age, and to be true to our ideals of sustainable design we must also clean the world outside our buildings.

State of Online Video

Exciting data on online video use, in an easy-to-understand format. Key facts:
  • Age 18-29 is still the top demographic, but 30-49 has caught up:19% to 17%!
  • 14% of net users have posted a video.
  • Social media sites narrowly edge out YouTube/Google in uploads.
  • Most common viewer has a college degree and earns over $75,000.
Check out the full image below:

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?

Content & Relationships: Which One Is The Egg?

The Chicken & Egg of a successful blog are Content and Relationships. Think of your blog as a local restaurant; do you go there every weekend because the food's great or because the staff is friendly and all your friends are there?

Think of Cheers.

The "everybody knows your name" effect is a huge part of social media success. Engagement has replaced ROI as the primary measurement of social media campaigns. As one speaker put it at DigiDay Social, "What's the value of a conversation?" The point is to maximize the time and ways your audience interacts with your brand. While this type of thinking lives mainly in the B2C marketing world, B2B companies are slowly figuring out that people can build relationships with their brands too. Big Ass Fans does a great job of this, with an engaging website and strong presence on Twitter and YouTube. They make ceiling fans - always an exciting topic - fun!

On the other hand, the food still needs to be good.Otherwise people will leave, and take their friends with them. Or, even worse, never come in at all. Fundamentally, useful content is why people view your page. Remember, though, that "useful content" can be defined many different ways. It could be educational, helpful, entertaining, or bizarre; all meet some need and are therefore useful. For most building product manufacturers, content is "useful" if it helps make the sale. For example, CalStar and Ceilings Plus provide LEED calculators, a useful tool for architects focused on sustainable design.

Ideally you will develop both content and relationships with your readers. The two feed off each other; consistently posting good content builds your relationship, and building your relationships, which means listening to your audience, helps you create better, more useful content. For manufacturers, however, content will almost always be more important. Architects have plenty of places to socialize; what they need from you is information that helps them design better buildings.

Social Media and Branding

How Firms Use Social Networking
Key findings from a survey of Society for Marketing Professional Services members (from design and contracting firms) found that:
  • Individuals who use social networking face confusion both about how to use the tools and how to measure success.
  • Respondents confused electronic social networking with going to conferences or other offline networking events.
  • Media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter were being used primarily for marketing individual professionals (62%), firms (50%), and employee recruitment (20%).
Significantly, the sponsors found that, “Our study is already out of date,” due to the rate of growth of social media.

The following example, cited by ENR, indicates that some in the construction industry have already made a significant commitment to social media. HOK is on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Delicious and VisualCV, and has four corporate communications staffers managing its social media sites plus 30 staff worldwide blogging on A spokesman for the firm says social media already has helped HOK win some business.

Paid vs Social Media

A major issue in planning your company's online marketing is whether to use paid media or social media. Most of the time the answer is a blend of the two, with the final proportions determined by the company's current needs.

Paid Media:

Paid media includes pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, banner ads, and sponsorships, to name a few. These vehicles are good for meeting immediate needs. Social media campaigns can take a comparatively long time to produce results, so projects that require quick turn around - such as boosting sales, testing new messages, and estimating consumer demand - benefit from paid media.

ROI: Paid media also creates a clear path for establishing return on investment (ROI). It is difficult to relate social media expenditures to eventual sales, but with paid programs you can determine exactly the cost per impression, conversion rates, and final cost per sale, making it much easier to evaluate the effectiveness of specific ads.

Message Evaluation: This process allows you to experiment to find the most effective message for each audience. Google's AdWords is a good tool for evaluating which keywords send the most traffic to your site. Ads can be refined and distributed quickly to stay abreast of the latest trends, ensuring your message is always fresh and up-to-date.

Social Media:

Social media includes forums, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and similar networks. They are good for creating relationships with your customers; social media marketing campaigns can take longer to show results, but once they are up and running new information can spread very quickly.

Community Building: Does a forum exist for your product category? If not, start one. Is there a notable blog discussing issues important to your company? If not, write one. Social media is great at creating a sense of belonging and involvement, especially when users get helpful information from the community.

Reputation Management: Social media's greatest benefit is as a listening device. Instant updates keep you informed what people are saying about your company, your products, and your industry.

Trends: What are architects looking for but not finding? What problems are contractors facing?

Relationship building is one of the most powerful tools in building product sales. In the final analysis, the reason to develop your online presence is because the A/E/C community is increasingly working online. They turn to Google and Wikipedia instead of product binders. Meet them where they are.