Are you ready for the true digital natives?

April 20, 2016

By Rachel Kerstetter, PR Architect, Sonnhalter

The Millennial generation has been a hot topic for managers and marketers for many years now; in fact you used to call us Generation Y. Not everyone agrees on the exact years for each generation, but it’s generally accepted that Millennials are those born between 1980 and sometime between 1998 and 2000. Generation Z is the next upcoming generation with birth years in the 1990s through 2010. Predictions are already being made about the generation of kids born after 2010 as well!

People used to call Millennials “digital natives” due to our comfort using the internet and technology in general. But the generation after is what I would consider truly digital natives.

Millennial Technology Experience

Take me as an example. I’m a member of the Millennial generation and I can trace the growth of technology through my formative years. I recall changing the channel on the television using a dial and improving the picture on the tube TV by repositioning bunny ears. I used DOS and the first laptop computer I ever touched had a black and white screen. I looked up phone numbers in the phonebook and had to take typing classes in school. But we also caught on as technology advanced by leaps and bounds. I think that’s part of why the Millennial generation is so quick to learn – we had to adapt quickly.

Generation Z Technology Experience

The next generation that communicators should be preparing for is Generation Z. Those who knew how to use a mobile phone before they could sit in the front seat of a car. Those who stream music, TV and movies as the norm and consider DVDs to be “old” technology and don’t know what the “Save” icon really is.

The need for visual and video content is apparent now, but this generation will consume content differently and we need to be talking to them the way that they want to be talked to. Now more than ever, people have more control over the messages that reach them.

Everything travels fast, which enhances the need for real-time marketing and virtual communication. In our B2B space, we’re often protected and can learn from the mistakes and triumphs of others because we don’t start talking to this generation until they enter the workforce, so pay attention now. Watch the consumer brands that communicate to a younger demographic. You’ll notice an increase in visual, real-time communication, but don’t think that means your brand needs to get on SnapChat or Instagram to communicate with the new generation.

Infographic via Fluent

Infographic via Fluent

Video

By and far, mobile, visual, app-based social media is being used for interpersonal communication among peers. Instead, this group is turning to video on YouTube as well as on Facebook. This is an area where you should be upping your game now. Video is such a valuable content marketing tool for your brand as it is. Refresh yourself on 6 Tips For Using Video To Tell Your Story and make sure you’re working video content into your integrated marketing plans.

Live Conversations

It may seem strange to bring up live conversations when talking about a digitally native generation, but technology makes live conversations even easier. Livestreaming, video chatting and other services facilitate an in-person conversation without actually being in person. Check out our recommendations for using livestreaming.

Start Now

Don’t let the next generation of your B2B audience sneak up on you. Take the lessons you’ve learned from communicating with tech-savvy Millennials and the observations that you make on communications with digital natives in Generation Z and implement them in your marketing communication plans today.


Passion Isn’t the Problem

March 2, 2016

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

I recently listened to a report on NPR about how big companies are analyzing their social media followers to make sure they’re “passionate” enough. It’s not enough for these brands anymore to just rack up followers; they need to re-tweet, blog and be engaged enough to matter.

In manufacturing, the opposite could very easily be said. There’s no shortage of passion, but social media numbers and avenues continue to be a struggle.

Passion side of the argument, the case is easy to make. There simply aren’t people more passionate about their work than skilled craftsmen. It’s part of what makes that jump from simply doing a job, to doing a job right so distinct. And look at the time and effort the average tradesman puts into sharing knowledge with others and the next generation, it’s unmatched in any other field. Lastly, look at the brand loyalty and rivalries that do exist in our industry. The passion generated by Ford/Chevy, Lincoln/Miller, Deere/Case IH, Snap-On/Mac/Matco and a hundred other make Coke/Pepsi look like a kindergarten sandbox dispute.

So how can you use that passion to improve your social media numbers?

  • Be on the Right Channel – Facebook can allow for a more direct line of access, but it can also be demographically wrong. Twitter allows for quick hits of info, but requires more monitoring. LinkedIn is great for professional development, but has a structure that takes some getting used to. You don’t need to have all your eggs in one basket, but you should prioritize your message and messaging.
  • It’s Not All Rah Rah – If you’re only going on social media to talk about the latest products and re-post press releases, stop now. Be a source for more than just self-promotion.
  • Know What Your Audience Wants to be Doing – What do your customers do when they’re not working? Share stories about that every once and a while, so you become a resource.
  • Share the Bigger Picture – Community outreach, training and other industry rather than company issues should be a regular feature of your feed.
  • Don’t Read the Comments, Except When You Do – Part of the passionate rivalries I mentioned above seems to be following the brand you DON’T like, just to constantly comment on how much you don’t like it. Don’t give those comments the time of day (or attention their posters want). However, social media can be an excellent point of contact for legitimate customer issues. Act on those, and quickly.

Social Media As a Profit Center

January 26, 2016

Today, we have guest post from Jeff Guritza, a marketing professional in the power tools accessories industry, on the incorporation of social media in a company’s business plan.

1284_5052019We’ve all heard the term “social media,” and you may have even been afraid to ask, “What the heck is that?!” Regardless of your awareness level, you shouldn’t be asking yourself if your business should be engaged in social media. You should be asking yourself how.

Practically overnight, social media has become a cultural phenomenon. Simply stated, social media is defined as people going online to find, read or share content that interests them. Commonly used platforms are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just a personal platform that millennials use during their free time. Increasingly, people of all ages and nationalities jump online 24/7 for practically everything: researching gift ideas, sharing photos, reviewing products or getting directions

Social media is not a fad that will fade in time. Like your morning cup of coffee, it’s here to stay.

Social media transcends personal opinions, pastimes and hobbies. Its vast influence is felt in industries both large and small, near and far. Baby Boomers are embracing social media in droves, looking to communicate with grandkids and reconnect with friends. Whether you like it, people right now are vetting your business based upon content they find about you online.

To help guide you, here’s three smart steps to follow when looking to jumpstart your company’s social media engagement.

1. Social Media Lite: First, realize in this day and age you absolutely must have a social media presence. At a bare minimum, your company should set up accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. To do so, find your most tech- savvy associate and have him or her get online with a logo, some pictures, key contact information, company facts and reasons for being (think elevator pitch.)

This first step is non-negotiable and must be done ASAP. If you don’t have capable internal resources, it is worth the investment to have an outside vendor handle this on your behalf. Just ensure they share all account info (user names and passwords) to enable you to self-manage your accounts in perpetuity. This step isn’t expensive, complicated or even time-intensive. People are already forming opinions about your organization and likely sharing them online. As any PR counselor will tell you, it’s important to control the message, and having a social media presence is a way to accomplish this. This first step truly is the baseline cost of doing business today.

2. Define Your Brand: Step two focuses on building online content within the framework established in step one so that you’re engaging social media in a timely and purposeful way. From new product launches and success stories, to employee service anniversaries and customer awards, there’s plenty of content that industrial businesses can post.

And you should post. Many of your stakeholders find value in the content shared. Social media is a powerful new channel-to-market primed for you to get your business noticed in a positive way. And with step two, you’ve now taken what was a simple online presence and launched a bonafide program.

A valuable byproduct of this second step is tangible ROI. Like most online efforts, you’ll be able to track and quantify all activity (number of visitors, page “likes”, etc.) This is powerful data to capture and analyze to help guide strategic planning. It’s good to know what your target audience and stakeholders think about you and your company, warts and all.

With step two complete, you’ve effectively created an online measurable forum for people (customers, vendors, former employees, etc.) to engage with your organization on a personal, yet professional, level where they can provide feedback, ask for technical support and provide critiques that ultimately reflects how your company (brand, associates, policies, service levels, prices) is perceived by the market.

3. Establish A Process: (a rare final step today within the industrial distribution realm) is creating a daily, strategic online content management system. This only happens when you commit a dedicated resource (FTE) to reinforce and grow your brand in meaningful ways each and every day via social media.

This final step follows a structured, formal daily process to engage your company’s online audience by posting content that positions your company as the best in breed. This includes content from your team on best practices, helpful hints and upcoming trade shows and events.

Great content is king. Post anything that you consider valuable. This includes how-to videos, conversion charts, technical specs, best practices, success stories, etc. The goal is consistent, quality content that is aligned with your brand’s promise.

Make no mistake. Companies that have embraced step three can directly attribute business success (leads, sales, VOC improvements, etc.) to the social media process. Therefore, social media is making them money.

With step three, your social media function is now part of the expected, daily workflow and has become an integral component of your overall, multi-faceted marketing plan.

All industrial businesses must be present online in some formal fashion or you risk being viewed as outdated or even irrelevant. It’s like choosing not to travel to an industry event you’ve attended for years or forgoing an annual display ad in a trade publication. You become conspicuous by your absence. Forgo social media, and you’ll be viewed differently.

A fully operational social media process at your organization will allow you to educate, engage and convert readers into leads. And you will close more business (direct sales) because of your social media program.

Keep in mind it’s not an overnight process; it’s brand-building. And like Rome, it wasn’t built in a day.

The granular nature of online audience segmentation allows surgical strikes to an audience of one, a concept previously unattainable with traditional media.

People do business with people. And social media is people. This isn’t a lifeless magazine ad or a direct mail postcard; social media is one person’s thoughts, opinions and perception of your business. In this manner, it affords you the chance to identify opportunities and seize upon them.

As the information age continues to advance at a seemingly ever-increasing pace, any perceived lack of presence online is to your company’s detriment. Do yourself a favor now and invest the time to establish a baseline social media profile for your business. It’ll help attract land and retain customers, vendors and employees. You’ll thank me later.

Jeff Guritza is an international sales and marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience working for both manufacturers and distributors within several industrial markets: power transmission, fluid power and power tool accessories. This post originally appeared on Industrial Distribution.


B2B Social Media Marketing: 5 Reasons Companies Skip Social Media And Why They’re Wrong

January 28, 2015

Today we have a guest post from Carli Evilsiver, Marketing Coordinator at WTWH Media.

Social media marketing is becoming common across all types of industries, but some B2B companies are still hesitant to jump on the social media bandwagon. B2B companies have many reasons for believing they should not be on social media, but they are misinformed. Keep reading to find out why.

Photo courtesy of Carli Evilsiver, WTWH Media

Photo courtesy of Carli Evilsiver, WTWH Media

I’m not sure how to do it: Companies might avoid social media because they do not understand it. They are sometimes intimidated by social media marketing because it is new, changes every day and can be difficult to create a strategy for social media.

Solution: Companies should research social media platforms, learn the basics and determine which platforms would be a good fit for their company. A common mistake is joining every platform. Not only is doing so a lot of work – as social media needs to be updated regularly – but the audience may not be there. Prospective manufacturing customers, for instance, probably are not on Instagram. Companies can also seek out social media training.

 

I don’t have time: Possibly the most common and valid reason a company isn’t on social media is the inability to devote time to another task. Social media marketing uses time and energy to set up and maintain.

Solution: Marketers who have too much to do and too little time should consider outsourcing their B2B social media marketing. Outsourcing social media is a great option for companies who want to be on social media but don’t know how to begin or don’t have enough time. By handing over the responsibilities to a professional social media manager, companies can rest assured that their social media channels will be updated daily in the correct format. An added benefit of outsourcing social media is the analysis and measurement that an experienced professional can provide.

 

There is no ROI: Any time resources are invested in a project, a boss will want to know what their Return On Investment is. It can be difficult to determine the effectiveness of social media marketing and unfortunately some companies think there is no ROI from social media.

Solution: Every social media strategy should include specific goals and a way to measure success. Tracking likes, follows and re-tweets is just the beginning. Other ways to measure success include website clicks, downloads and other measurable actions originating from social media.

 

Social Media is only for B2C: A common misconception is that social media marketing is effective only for companies marketing to the end-user. They might believe social media marketing is just for fun, creative and sexy industries, or that their clients aren’t on social media. Many B2B companies set up a LinkedIn and think the other social media platforms wouldn’t work for their company.

Solution: Marketers should recognize that if social media is used correctly it is effective for B2B. Success on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter requires companies to share interesting and relevant content. A mistake many companies make is sharing only promotional content. They should be engaging in conversations and sharing based on their audiences’ interests.

 

I don’t have anything to post: Another reason companies avoid setting up shop on social media is the worry they don’t have anything to say. Companies don’t always realize the amount of content they have already that could easily be shared on social media.

Solution: Companies should follow an 80/20 rule when posting on social media. Only 20% of content should be directly related to the company while 80% should be industry-related news. Social media is a great platform to promote a company’s brand, share blog posts or send out press releases. While marketers should take advantage of the opportunity to promote their company they need to remember that the audience will get bored of sales pitches. Try sharing a funny blog post or a great article about something going on in the industry. The re-tweets and likes received will expand reach and could lead to more followers.


Jerks are going to be jerks: Do’s and Don’ts for dealing with jerks online

December 4, 2014

Rachel Kerstetter, PR Engineer, Sonnhalter

Sometimes in life you encounter people who are jerks.

Via Mike Licht

Via Mike Licht

As children, we were often told to ignore the jerks. As adults we find ways to cope with the jerks we encounter throughout our days.

It’s a little more difficult for companies to deal with the jerks on social media. Unfortunately social media also provides jerks with a megaphone for their poor attitudes.

You can’t make everyone like you on social media, but you can take the high road when it comes to the social jerks who you encounter.

Don’t fire back at them.

If someone tweets nasty things at your company, don’t tweet nasty things back at them. It makes you look petty and like a jerk yourself.

Do fix legitimate problems.

People often use social media for customer service problems. If someone is having a problem that has them upset, they might come off as a jerk on social media. Publically respond that you would like to do what you can to fix their problem and ask for contact. For example, “We’re sorry to hear you’re having a delivery problem, please direct message us your email or phone number so we can find out more about your problem.” Or “We have been experiencing some issues with x, please call customer service at 800-xxx-xxx for an update.”

Don’t let jerks scare you away from using social media.

Often when we consult with a company who either refuses to join social media or has their channels locked down, it’s because they’re concerned about negativity on their social media channels. People will say what they want, if you let them say it on your channel you can be aware of it, try to fix it, or let your community come to your defense.

Do let the rest of your community support you.

Social media jerks (they are usually called “detractors”) tend to show themselves for who they are. Social community members are great at identifying the jerks out there and will sometimes shut them down for you by responding with their own positive tales. Definitely foster a positive social media community, it can work for your organization.

Don’t be a jerk yourself.

Whether this is on your personal or your company’s social media, do what you can to not be a jerk. If you have a problem with a product or service and choose to try to solve it on social media, do so in a human and respectful manner. It sets a great example for all around you.

Do report abusive users.

It is absolutely okay to report a social media account that is spamming or harassing your company. On a promoted tweet program for a client, one user took their hate for promoted tweets so far as to abuse our client’s account and claimed to report us for spam. (All social media ad programs that we run are in compliance with the platform’s policies and are in no way spam.) So we reported the user back for harassment. Make sure you read the terms before reporting a user so that you aren’t being a jerk. (By the way, if you don’t want to see a promoted tweet or post, click the dismiss button and Twitter won’t show it to you again.)


Social Media For Manufacturers

September 25, 2014

Rachel Kerstetter, PR Engineer

Awhile back, we presented a webinar on social media for industrial manufacturers. Many in our clients’ industries wonder if social media is worth their time, and we typically say yes.

Social media is a broad and sometimes intimidating part of marketing. To simplify it just a little, we focus on the four areas where we see manufacturers receiving the greatest value:

  • YouTube
  • SlideShare
  • LinkedIn
  • Blogs

To get the scoop, you can watch the webcast on YouTube and follow along on the slides below.

 

Webinar: Social Media In Manufacturing

Are you Having Trouble Getting the Staff on Board Supporting Social Media?

January 8, 2014

I think most marketers realize that social isn’t going away and they need to plan to incorporate it into their overall marketing strategy. Marketers also know that adding social means more work for their existing staffs.

One of the biggest issues is push back from others within the organization. While marketing may be in charge of social media, it doesn’t mean they have to carry the entire load. I recently read an article by Stephanie Shkolnik in Social Media Examiner that outlines suggestions on why to get employees involved. Here are some highlights:

  • Define the end goal – like any other initiative, we need to define objectives on what we’re trying to accomplish and how we are going to measure its success.
  • Create a task force – whether you’re a one-man band marketing department or have a big staff, you need to get others involved and they can and should come from other departments. Tap into sales, customer service, engineering, R&D and general management to be part of the process.
  • Develop a strategy – that will involve the whole company.
  • Be consistent – hold regular meetings with the team and track your progress.

If you get others involved and explain what the goal is, it will become easier to get others on board and share the responsibility.


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