The manufacturing industry has been somewhat slow to accept social media as a marketing tool. This is largely because it can be difficult to see how social media plays into the larger business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategy. That, however, appears to be changing. Acccording to a Forrester Report released in March of 2011, 30 percent of global manufacturers intended to increase social media investments in 2012.

As global manufacturers increase their social media spending, the case for small- to mid-sized manufacturers to invest in social media grows stronger. The opportunities are particularly attractive in the contract and job shop manufacturing segments, which have traditionally relied on word-of-mouth marketing to win new business. I’d like to share three ways that manufacturers can start using social media today to improve their brand visibility and win more business.

  1.  Create a Blog to Tell Your Story

Blogs give manufacturers an opportunity to do more than just promote their brand. Blogs allow manufacturers to communicate with their customers and prospects using a richer form of media with longer-form stories. They’re also a great avenue for sharing company information and providing industry knowledge. Manufacturers can use blogs to announce major company milestones, such as getting ISO 9001 certification, as well as share general industry trends and news. By striking a balance between promoting a brand and sharing useful information, manufacturers can gain a thought leadership position that will help win customers later down the road.

  1.  Start a YouTube Channel to Enrich Content

YouTube can be a great tool that educates buyers while subtly marketing through video. With the dramatically decreased cost of video production, creating a decent quality video is affordable and relatively easy today. Manufactures should consider creating a YouTube video that provides a demonstration of products and processes, a tour of the factory, or showcases customer testimonials. Of course, the challenge is sticking to a video format that customers find relevant and engaging. As an example, one of my favorite YouTube videos produced by a manufacturer is this Carr Machine and Tool video. The video provides customers a walk-through of how their orders are handled while showing the company’s dedication to service.

  1.  Use LinkedIn to Help Fill the Sales Funnel

A final tool that I’d like to highlight here is LinkedIn. For manufacturers, getting the most out of LinkedIn requires more than just becoming a member of the social network. Manufacturers can use LinkedIn to prime to sales funnel by using their networks to gain access to sales prospects. Once you get a few hundred contacts, your typical network usually reaches in the millions. This network can be used to get an introduction to a potential sales contact – or at the very least to connect with someone that can help strategize on how to contact the prospect. LinkedIn can also be a great place to demonstrate industry expertise by participating in relevant community discussions. Answering a difficult question in a Q&A forum, for instance, could very well lead to an unexpected contract.

As the B2B community–and manufacturers–become more adept at using social media, the use cases and implications for social media in the manufacturing industry are sure to grow. If you have any suggestions on how else manufacturers might use social media please leave me a comment below.