As digital platforms and social media continue to expand and play a larger role in our everyday lives, establishing a presence for your business on social media is of the utmost importance. According to a report from Hootsuite and We Are Social, there are now over 3.5 billion active users of social media across the world. Larger platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram boast over 1 billion active users, but even smaller platforms like LinkedIn, Reddit, and Snapchat see hundreds of millions of users each month.
Manufacturing has been historically underrepresented on social media when compared to industries like electronics, software, fashion, and sports and entertainment. But things are starting to change. With YouTube stars like John Saunders from NYC CNC pushing industry awareness and education online, there has been a shift in manufacturing where more shops are “opening their doors” to the online community. Instagram in particular has quickly become a hotspot for machining-related content, with millions of interactions between fellow machinists each year.
So what does this all mean for your machine shop? Lots of opportunity.
Getting Started On Social Media
With all that is happening online, there is a lot of opportunity to grow your business, interact with new partners, and find new loyal customers on social media. The first step to success is establishing a strategy to carry out on social media.
The top social media platforms for machining have consistently been Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Instagram and Facebook are easy to get started with, and tie-in to each other across the Facebook network of apps, making them a natural starting point. From there, you will want to make sure to lock in your business name and select a handle.
I think social media is especially great for manufacturing because a lot of younger people don’t even know all this crazy cool stuff that is going on in the industry. It is awesome to share our work and try to inspire some of the younger generation to make their own products and participate in the world of manufacturing.
With billions of accounts, it may be hard to find an available handle, especially if your shop name is something more common. For example, a shop called “Production Machining” could not access the handle @ProductionMachining as it is already taken. In that case, you will want to play around with variations on the name. You could try @ProdMachining or @Production_Machining, which are both available. Once you register for an account and choose a handle, you will need to complete your profile with a logo image and business information. Now you can start posting!
Posting Relevant Content
Machining is a visual industry. Other users want to see complex parts, interesting tools or setups, and videos of tooling in the cut. This can be tricky when dealing with non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and proprietary programs, so you will always want to check with your customers before posting anything online.
If you have a good photo to post, make sure you have a catchy caption and make use of hashtags. Some of the most popular hashtags for the machining industry are #machining, #instamachinist, #cnc, and #machineshop. You will want to include these hashtags either in your caption, or in a comment below your photo. This tells a platform like Instagram to show your photo when people search for those hashtags, and also displays your photo to people who have similar interests on their feed. You can see an example of this below.
By using these relevant hashtags, you also help contribute to the conversation online between other machinists. You may inspire someone to try something new by posting a video of a part you are running, and by following these hashtags in the community. Or, you may find inspiration in others work to help improve your own shop’s efficiency.
Patience is Key in Social Media
Social media growth can start slow, as there is a great deal of competition for other user’s eyes, but it is all exponential. It may take you 6 months to get 100 followers, but only 3 months to hit 200 followers, and another month to get to 500. Patience will be key when starting out with social media.
If you continue to post consistently with interesting and engaging content, the followers will come. You may see blogs or videos that promise “magic” ways to get thousands of followers in one week, but these are typically false advertising. The best way to keep growing your followers is to engage with the community regularly through comments, both on your own posts and on others. You should also follow relevant accounts and engage with their users. Engaging with larger accounts, such as @harveytool, @helicaltools, or @micro_100, will allow more people to see your brand name and, in turn, give you a better chance at gaining relevance and new followers.
The key to engaging in the community is to post relevant comments or ask interesting questions. Some businesses will leave the same comment on hundreds of posts, asking people to come follow their account. This is bad practice and can lead to social media platforms ignoring your account as spam.
It is also recommended to try to post at least 4-5 times a week. Establishing a good cadence is extremely important, as these platforms are more likely to recommend your content if you are consistently uploading quality photos and videos. This also helps you stay top of mind and establishes your business as a thought leader in the online machining community.
When working with social media, it is important to not only focus on the “media” aspect, but also on the “social.” Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn are great places to grow your network and work together with partners to develop co-marketing and shared content. These partnerships can lead to more business opportunities and help contribute to the online machining community to promote industry awareness.
Outside of marketing, you may also find new partners through social media who can help expand your business by outsourcing difficult operations. One great example of this came from our customer interview with Yates Precision. Jake Yates, the founder of Yates Precision, found a partner in Colorado to help manufacture a handle for his line of safety razors through Instagram. This allowed him to expand faster and focus on the more complex parts in his shop while also supporting other small businesses.
Larger manufacturers and suppliers also enjoy engaging in the community. Helical likes to partner with end users to share their content on the Helical Solutions Instagram page. The Helical marketing team knows that sharing content is a great way to show off both the Helical tools and the end user’s shop and work. By generating more conversations with interesting media, Helical is able to quickly help more machinists and programmers with their questions.
By tagging brand accounts of tooling and accessories that you use, you may have a chance to show up on their pages, which is great exposure for your business and can result in many new followers interested in what you do.
Social media is a vitally important business tool that will open up your shop to a much wider network than you could generate on your own. By partnering with other companies and working with other like-minded business owners and machinists, you are guaranteed to learn something new while also actively marketing your shop’s capabilities.