Social Media Is Not an Option
Getting started can be intimidating, but businesses ignore social media at their peril.
Maintaining a social media presence—even starting one—can be intimidating. How often to post? What platforms to use? What kind of content to create? It’s all manageable with the right preparation and attitude.
"The most important starting point is to do your research and have a strategy,” said digital marketing expert Steve Wiideman, who is based in Orange County, Calif., and strategizes social media initiatives with Fortune 500 companies and small startups.
In his work with engineering companies, Wiideman has seen the most engagement from LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, although short-form content on TikTok has gained traction recently. He also anticipates that TikTok, which is “blowing up right now, will play a greater role in the future of mechanical engineering and how we learn from each other.”
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Videos that explain an old way of doing things, and then show a new way that can save hours of work time—“life hack” videos—tend to get shared and saved the most. “This is where originality is so important, by creating something new and innovative,” Wiideman said. “Or put a fun spin on a problem in the industry that’s relatable and get a reaction video out of it. Those are really popular right now; people think they’re hilarious.”
The basics of posting
A good rule of thumb is to post a nice mix of material, such as impressive projects to show credibility, along with events, employee celebrations, and testimonials at least three times a week, according to Paul W. Soames, P.E., principal at New York City-based Ryan Soames Engineering DPC. Soames has seen the power of Instagram for visual engagement and branding.
"We can post one of our best projects and get four people who like it, and then one of us goes to Miami for a meeting and takes a random photograph with the sun in the background and it gets many more likes,” he said.
Relevant hashtags also are key. An obvious one is #mechanicalengineering, but look for others by following news trends, industry data, social media challenges, and discussion threads. Avoid personal attacks or sharing controversial content. And if a post seems to have caught on, consider boosting it for even more engagement.
To make sure your social media strategy is part of a wider, overall marketing strategy, use a spreadsheet to map out what type of content to post on specific dates. It helps to schedule a time to create that content. Investigate how others tackle this task.
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Wiideman noted that many top influencers rely on between one and three specific themes. Are they humorous? Relatable? Eager to share thoughts about life outside of work? “Start with what's working for the competition,” Wiideman said. “Why reinvent the wheel?”
The importance of SEO
Known as “SEO Steve,” Wiideman recommends doing a technical audit to make sure your target market will see, and hopefully respond to, what you’re putting your efforts behind. “You can create the most amazing content in the world,” he said, “but if search engines can't find it, what's the point?”
Use online social media auditing tools to analyze and optimize the performance of your social media activity. Ideally done at least annually, this will help identify the channels and type of content that tend to work best with those you want to reach. Free and subscription-based social media services help with audits, but one advantage to hiring an independent strategist is that you get an assessment of how your efforts align with every one of your goals instead of only a few high-level metrics, said Kathi Kruse, a social media strategist in Newport Beach, Calif.
To hire or not to hire?
Soames works with STN Creative, a boutique marketing agency in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., to make sure his firm stays relevant in the social media stratosphere. “If you create a fun space on social media, “then it encourages your employees to want to participate, sharing posts and tagging where they were, and they naturally become your brand ambassadors," said Shoana Terra-Nova, the agency’s owner.
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If you’re lucky, you may get swept up in a social media frenzy without any effort. Mechanical engineer Andrew (A.J.) Heiligman, president of Alternative Carbon Energy Systems in Honeoye Falls, N.Y., found this out months ago when a man posted a two-minute musing that began: “Why are they digging a giant hole in front of this new house?”
The man explained that while driving by, he decided to ask one of the workers what was going on, then got schooled in geothermal heating systems. The worker was so nice that the man gave the business—Heiligman’s business—a shout-out and recommendation. The post went viral, amassing more than 60,000 likes.
"We realized the power of social media, and why we need to amp up our presence,” said Heiligman, adding that he’s filling a new social media and marketing position by mid-September. “If we could convert just one percent of those likes locally into sales—holy cow.”
Robin Flanigan is an independent writer in Rochester, N.Y.