Many people consider social media as a set of tools for communicating with others and/or entertaining themselves and collaboration as a characteristic of business processes and workflows that allows employees to work together to be more efficient.
In reality though, both social media and collaboration can help employees communicate and share information, and thus work more efficiently. In addition, the success of any social media and collaboration initiative heavily depends on the tools used and the way they are integrated with the activities of the company.
Social media and collaboration are also not industry-specific, and they can bring advantages to any company mainly concerned with the satisfaction of its customers. This post analyzes the impact of social media and collaboration on manufacturing companies, an industry sector that is still very reluctant to adopt them. Several misconceptions account for this.
“Social media is not for serious companies”
At the Gartner Portals, Content & Collaboration Summit I attended recently, several analysts shared some personal experiences they had with companies seeking to understand how social media and collaboration can impact their business activities. Of interest, they mentioned that manufacturing companies tended to take a cautionary approach and think as follows:
• Social media is a form of entertainment, and our business is not to entertain customers.
• We don’t need social media, and our customers would not react well to such an initiative.
These statements are based on assumptions that are not necessarily true—e.g., consumers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) (toiletries, soaps, cosmetics, shaving products, detergents, and non-durables, such as batteries, paper products, and plastic goods, etc.) are interested not only in the quality of the product, but also in the buying experience of that product. They are also based on non-verified facts, such as the opinions of individuals—if you search the name of your company on Google, Facebook, or Twitter, you will probably find that people are already talking about your company.
“We already do collaboration”
As manufacturing companies need to manage complex processes, they have to find ways to enable individual employees and entire departments to work together. But this is usually done through a mix of rigid business processes introduced by management and informal habits created by people to compensate for missing or weak workflows.
Unfortunately, employees in manufacturing companies usually see collaboration as just another aspect of the job or a way to make one’s life easier—and not as a strategy and culture that benefits everyone (including business partners and customers).
Not Convinced Yet?
Let’s take a closer look at why social media and collaboration are important to medium and large manufacturers:
• Social media is not only a popular and widely used forum, but also a great source of information that can prove to be extremely valuable to manufacturing companies. From end-user communities to unstructured data that can be found on Twitter and Facebook, feedback can be gathered regarding the products and services companies provide. This feedback can be used for several purposes: improving the quality of the products, designing new products, enhancing the customer service experience, and staying current of changes in customers’ purchasing behavior.
• Collaboration can be the differentiator between a successful company and its lagging competitors. Extensive collaboration can empower a company to produce more innovative products, run the business with better processes, and make employees work more efficiently. A culture of ideas and information sharing, along with the right tools and processes in place, can enable employees to contribute to the enhancement of their activities, which can have a huge impact on the success of the organization. Collaboration may include partners, and even communities of users and customers (existing or potential).
Also, manufacturing companies can and should use both social media and collaboration—a very good example of the combination is the Procter & Gamble Connect + Develop innovation strategy, an initiative that gathers feedback and ideas from customers to create new products or improve existing ones.
Now that you know this, what do you do?
Medium and large manufacturers should take advantage of both collaboration and social media tools to improve the overall business performance of the company. But, as any major initiative, this should be done cautiously. Do not jump onto the bandwagon without first understanding what this initiative would mean to your company, and stay away from experts who promise you fabulous results over the short term.
Instead, start small—there is surely someone in your company who would like to get involved in a social media initiative. You could have this person try and see how such an initiative would work within your company. For collaboration, encourage informal relations between not only departments, but also your company and its business partners. And for both social media and collaboration, allow employees to use tools (which are free most of the time) to share information (with other employees), communicate with peers or customers, etc.
And if you fear that you’re going to lose control over what’s being said about your company, you should know that this has already happened, or it will happen soon—and there is nothing you can do about it! The idea is not to control people, but to give them the environment and the tools to work better as a team and contribute to the growth of your company.
If you’re a medium or large manufacturer, I’d like to know what you think. Take the short poll below.
I am new to this topic. Millions of small to large scale businesses are eager to have some sort of interface with social media. I am interested in understanding the new paradigm in business marketing if that is what all these is about!
well, it depends on the vision and goals of the company. strategies based on strategies and tactics get complicated and not easy to think of. but, overally, it’s right. Ok, usualy, small companies just started and promise big jobs are not always fake. again, usualy, it’s right about show off. but, again, it’s not always like that. the only way to know about it is just wait and see what happens if you do not believe in them. sometimes there is a miracle behind. we have some in the world. you know. right?
This doesn’t necessarily have to apply to mid-large companies. This is also a great way for smaller-mid sized companies to get exposure and connect with people they never thought possible. It’s also a fair-share space to put their names out their with the ‘heavy-hitters’ who would normally dominate their space.
Thank you all for your comments!
Since you’re new to the topic and you would like to know more, i suggest you use Twitter to get more familiar with social media and to get relevant information on this topic. My twitter username is ggheorghiu, and since you should not rely on one single source of information, you should follow other people and companies as well.
Yes, it does depends on the vision and the objectives of the company, but all companies have one main objective: to sell products and services. In order to do that, they need customers - if customers want them to send tweets instead of emails and create a facebook page instead of a webpage, companies have to do it. And manufacturing is no exception to the rule, as many people think.
You’re right - all this applies to small, medium and large manufacturing companies, but the larger the company, the stronger the resistence to social media initiatives (there are exceptions, but they only confirm the rule).
Small businesses are not rigid and can afford to try things out witout fearing failure.
I am of the opinion that the major corporations benefit more from social media than the small to medium corporations
Every enterprise, whether it is major or minor have one thing in common, Marketing. To begin with, most major corporations can not afford not to advertise on T.V., and if that is true; their motive for coming on T.V. Ad campaign is to reach the maximum audience possible.
The best forum to capture large televison audience is events such as the Super bowl, NBA, NFA, College sports, and golf to mention a few. Those are all social events. Without social events most big/major corporations would not be in existence today. For example, major corporation pays the average of $5 million for a 30 seconds commercial slot. Why spend so much? Those events bring together more than 20 million viewers at any particular minute during the games. So, a smart corporation pays so much in order to display her logo before a huge audience, and the dividends is priceless.
Finally, there is a marketing philosophy that holds till now, and would continue to be relivant for decades to me. Floyd Wickman says: Two things sells a product/service:
Concept #2 explain why social media is a strong marketing channel for all advertisers be it small or large corporations.
I strongly believe that social media is in fact the best marketing vehicle for serious corporations. People are always the object of advertisement, and you can only reach the maximum prospects through social media such as entertainment, music, sports, and shows. We need to encourage more of social media in my own opinion.
You need to seperate the conversation into Social for external customer and prospect collaboration and internal interaction among the people in your enterprise and your partners. There is a big differance in using social technology to acqie customers versus improving the performance of the organization.
At Vuuch we are focused on empowering the internal teams through social technology. Check out this post written in Design News http://www.designnews.com/blog/CAD_CAM_Corner/41117-Meet_The_More_Mature_Vuuch_4_5.php.