Social Media – Finally Ready for Electronics Manufacturing?

Posted by Beth Dickinson, TFI Marketing Consultant

By now, the benefits of social media for B2C marketing are clear — fostering intense brand loyalty, gaining valuable customer insights, and generating buzz. But in B2B marketing, particularly for electronics manufacturers supporting brand-name customers, it’s been more of a puzzle. What does social media have to offer component distributors, solder-paste makers, and contract manufacturers? Read on — if you look beyond viral videos, Facebook contests, and celebrity Tweets, the answer is “plenty.”

Today companies as varied as Newark, Indium, Creation Technologies, and Brocade are using social media to expand their networks and influence, troubleshoot product and process issues, serve customers, recruit employees and partners, attract business, and support positive brand awareness.

Online communities have been highly successful social media channels in the electronics industry, with LinkedIn seeing an explosion of company profiles and professional groups (like IEEE). TFI’s recent study on electronic design engineers found that online communities serve an important role in helping engineers to source and evaluate components. Companies that foster these communities see a positive return. Component distributor Newark’s element14 is a case in point — since launching element14 in 2009, their site engagement (a key metric that can include user activity such as posts, replies, and time on site) increased 47%.

Solder-manufacturer Indium Corporation’s blog shows another way of establishing credibility and effective customer outreach. With experts blogging on an array of topics, they attract a wide range of potential customers to their website. As Indium Product Manager Tim Jensen says, “We have a lot of customized products for which there may be only 3 or 4 people seeking a particular configuration. Social media fosters different sets of information; so when a customer looks for a wacky application, they may find us. Without social networking tools, that customer would never come in contact with us.”

More companies are discovering that this type of targeted outreach holds greater potential for profitability than traditional marketing channels such as advertising and trade shows. Janelle Urchenko, Marketing and Special Projects Manager at mid-sized EMS Creation Technologies says, “We’re embracing the possibilities of building relationships through avenues like our Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, as well as the upcoming launch of our company blog.” She appreciates support from the top for this initiative: Creation’s CEO Arthur Tymos launched his own blog in early 2011.

B2B OEMs have seen this coming for a long time. Brocade hosts a robust social media site with successful Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, blogs, online forums and more. Senior Manager of Corporate Affairs Jeff Rangel says about Twitter alone, “…with thousands of followers on Twitter, it has been a valuable vehicle in sharing ideas and directing stakeholders to additional resources such as the company Blog, Facebook, and more.” He adds “As a suite of tools, social media platforms are a must do.”

This is not to say that you should ditch trade shows or any other traditional marketing channels completely. Most people we’ve talked to see social media as a great adjunct but not a full substitute for traditional marketing. And keep in mind if you’re fostering an open forum for discussion, you’ll need to invest in monitoring it.

Think about your audience — do they need a trustworthy forum for sharing issues and ideas (LinkedIn and other online communities)? Timely updates on urgent industry or product issues (Twitter)? A place to get empathy for industry issues (Twitter, Facebook, and online forums)?

What are your thoughts on social media for the electronics manufacturing industry? What do you think is effective and what not so effective? Post a comment.

Our Responses to “Social Media – Finally Ready for Electronics Manufacturing?” by Manncorp CEO Henry Mann

Henry Mann says:
December 6, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Since your incisive article did not touch on social media opportunities within the capital equipment segment of the electronic assembly industry, I’d like to point out what we at Manncorp have been doing. For 30 years, we’ve been a major marketer / manufacturer of surface mount assembly equipment. Over the past decade, the Internet has been our prime vehicle for providing information and quotations for pick and place machines, stencil printers, reflow ovens and related equipment. Sensing a new opportunity with the rise of social media, a year ago we added Penny Tang as Director of Social Media and Web Analytics to our marketing staff. She promptly expanded our reach on Facebook, Twitter, and product videos on YouTube. Thus far, results have been impressive – giving our sales and tech personnel opportunities to engage in dialogs with customers and prospects worldwide who require special applications, product information or after-the-sale support. These are openings for sales, product development and opinions that would probably never have arisen were it not for social media. Although your article was informative, without realizing it you underscored the fact that our industry which owes its existence to cutting edge products, has been painfully slow in adopting this newest discipline in communications. Could it be that our customers are younger, brighter and more enterprising than we, their suppliers? It certainly appears that way.

Beth Dickinson says:
December 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Kudos to Henry Mann and Penny Tang for having the foresight to jump into social media and for providing excellent examples of its successful use in the industry!

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