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twitter… the next industrial revolution?

by Russ Cockburn

Digital communications are reaching all corners of society and Comms 2.0 needs to bridge the divide between old media and new. In the Black Country, Danks Cockburn PR are bridging that divide with traditional industry in an unlikely way.

When we talk about trailblazers in social media, manufacturers would not be the first group of people that spring readily to mind.

I would have agreed with this popular consensus 12 months ago when I stood in front of ten down to earth engineering directors and extolled the virtues of ‘twitter’, LinkedIn and, to a lesser degree, Facebook.

Now, even I knew this was a difficult pitch. Yet no one could have prepared me for the first response…’what the **** do we want with twatter’.

Cue unbridled laughter from a room full of cynics and an uneasy look from my business partner, who was desperately trying to motion me to move on as he knew we’d bitten off more than we could chew.

Right, so how do we get manufacturers on board? I searched desperately for the answer as more and more derogatory comments were thrown at me with the sort of accuracy that most of them use to produce components for the many global markets they serve.

‘For a start it’s free’ I blurted out…silence followed…’and I tell you what I’ll manage it for the first three months to get you started’. Tumbleweed turned into a few nodding heads and from there I knew I had them.

This group of unlikely users is the Midlands Assembly Network, a ten-strong collective of world class manufacturers who work together to share best practice and importantly win orders domestically and from across the globe.`

The heckler will, for the purpose of this blog, remain nameless but needless to say he now has his own twitter profile. 

So once the battle lines had been drawn, we set about establishing MAN on twitter, growing its followers organically and engaging in two-way conversation with interested parties. Some manufacturers and potential customers, others just individuals and companies who had been bitten by the social media bug.

We quickly integrated it into the media relations strategy and encouraged each member company to email us news snippets or updates on what they were up to each week.

Within six months we had passed 250 followers for MAN and importantly twitter had been responsible for 80% of traffic to the collective’s website.

So the cynics had started to become ambassadors and we encouraged firms to develop their own individual company profiles – at the last count 70% of the group are on board.

The following year has been nothing short of sensational. We are now on 740 followers, but that is just a minor statistic.

During that time we have disseminated important news and group achievements all over the world, we have engaged in market research and discovered new supply opportunities.

Barkley Plastics have taken a £25,000 tooling order direct from twitter and more than £500,000, yes I did write £500,000, of national and trade coverage has been secured through social media.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and I genuinely believe we are only just starting to see the full potential of what manufacturers can achieve.

However, the use of social media by this sector goes way beyond the tangible business benefits for MAN.

Being at the coalface of updates and coordinating interaction has given us firsthand experience of the birth of a vibrant new community, a community that is keen to inter-trade, help, educate and inform.

Social media – twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, whichever channel you choose – is helping promote manufacturing far wider than any conventional medium and will be crucial in engaging the engineers of the future.

So it may be the digital movers and shakers that come up with the ‘apps’ and the ‘buzzwords,’ but it is the traditional heavyweights that are using it best to boost their bottom line.

Russ Cockburn, Director of Danks Cockburn Public Relations



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