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Antisocial Media

Think carefully about what one stands to gain and lose by posting to social media, says John Baker, Sales Director at Modulift.

Imagine a trade show of 100 exhibitors. Every stand is the same size and all the vendors' wares are broadly similar. Graphics boldly state above each booth that here exhibits the industry leading provider of X and the proud deliverers of the best customer service known to humankind. They're all pioneers, innovators, peerless, and incomparable. The colours of each exhibit are alike and the giveaways on the tabletops alter only in the type of generic stationery chosen to slap with a brand name and logo. And there are no actual products on show—only claims of mind-blowing performance in every application in which the kit has been used.

Consider then that each representative at every stand has a skew-whiff moral compass and the patter of a chocolate teapot salesperson. They're prepared to tell you anything about their product and service to get you to sign an order form; anyone who shows an interest or approaches a stall is accosted from four sides to prevent a quick escape. Those who do wrestle themselves free are barked at as they walk away:

"That's the biggest mistake you've ever made," they yell.

There are no boundaries at this expo; when visitors break the clutches of one company, their competitors swoop to offer the same thing, only better, cheaper, faster, and brighter, all backed by an implausibly good after-sales offering. Those unfortunate enough to have walked the aisles are befuddled and battle-scarred; they don't know whom to believe and can't see themselves building a lasting relationship with anyone. Needless to say, few will plan to attend the show again and will consider alternative solutions. All the vendors end the week without any leads beyond those who dropped business cards as a distraction before they made a run for it.

Rogue traders

Depending on the industry sector readers of this blog are from, the extent to which this hypothetical scenario resembles real life experiences will differ. Some trade events are better than others but none are this bad—I hope. So why then have certain social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, become akin to this shambolic scene, devoid of good business practice and astute marketing communications that informs target audiences? One wouldn't hijack a conversation in person nor would they want to be seen as repetitive, dull, or obnoxious when face-to-face with someone. So why behave so differently online?

Ponder the damage being done to a marketplace by suppliers who flood social feeds with meaningless drivel. Everyone loses if target audiences switch off their alerts or delete apps because they're sick of the bombardment. What's a purchasing decision maker to do if 50 companies claim to be the industry leading provider of big, yellow products? How are they to trust a vendor if they've introduced themselves by commenting on a competitor's post offering to undercut them or deliver it earlier? I would certainly be very nervous about working with someone prepared to resort to such strong-arm tactics.

On the flip side, there are opportunities for certain businesses to stand out. Anyone with a good reputation and a commitment to a cause or the long game can emerge as the leading solution provider everyone is trying to be, but going so wrongly about it. Take a step back and decide which camp you want to be in. Don't engage in a "tick-box" social media strategy where you honour a quota system by posting to a dozen platforms every day. Instead, find where an audience hangs out and address them professionally with quality, educational, thought-leading information. Constantly think about a target market's reaction to a post:

Will they be grateful and want to find out more, or block the person who posted it?

We constantly revisit our own marketing strategy to ensure we only post what our audience wants to receive. Sure, we make mistakes and sometimes it's trial and error; only by monitoring engagement levels can we see the kind of content that works. Needless to say, an advisory post about below-the-hook equipment gets more interaction than a tweet congratulating followers for working with the best spreader beam manufacturer in the world. Links to thought provoking articles and blogs are more readily clicked than those to a website's homepage. Firms who are prepared to give a sector information before they sell to it will score more points in the long-term.

Case in point

Case studies are a great way to demonstrate a company's capabilities but, just like social media, there is a right and a wrong way to do it. It's ok to direct a person from a social platform to an article on a website or in trade media, but the case to click has got to be compelling and the information worth it when they get there. Mislead someone once and they might not come back again. Concentrate on the solutions provided not brand names or irrelevant technical detail. Think about what the potential customer cares about. Might their peers be impacted by similar trends that led to a product being used? Be strategic in positioning a solution accordingly.

We talk about case studies a lot here at Modulift. I have contacts in the industry that are reluctant to share their success stories and others who are happy to shout from the rooftops every time they make a sale. As with much in life, it's about balance. I understand the reticence of some to reveal who their customers are, largely because of the unsporting behaviour of those mentioned above, but it's important to showcase success stories especially if a company is trying to get a footing in a new market.

Timing is important: obviously I wouldn't post a selfie on Instagram of me grinning, outside a potential client's facility along with their contact details, but if I had a trusted relationship with someone with a long history of using our equipment, I'd be comfortable in inviting them to comment in a press release, for example.

Does your social strategy need a rethink before it earns a retweet?

John Baker

Sales Director


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