More than a decade ago, the American Journal of Business published a definition of emerging media, describing it as something that will a). Alter the influence of distance, b). Increase the volume and speed of communications, c). Enable interactive communications and d). Permit the merging of media forms.
Though the rapidly changing nature of emerging media can make it difficult to define, examples are easy to identify: Emerging media come built in to cell phones and are a part of daily Internet news communications. They can be video games, apps, marketing packages or multimedia platforms. They are social sharing or relationship building networks. We might even wear them now, on our heads (Google Glass) or wrists (Apple watch)
It is quite unusual to find companies these days that haven’t realized or are still struggling to understand the importance of emerging media to their overall marketing strategies, but they do exist…
Having held positions previously in industries where emerging media – social media in particular – were a high priority to the business at hand, it was initially hard for me to adapt several years ago to a manufacturing environment. The manufacturing industry has been notoriously known for lagging behind when it comes to using less traditional forms of media.
An article in Automation World in 2011 quoted a senior level global marketing manager for Cisco Systems as saying this about the manufacturing industry and social media: “They’re not using social media enough as a listening post or as a means to provide communications with plant operations.”
Then in 2013, a third party logistics company, Cerasis, found that while 80 percent of manufacturers at that point were using social media for marketing purposes, they still preferred outbound marketing methods, such as networking tradeshows and advertising. Additionally, research presented these findings about manufacturers:
- They use social media passively – reading and consuming content, instead of creating it.
- Some 60 percent read online discussions.
- About 30 percent actively participate in discussions.
- Only 7 percent actually initiate a conversation.
And then this about consumers:
- They make some 60 percent of their buying decisions by viewing content online before even contacting the supplier or manufacturer.
From the Public Relations Society of America in 2013, Donald Wright and Michelle Hinson claimed in a report that new media have changed the rules of the game in every part of strategic communication. Over the past decade these new communication vehicles have not only turned upside down everything people knew about communication but also have dramatically changed the business of managing relationships.
It is vitally important that the manufacturing industry recognize and find ways to implement strategies that involve new and emerging media, but to many, social media in particular is still a novelty. Some of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers online is finding and building a following with target audiences, and developing content that those audiences will find interesting.
Of course this is all more difficult with B2B marketing than B2C marketing, because the B2B community is smaller, typically already well-versed in the products they’re interested in buying and make purchase decisions based off of rationale as opposed to emotion. With B2B, relationship building and maintaining is of utmost importance to a strategy.
In the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report by social media guru Michael Stelzner, it was found that most marketers are using social media to develop loyal fans (72 percent) and gain marketplace intelligence (71 percent). Since 2013, marketers have had increased benefits to their business, where the largest increases were developing loyal fans, which increased to 72 percent from 65 percent in 2013, followed by increased sales, which jumped to 50 percent from 43 percent.
But How Is Emerging Media Improving the Industry?
When people think of manufacturing, they think of hard hats, heavy machinery, processing conveyor lines and safety vests, but the industry is so much more than this. Though manufacturers have been slow to adopt, emerging media IS having some effect on the way these industries operate, do business and communicate with their employees. Greater uses for emerging media can be had internally in manufacturing.
Many manufacturers are learning how to operate Business Intelligence (BI) systems by integrating their enterprise resource planning (ERP), supply chain and customer relationship management (CRM) applications. Some manufacturers currently using socially enabling technology applications include Ford, Coca-Cola and Harley Davidson.
For example, Automation World wrote that at Coca-Cola, the same phones used in offices have been deployed in warehouses with a voice-activated warehouse picking system used by forklift truck operators. The converged network used by these phones links them back to the company’s IT systems, integrated with the SAP ERP system.
Aside from internal benefits of emerging media, social media is more about the customer. For example, in 2000, Proctor & Gamble said that about 15 percent of its product ideas came from outside of the company. Since then, due to social media outreach and monitoring, that number has risen to 50 percent.
What Do Manufacturers Say?
Despite the facts and the obvious changing face of today’s marketing world, manufacturers still lag behind – either out of fear of the unknown, stubbornness to abandon old habits, or corporate politics – but are fast realizing the untapped potential of emerging media. For example, in the last two years, the manufacturing company I work for has, hesitantly, joined some social media channels to harness the power of those areas for relationship building and staff recruitment; implemented a CRM and a computer-connected phone system; and are in the beginning phases of updating the company’s ERP software. Likewise, robotics and 3D printing are playing a role in the manufacturing process on shop floors.
It was a long time coming, but emerging media is set to change the face of the manufacturing industry as a whole just as it is changing the world.
Several manufacturing communications industry experts from my company agreed that emerging media is changing the industry for the better. Here’s what they had to say.
- “Emerging media is changing the way manufacturing companies market product offerings and communicate information about those products. In the past, the only way to get product information out to prospective buyers was through printed literature. The internet has made getting that information out a little easier, but the prospective buyer had to go look for it. By using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, that information can be blasted out to groups without them having to sign up or opt-in to email distribution lists, which might inevitably be perceived as junk mail. Emerging media types like Twitter and Facebook are also viewed as less intrusive than the traditional email blast.” – Bryan Myl, Marketing
- “Not too many years ago, ‘effective two-way communication” was the gold standard for judging how well a manufacturing company – or any company for that matter – communicated with, and responded to, its internal and external audiences. Now this seems like a two-dimensional model. Like printing, communicating has exploded into three-dimensional reality driven by relationships that cannot be limited to linear planes or command-and-control lines. Now it’s all about social communities, transparency and authentic engagement. Your “brand” is what your audiences think and say about you – and it doesn’t always align with what corporate, PR or marketing espouses. Therein lies the challenge for professional communicators in manufacturing – how best to use today’s amazing and ever changing communication tools to help build and nurture the relationships essential to success.” – Myra Hunter, Senior Communications Specialist
- “Emerging media is changing the role of communications/sales personnel in the manufacturing industry because it is a facet of business that can no longer simply be ignored by those in heavy manufacturing. Going back only a few years, social media in particular was seen as an exclusively recreational activity by leadership in our industry. Now, as the line between work and play becomes increasingly blurred in regards to emerging media, thought leaders in heavy manufacturing are realizing that communications and sales personnel can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines. The potential benefits of participating in emerging media are too great, and not only that, our youngest generation of customers now expect it.” – Jordan Byrd, Marketing
- “Our company has been slow to embrace emerging media, but is now venturing into this wide new world with a news blog, social media and this summer, our first IP targeting campaign. A company known for 110 years for its “Golden Rule” business philosophy, we have built and maintained loyal relationships with our customers the “old fashioned” way – face-to-face. And that will always be important to us, but there is growing support for the use of new technologies and channels to help us reach and engage all our constituencies – internal and external – and we are seeing that across the industry. It is too soon to know the impact of these new technologies on our business, but I believe we will see, as others have, the usefulness of these strategies along with the tried and true.” – Joy Carter, Communications Manager
Do you see other positive changes or trends in the manufacturing industry where emerging media is concerned? Can you name some manufacturing companies already knocking social media out of the park?