You Get What You Give: Chemical Manufacturers and Social Media

Before digging deep into trending patterns between chemical manufacturers and social media, I have to admit I thought I would come out close to empty handed.  I stumbled over this comment on an anonymous blog from 2011 covering this very topic that got me thinking: “One has to acknowledge the stance pharmaceutical companies have taken in regards to Facebook pages (long story short, they killed them all due to Facebook instigating policies allowing users to comment on those pages which caused problems for FDA regulations of drugs, etc.). For average Chemical Engineers working in a plant or a design firm, the one employee generally won’t announce via social media when new projects are announced (they are usually done through press releases by the company). From that perspective, I don’t foresee engineers (unless they are in business development) announcing via social media that Company X has received $X contract to design and construct Y Plant in Z location. This is actually quite interesting because the company I am working with now is actually planning on using social media for a number of advertising for their new products. I actually see smaller companies utilizing social media for advertising rather than big chemical companies or design firms.” Hats off to this blogger – he/she certainly represents a large groupthink that manufacturers in the chemical and healthcare industry fall victim to when it comes to presenting themselves in the social scene.  On the contrary, fellow blogger, according to Forrester’s “The Social Technographics of Business Buyers” report, 91% of B2B decision-makers are taking part in social media; 69% do so for business purposes.  Additionally, 55% have at least one social networking profile and 43% are active in creating social media content.  Boom!  Let’s look at the scope of things here.  Hopefully this segment will broaden the horizon a bit and (gently) force chemical manufacturers to become a little more comfortable with social surroundings. To develop and execute a successful plan, manufacturers need to understand there are different communities for different goals – customer service, new product announcements, listening/gathering, market feedback, building site traffic, SEO, education, and so on. There are three keys to a targeted approach: know why you are doing it, ensure you have the right metrics in place, and have the resources to handle it.  You certainly get what you give with social networking, so be sure to pay attention to that last one! BASF has a devoted social media team who shares the most compelling BASF stories and provides regional and topic-focused channels offering the possibility to contact BASF experts. They are definitely on top of their social game. Once you have a targeted approach in mind, there are five steps for manufacturers to follow who seek to implement a social media strategy:
  1. Listen: People trust their peers more than anything. Now, it is best to accept the bad with the good and use negative comments to turn a discussion around.  You want to provide value to conversation that facilitates sales but does not sell directly.  The key is to engage customers and be a valuable sounding board for them.
  2. Be Transparent: People join groups to share ideas and opinions – and honest ones at that. Customers want to hear from both executives and regular employees who have a unique point-of-view, not just the “brand” itself. This develops trust, and people trust people. Steer conversation about your brand all while allowing for individual personalities to key in.
  3. Dedicate to Relate: The influence that your company can have using social media tools should be given as much dedication and as many resources as any company priority. Your company’s reputation is on the line, so why wouldn’t you prioritize your strategy for social media?
  4. Be Flexible: Social media is a moving target, so ensure that you have the best communicators on your team to keep both your employees and your customers up to speed on the latest tactics.
  5. Get Started: Don’t let your company’s reputation be ruled by customer commentary alone! Connect your brand with your reputation and develop stronger ties with current customers to develop brand loyalty.
There is a complementing social outlet regardless of the size or scope of a manufacturer, and chemical firms are taking advantage. “We are dabbling in social media,” says Terri Fitzpatrick, vice president of communications at German chemical company LANXESS. “One thing we’re trying to do is to get younger people to study science and math – as these are our pool of future employees.” The company has used Twitter to post details of major speeches, and has a Facebook page that it updates regularly.  “We were spun out of Bayer five years ago,” says Fitzpatrick. “We’ve now hit maturity, and need to establish our own independence.” Source found here. Don’t have quite the same amount of marketing dollars as BASF and LANXESS?  Dow Chemical certainly has the budget for strategic advertising management, but they have stepped out from behind the brand to let the scientists speak for themselves.  “Our partners, or universities, or customers want to hear directly from scientists who are engaged in cutting edge research.  (Our) Scientists care about their place in the world and how they can contribute,” says Abby Klanecky, Director of Social and Digital Marketing for Dow. “This passion comes through when they are allowed their own voice in these conversations.  It builds immediate trust and a much more fruitful conversation – for everyone involved.” Sounds a lot like #2 above here… Other manufacturers have mastered social media by turning it into a source for innovation.  Evonik Industries is one of the largest producers of hydrogen peroxide in the world. It wanted to generate some new thinking about applications for hydrogen peroxide and so in addition to its usual expertise it turned to social media.  A number of applications were suggested that the company would not have received otherwise, and they included such ideas as a formula for gold recovery, as an agent to remove mildew stains from walls, and a fuel for DIY helicopters. All of this goes to show that by dabbling in a strategic social media plan, a manufacturer has the opportunity to become a thought-leader by creating content that is useful to a direct audience. Prepare white papers, case studies, tip sheets, how-to videos, join industry groups – host a webinar!  All of these opportunities are at your fingertips, literally. Also, don’t forget about your family here at CIS. We want to see our partners succeed in all aspects of business and are here to help.  Manufacturers and purchasers may now advertise in front of a valued audience at a very low cost using our featured ChemInfo Classifieds. More specific tips and insight for manufacturers on social media may be found in this article.

One thought on “You Get What You Give: Chemical Manufacturers and Social Media

  1. Thanks Kelli.Its an interesting read. I stumbled upon your article via Google with an attempt to find application of Social Media in Chemical Industries. It helped me build certain content for it.
    Thanks & Regards,
    Vishal

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