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CNC Machine Shops: How Engaged with Social Media Are You?

Engaging in social media can be an effective way for precision CNC machine shops to get the word out about their capabilities, culture and successes.
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I have a “like/hate” relationship with social media. I say “like” because there’s nothing I really “love” about it. And I dislike it because some people take advantage of the open channels to unfairly paint with a very broad brush, instigate and bully (my daughter has been on the receiving end of that last point). For these reasons, I don’t really engage with social media on a personal level outside of the random non-work-related tweet from my @pm_derek Twitter handle. I also don’t have personal Twitter or Facebook accounts.

Social media can, however, prove valuable in a business sense. Machine shops, for example, can leverage it to their advantage in a few ways, and data from sister publication Modern Machine Shop’s Top Shops benchmarking survey shows that the most successful U.S. shops are more apt to use and benefit from social media engagement.

I’ve watched all this play out since embarking on my career as a machining magazine editor nearly 17 years ago. Back then, many shops — but not all — had a website. In some cases, those websites were very basic, essentially consisting of a home page, contact page and page listing their equipment. Over time, shops’ websites became more informative and sophisticated, and some have added blogs to enable them to provide updated company information to site visitors. This might include newly purchased equipment, certifications attained, customer accolades, industry awards and so on.

In some cases, shops also have used their blogs to offer advice and guidance to their customers, such as design for manufacturability tips that demonstrate how they can help customers simplify part designs to simplify machining for lower overall production costs and faster turnaround time. Case studies describing ways a shop has helped a customer with a tough job or tight time frame also make for good blog fodder.

Social media, then, is the next logical step, and an increasing number of shops are now engaging with various channels. For example, Twitter enables frequent pushes to new information you have added to your website or blog, or articles from other websites that you think would be helpful to your followers. Clever use of hashtags is helpful, but less can be more in this respect. Twitter is also a good channel to let your shop’s personality shine through.

Let me know how you are using social media to help your shop.

LinkedIn is the leading social media channel for business. It’s a good platform to post articles showing your machining knowledge or offering industry opinions. It’s also better than Twitter in terms of spurring healthy interaction with and comments from your followers. In fact, our magazine is leveraging LinkedIn more to increase such interaction. A good example of this is a recent post on our @productionmachining page that lists questions a reader who manages a screw machine shop had about implementing lean manufacturing. Between this post from our magazine’s LinkedIn account and this push to it from my own account, we’ve received more than 11,000 views and garnered more than 30 comments.

What about video? Successful shops frequently open their doors to existing customers, prospective customers and the local community (for example, prospective new hires) to show off their capabilities and processes. Some also record video taken on their shop floor and post to YouTube for similar reasons. One shop I know hired an intern over the summer to take footage and edit the videos. I’ve even heard of a shop that partnered with Google Street View to let people take a digital tour of its facility. Virtual visits such as these are even more valuable today as COVID-19 concerns have caused shops to limit or even restrict visitors from entering their facilities.

For some shops, the popular Facebook serves as their “website” while offering the ability to tag others. I’ve heard from some shops that have found this platform beneficial in reaching young people and recruiting new talent, too.

Instagram is another option, although it is not as commonly used by machine shops. It does enable shops to show off photos and video of neat parts they’ve machined, new equipment added and more, using hashtags to draw people in. The most popular hashtag used by shops is #instamachinist.

The challenge is finding time to consistently engage with social media. That said, there are social media management platforms such as Hootsuite and Sendible to help with scheduling and monitoring posts.

So, if you’re a shop that hasn’t engaged with social media, why not? And if you are using social media, what platforms work best for you and how are you benefiting? Email me at dkorn@productionmachining.com to let me know.