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How to Build a Network with Social Media

Have you ever wondered how social media can help your organization or business? It may seem like a longshot, but in today’s digital world, building relationships often start with a social media plan, even in the most unlikely of situations. Our own experience started with an idea to post useful, reputable content on LinkedIn for manufacturing business owners. Over time, this turned into a private group that is now comprised of 8,000+ manufacturing professionals who learn from each other and are growing their businesses together. Our social media story may help inspire you to create your own group and build a following that changes lives.

Midwest Manufacturing Leaders (MML) Began One Connection at a Time

Over the years at Swip Systems, noticed our manufacturing clients seemed to lack convenient and reputable resources to help move the business forward and grow their top line. They were hungry for ways to improve efficiency, reduce rework, improve quality, increase margins, engage their workforce, and learn about the latest advancements in technology, but did not have the time to dedicate to national events, trips, and the types of traditional training and networking offered. We saw an opportunity to help our manufacturing friends and decided to implement a LinkedIn strategy.

We connected with specific manufacturers and shared content from reputable industry sources that we felt they would like to read. Our growing list of connections read and responded to the content we posted, and before long, there were so many followers, we decided to start a dedicated LinkedIn group – the Midwest Manufacturing Leaders group, or MML for short. This private area within LinkedIn kept the content in one place and made it easy for connections to get to know each other, ask questions, and share information.

As the group grew, we reached out through private messaging to build deeper connections, where we learned our contacts had a desire for this great group to physically convene to build relationships and learn. It quickly became clear that this was bigger than we ever anticipated – we were thrilled to be inspiring so many, but wanted to do more to bring everyone together in a time-sensitive and affordable way.

Midwest Manufacturing Leaders is focused on bringing valuable resources, expert content, best practices and networking to top manufacturing professionals in the Midwest.

Confident business people standing and discussing financial report in office

From a LinkedIn Group to Physical Events

This group was so enthusiastic about the valuable resources, useful content, industry best practices, and peer networking aspects of the LinkedIn group, the opportunity arose to turn it into a physical group, one that gave the group a “home” and allowed for actual in-person networking. We created the MML website and began scheduling early morning (7:15 a.m.) monthly and bi-monthly educational breakfasts with reputable speakers, networking, and a Q&A session.

As the MML breakfasts became more popular, we were thrilled other companies joined us to sponsor the events, and now we put them on the website via video for those not able to attend. We also post upcoming events on the website and social media channels and send invites via Eventbrite. This is a great example of all facets of technology coming together to make it easier to meet in person!

It’s been over 7 years now, the LinkedIN group is 8,000 members strong (and growing) within a 6-hour radius of St. Louis, and the events are typically attended by 120 members. As a company of engineers, this is our way of giving back to help manufacturers strengthen their businesses and ties to each other and their communities. None of this would’ve been possible without the power of social media.

Even though we are ‘technology guys and gals,’ we see the value in getting out of the digital world and into the real world.

Group of people networking

Start Your Own Social Media Group

Wondering how you can start a group or have the power of social media work for you? It may seem overwhelming, but it starts with a single step. Identify your audience and your goal for that audience. Then determine your social media channel – most B2B is done through LinkedIn. Once you choose a social media outlet that makes sense for you, create a private group and start connecting strategically.

  1. Connect with those you can truly help or have common goals with and explain to them why you’re connecting.
  2. Be responsive to those who do connect, ask questions, and comment. It’s important not to post something and then never respond to those who take the time to reach out to you.
  3. Post selective, reputable content that pertains to your audience – stay on-point.
  4. Reach out occasionally via instant message, through email, or other ways to get to know your group better. It may be that you reach out to 5 people a week to check-in, ask how you can better help them; if what you’re posting is valuable. It can strengthen your bond and improve your content.
  5. Occasionally, reassess your group, your goals, and if it warrants more, think about a website and other digital marketing mediums to help those who now look to you for guidance.

The Bottom Line

What we never envisioned in our efforts to strengthen the Midwest manufacturing community with a few posts and useful communication was the power of social media to bring this amazing group together. It started a movement that has helped over 8,000 manufacturers get out of the digital world (ironic!) and come together to grow.

Using social media and technology to connect and help others can take an idea to levels you never imagined. Start by taking that first step and watch it unfold. If you have any questions about this topic, the MML group, or how our Swip team may be able to help you, please feel free to contact us anytime, 877.377.SWIP. We’re here to help businesses grow!

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Tom Swip

Tom Swip has been developing and streamlining business processes for over 20 years. Tom's expertise lies in business process automation, software and application design and network infrastructure. In his spare time, Tom likes kayaking, mountain biking and other outdoor activities.

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