Defense industry CEOs who are new to social media, but who understand the financial benefits are becoming the most passionate advocates for its use.
Nearly every defense contractor CEO started their careers before social media had taken hold. As a result, for most defense industry executives, social media is one of the many things they've had to learn on the job.
Marketing has traditionally been a lower priority in the defense sector, and social media even less so.
But marketing is becoming more important to defense contractors for two reasons:
- Defense contractors are diversifying: to other government sectors, overseas and to commercial markets. Those diversification efforts require getting known and trusted beyond the comfortable confines of the defense sector.
- The field of marketing is going through tectonic changes which now makes it a viable option for defense contractors. In the past, marketing dealt with more expensive, interruptive tactics like advertising, direct mail and trade shows. Now, companies that need to market themselves (including defense contractors) can assume the role of a publisher and produce valuable content that draws prospects to them and increases awareness, preference and trust. This blog is an example of that approach.
Social media now plays a big role in helping companies market themselves. While "content is king" in the new world of marketing, social media is invaluable in getting the content distributed and shared. Social media expert Jay Baer says "Content is fire. Social media is gasoline."
So, defense contractors are taking the first steps in learning how best to use social media to achieve their business goals and make their numbers. And much of that interest in social media is coming from CEOs who are trying to lead their companies through a period of defense industry upheaval.
This video from Socialnomics author Erik Qualman helps to set the stage for the dramatic and permanent changes social media is bringing to the world at large and businesses in particular.
For most CEOs, business decisions are driven by facts and figures (that's a good thing). Here are some of the facts and figures on why defense contractor CEOs are getting serious about social media.
- Social media is here to stay. (See above video.)
- Internet users spend 25% of their time on social networking sites.
- There are a lot of prospective customers on social media. Facebook has over 1 billion (about half the total worldwide number of people on the Internet), Twitter 170 million, Google+ has 100 million.
- Social media can help your website get more traffic. A lot more traffic. If your website plays a role in your sales funnel, more traffic is a good thing.
- With more traffic, there are more opportunities to get more leads. And with more leads comes the opportunity to convert those leads into sales.
Since CEOs think and speak in numbers, here are some more that make social media appealing to them (courtesy of HubSpot).
- Companies that use Twitter average 200% more leads than those that don't.
- 65% of B2B companies have acquired a customer through LinkedIn.
- 42% of companies that market on Twitter have acquired a customer from it.
- 67% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from the companies they follow.
There are other social media benefits not as easily quantified, but of interest to CEOs as it relates to growing their business:
- Social media can help build relationships with prospects, your industry and the media.
- Social media can help provide stellar customer service. You can respond to positive and, more importantly, negative customer comments just like you would if you were answering the phone. And by publicly responding, you are able to demonstrate how you take care of your customers.
- Social media can help grow your reach and influence. Each follower and fan you have extends your access to more potential customers and brand advocates.
- Social media helps your company humanize your brand. People don't generally want to do business with a company as much as they do people whom they know, like and trust.
- Social media provides social proof. Taken from the field of psychology. The psych textbooks define social proof as "a phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect the correct behavior for a given situation." If you've ever seen a long line outside a restaurant about which you know nothing, that business will have more credibility to you because of the social proof of a long line.
- Social media promotes social sharing. Every time your content is shared via social media, it is like a vote for that content. The search engines take note and return higher results for your content because it has been shared. This social sharing also drives additional inbound links, increasing page rank and influencing organic SEO.
For just one example of a defense contractor CEO who has taken social media seriously, check out this post by David Meerman Scott about Raytheon's bold move into content marketing and social media. Raytheon's success would not have been possible without the support of its CEO. According to Corinne J. Kovalsky, Director, Digital & Social Media at Raytheon:
Bill Swanson, Raytheon's chairman and chief executive officer, let us build this team and there are some people within the organization who, perhaps, still question why a defense company is doing social media. Bill has thrown his support behind this young team and has been incredibly encouraging.
In summary, defense contractor CEOs know that social media is a powerful money-making tool. However, without content, social media is like a cannon with no cannonballs.