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Social media marketing for security — Is the investment worth it?

Social media marketing for security — Is the investment worth it?
Social media has undoubtedly become a major platform for marketing; however, research shows that the security industry is a bit of an outlier when it comes to this trend. a&s reached out to several companies to hear about their perception of social media marketing and its effectiveness.

In 2014, the Security Industry Association (SIA) released a major study conducted by the Josh Gordon group designed to improve the marketing effectiveness of organizations selling products into the security market. The study, which surveyed 1,090 security managers, system integrators, and dealers/distributors, found although security buyers search and evaluate information on suppliers' websites, social media (with the exception of "professional" network LinkedIn) lags far behind trade magazines.

Among the key findings of this report was that despite the seemed importance of digital marketing, in practice, security industry customers still tend to rely on trade publications and shun social media. Among the reasons given in the report was that respondents from the security industry belong to a relatively older age group and that social media seems to be "too exposed" for an industry that deals with security and protecting assets.

Who uses social mediaIs social media marketing picking up?
The first question to our interviewees was if they feel there is wide-scale adoption of social media in the security industry. They all agreed that social media is not so popular and widespread adoption has been slow.

Despite these setbacks, the consensus is that social media marketing is likely to pick up speed and its adoption rates in the market will grow. Therefore companies establish a presence on social media to prepare for the future. "On balance, our experience currently favors traditional media. We have a great deal of positive experience with printed and electronic trade media. However, the demographic of our customers will inevitably change," said Alistair Enser, Global Sales Director at Vanderbilt Systems. "Social media seems likely to increase given the age of many social media users for whom the use of smartphones and online information is now second nature. It would be foolish to ignore the growing demand for social media and at Vanderbilt we have embraced it and for many of our employees it is second nature."

A similar view was voiced by Rachel Neiman, Director of Marketing Communications at BriefCam: "At this stage of the game, companies can still decide whether to engage in social media. But sharing is rapidly becoming the norm for getting information and soon it won't even be a question of 'are you in or are you out.' Everyone will be in. So, that is the reason for at least creating — and maintaining — a presence, even a minimal one, on social media."

Benefits of social media marketing
Social media marketing has huge potential. Unlike trade shows or magazines which require substantial investment and expenses, even small companies with limited resources can use it to reach big audiences around the world. Another advantage is that since it is digital, it is measurable much more than traditional media. Marketers can quickly gain insight into what really interests customers in far greater detail than magazines or trade shows.

Unlike trade shows or magazines which require substantial investment and expenses, even small companies with limited resources can use it to reach big audiences around the world. 

"The analytics provided by each platform provides an opportunity to see how many impressions, clicks, likes, and shares a post received," explained Kim Rahfaldt, Public Relations Manager at AMAG Technology. "Each time a post is shared, it receives more impressions. On social media I can see if people are engaging with our content, what type of content receives shares, and use that information to generate similar content to grow our community of followers and share our message."

First step: clear strategy
Choosing to go on social media in preparation for the future or because "everyone else is there" is risky. Without clear priorities and planning such a move will be a waste of resources. "The most important thing companies should do before entering into the social media world is to have a clear strategy. Think about what you would like to accomplish and then execute," said Therese Hume, Digital and Social Media Marketing Manager at Oncam Technologies. "There are many key values that social media delivers — ranging from increased traffic to your website, increased brand awareness, direct contact with your partners and customers, as well as real-time news and updates. However, the most important aspect is being involved in the conversation — that is, having a view or contributing to a discussion that serves to position you as a subject-matter expert or thought leader."

Who uses social media?
Security manufacturers have certainly been the first adopters of social media within the security industry. "More and more manufacturers are practicing content marketing methods by providing useful information on the company's websites and marketing the content via social media," explained Eric Olson, VP of Marketing at PureTech Systems. "Right behind the manufacturers, are the consultants and integrators, which are actively using social media, especially LinkedIn, to search out solutions and learn about the latest technology in an interactive fashion. End users are still at the beginning stages of recognizing the value of engaging in social media focused on security."

"More and more manufacturers are practicing content marketing methods by providing useful information on the company's websites and marketing the content via social media," explained Eric Olson, VP of Marketing at PureTech Systems.

Axis Communications is an example of a manufacturer that makes wide scale use of social media to directly reach partners and customers. "When it comes to discussing technologies and solutions, especially between end users and installers, we see most dialogue taking place on LinkedIn. Axis has a large presence on LinkedIn with our company page having over 34,000 followers and our Axis LinkedIn group over 2,000 members," described Lena Heden, PR Marketing Manager at Axis Communications. "We started our social media activities on YouTube in 2009 as videos are an ideal format to demonstrate what our products can do. While we see lots of video views on YouTube, engagement via the comment function on this social media platform remains quite limited. Social media channels (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook) are used, as well as other communication tools like e-mails, phone calls, and events, to promote our digital campaigns."

Axis also employs an out-reaching social media strategy, sharing content with its distributors and partners. Axis implements campaigns on third-party media websites, generating leads for regional sales teams. In addition, Axis also provides supporting materials to partners that they can use in their social media conversations to offer added value. These are for example, diagrams or a short video showing how to install a specific camera model.

Social media treePlatform of choice
With so many available platforms for social media and information sharing, it is important that companies focus on the ones that have the most relevance and impact for them.

"LinkedIn is the platform of choice for dealers and integrators. It is definitely where we have the most interaction," said Anna Boudinot, Content Manager for Hikvision USA. "Twitter is also valuable because it allows us to quickly disseminate short bursts of information — it's a place where people go to get news. Facebook is important simply because one third of the world’s population has a Facebook account! It's too significant to neglect. We've also found a lot of success using YouTube to share information about products, solutions, and the company itself. Sometimes the best way to tell a story, especially from the perspective of a video surveillance manufacturer, is through video."

However, the choice of the platform depends mostly on the target audience. "It really depends on the regions you are operating in," said Hume. "For example, the United States and Europe tend to focus on LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube, as these are the most used platforms. For other regions such as Turkey and Middle East, the focus is on Facebook, as 85 percent of the population use this platform every day to get their news and updates. It's important to be adaptable, but also to make sure that your messaging is clear and concise across all of these platforms."

LinkedIn was no doubt the platform of choice for our interviewees. "LinkedIn is by far the most effective social media platform," said PureTech's Olson. "LinkedIn's groups feature provides a wide array of forums to share latest product developments, discuss issues, and share learnings. LinkedIn has been successful for the security community because it provides a central platform to create engagement around the problem, versus a specific product. Members of the value chain (e.g., manufacturer, integration, distributor, consultant, end user) can now share their product capabilities, experiences, or problems within this platform."

Engagement is key
Engagement is the key term for social media marketing and it's "holy grail." It is the process of involving the readers in a conversation as opposed to turning social media into a broadcast channel where users only read content passively.

"It is important to listen to social media conversations and to then chime in by adding value to the discussion. Instead of speaking about products directly it is important to speak about challenges and problems and how they can be overcome or solved. This will often include a software partner and systems integrator. Social media conversations are never one-on-one. Many more will follow a conversation than post a comment. It is therefore important to invite others to join the discussion, bring in other viewpoints, and raise new questions," Axis' Heden suggested.

Despite its current low adoption rate in the security industry, it is safe to assume that it will pick up eventually. People rely on the Internet more and more as a source of information and social media is a natural complement to it. However, to be successful in this medium, companies need to choose the right platforms and also the right people to do the work. Being internet-savvy is not enough; social media marketers should also possess domain knowledge, without it their ability to meaningfully engage their audience will be low and their posts will be irrelevant and even damaging to the company.

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