As the director of new product development, Phil Paranicas is responsible for creating new products and services that support the ThomasNet’s mission to help bring buyers together with sellers. His team is focused on innovating Internet-based solutions to address real-life business challenges. Mr. Paranicas brings twenty-plus years of expertise in both traditional and online B2B marketing, quality management, and communications. Prior to his current role, Mr. Paranicas spearheaded ThomasNet’s digital media team, which develops effective social media, SEO, and email marketing programs for the manufacturing community. Before joining ThomasNet, Mr. Paranicas was president of a leading digital marketing agency, specializing in website design, SEO and social media.
Modern Pumping Today: When most people think of social media, they don’t associate it with business-to-business uses. How would you emphasize its benefits for people who are more familiar with using trade shows to make connections?

Phil Paranicas: Social media is for socializing. Many B2B marketers are still avoiding a social strategy wondering, “When business customers do participate, how can you tell if it works?” OK, let’s put this excuse to rest once and for all.
When you go to a tradeshow and strike up a conversation with a prospect or attend a seminar or interact with any professional group, how do you know that it produces business? Just because you can’t instantly chalk up a sale or even say you gave them some company literature or got a business card doesn’t mean you didn’t make an impression that will pay off.
MPT: So there’s already an audience for B2B social media?

Phil Paranicas: The numbers back this up. According to a recent Thomas Industrial Purchasing Barometer (IPB) study, exactly one quarter (25 percent) of industrial buyers turn to the professional networking site LinkedIn when sourcing industrial products and services. In addition, 11.8 percent find market-specific forums to be useful resources. One buyer says, “Social media has made it easier to see more about the services and tools available and helps us make our purchases.” Nearly half (46 percent) of buyers who responded advise potential suppliers looking to gain new business to use LinkedIn, while 39 percent would recommend using forums. Matt Eggemeyer, vice president and COO for Keats Manufacturing—which produces precision metal parts—puts it this way, “This is where new generations are going; if you’re not there, you won’t be seen.”
MPT: From a manager’s standpoint, a social media strategy could conceivably yield high return on minimal investment. How can you turn that potential into real results?
Phil Paranicas: What an effective social media program does take, however, is commitment. Especially in the manufacturing space where there are some unique challenges. Namely, you’re engaging very intelligent engineers and technologists who only respect those who deliver useful expertise. That’s why whoever creates your content and becomes your social media representative has to be someone who is deep into your industry and products and who can contribute to the conversation with specific, knowledgeable information. In addition to qualified content, the other must-have is frequency. It’s important that you have a social media calendar–just like you would develop a media calendar for paid media or an editorial calendar for public relations.
MPT: Does this mean rethinking how companies build their marketing team?
Phil Paranicas: Companies that may not have the in-house expert prepared to commit the time necessary to actively participate in social media conversations can tap outside resources to get the job done professionally and effectively. In fact, manufacturers that don’t have the internal bandwidth and expertise to give their social media the care and feeding it needs are turning to marketing partners like ThomasNet to develop their social media strategy, set up the appropriate social media accounts and company pages, and provide expert commentators to participate in conversations and create blogs on a weekly or monthly basis.
The investment is worth it and the cost is relatively affordable. Especially when compared to big ticket marketing initiatives like trade shows. ■
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