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How Defense Contractors Can Win At Social Media Marketing

Have you been thinking about ramping up your aerospace & defense firm's social media but are still trying to get your arms around it? Here’s how to get started. And succeed.

Defense Contractor Social Media

photo credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc

Social media is one of the most significant communications advancements since the invention of the printing press. It is changing the way people communicate, do research and make decisions. It is changing long-established industries, institutions and even governments. Social media is not going away.

In his latest video, Socialnomics author Eric Qualman affirms the ubiquity and permanency of social media:


Not surprisingly, social media is the #1 marketing tactic used by B2B companies as reported in the 2014 B2B Content Marketing Trends-North America study from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs:

B2B Content Marketing Usage 2014

The defense industry, which has been slower to adopt the use of social media is even warming up to it. In the first-ever study of defense industry social media use by DefenceIQ, defense contractors listed the following benefits of using social media for their companies:

benefits of social media for defense contractors


And the majority of defense contractors are planning to increase their social media efforts:


DefenceIQ Social Media Study Figure 13

Yet despite the interest and desirability of using social media, there are still many aerospace and defense contractors not using social media effectively.

From my experience with defense contractors, the reasons many have not embraced social media fall into three main categories:

  1. They don't know how to get started
  2. They aren’t sure what to do once they’ve set up some social media accounts
  3. They aren’t sure if it’s worth the effort (ROI)

All are valid concerns and issues. Here's how to wrap your arms around them:

Have a plan. Start developing your social media marketing plan after you have a firm understanding of your company’s revenue goals. Once you have the revenue goals, work backwards to sales goals, lead to conversion ratios, etc. After you have specific lead generation goals for marketing, only then should you start thinking about how social media can help. The primary purpose of social media marketing is to help close sales. That is done by helping to make connections with prospects, bring them to your site and capture a lead. Secondarily, social media should be used to reinforce the relationship you have with your existing customers. Social media is also important to defense contractors in recruiting younger talent, an issue for the industry.

Research your buyer persona. Start backwards from when a sale is made and list the different people (if more than one) who are researching, evaluating and making a decision on buying your product. What prompts them to start looking for a solution like yours? How do they evaluate their options, what are the barriers to buying from you? How do they ultimately decide to buy? Adele Revella's "5 Rings of Buying Insight™ for Buyer Personas" is a very solid framework for researching your buyer personas.

Create content. Publish helpful content for those different buyer personas at each step of the purchase research phase. Think about every question you and your team receive while a prospect is evaluating your product or service. Post the answers on your blog and put more in-depth content (such as eBooks, buyer guides, tip sheets, recorded webinars) behind landing pages to capture their contact information.

Put someone in charge. Assign an employee the responsibility for managing your company’s social media. Task them with staying abreast of the latest developments in social media marketing. Evaluate their performance against specific lead generation goals. Don’t give the responsibility to an already overburdened employee, either. If you do, your social media will stall out.

Pick the right watering holes. One challenge for defense contractors ramping up their social media efforts is figuring out which social media networks to use. Go back to your buyer personas and determine which ones they use. Pick a few of the top ones and have a meaningful and effective presence. It’s better to be on just a few social media platforms and excel than to do a mediocre job on several.

Listen and respond. Social media is not a one-way broadcast channel like so many other information distribution pipelines where defense contractors are accustomed to pushing out their messages. Your customers and prospects will offer feedback and suggestions that can be illuminating and profitable. Also, watch what your competitors are doing to get insights in their social media strategy and their overall business strategy.

Be helpful. Share information on social media for which your buyer personas would say “thank you.” Share your own content that is tailored to your buyer personas. But you should share even more information that isn’t yours. This is helpful, but it also positions you as a resource and an expert. This doesn’t mean that you should not occasionally invite your social media followers back to your site to download helpful content. You can and should do that once your followers know, like and trust you.

Be consistent and give it time. Content marketing and social media marketing should be seen as a marathon, not a one-time javelin throw. The social media world is strewn with the detritus of company blogs and social media that were set up amidst great enthusiasm and hope only to be neglected when results didn’t occur almost immediately.

Measure. No amount of traffic from social networks means anything unless a portion of that traffic converts into customers and clients. Once you start to measure the results of your social media marketing, you can “lift and shift fires” and do more of what’s working and less of what’s not working to generate leads, sales and happy customers.

The Principal and Founder of Artillery, Douglas Burdett is a former artillery officer and Madison Avenue ad man. He also hosts The Marketing Book Podcast, where he interviews authors every week about the latest in modern marketing and sales.

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