Last May, Rexroth in the U. S. launched a social-media pilot project as a new way to reach out to our engineering and manufacturing customers. We believed that social media might give us a fresh way to present useful materials to new audiences that we weren’t reaching through more traditional means. What we didn’t know was whether engineers would use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or other social-media outlets. To be sure, it’s a generally skeptical audience; and when we launched the initiative, many companies allowed limited or no access to social-media sites during the workday.

One important decision was to not simply duplicate our Web site but, rather, augment it. YouTube, a central part of our strategy, gave us a good place to post videos online that customers, salespeople, and others could access anytime, anywhere. YouTube also has a simple, familiar interface and strong search engine that helps users find the right video fast.

To announce new videos, we decided — with some hesitation — on Twitter. Most of us view this as an outlet for celebrities to tweet about their breakfasts, and we simply weren’t sure whether a business audience would actively use Twitter. Once we got started, though, we were astonished by the vibrancy of the engineering and industry communities on Twitter. It’s become our engine of choice for communicating to a broad audience, from recent innovations and upcoming exhibitions to new technical references on our Web site.

Facebook, however, is the channel that ties it all together, offering engineers rich access to the latest videos, news, and product updates. We post a new video each Thursday and, since we started the Facebook program, we’ve experienced more than 11,000 video views on our YouTube channel. Sure, that’s nothing like the millions who watch humorous music videos. But it’s more exposure than we anticipated and a great place to see the latest drive, motion, and control technologies in settings like wind turbines, regenerative braking systems, and solar-thermal power plants.

One key to success, as with most things in life, is being persistent. Stop posting new content and social-media audiences will soon disappear. That doesn’t mean being logged in to Facebook all day long; but it does require a strategy for frequent content updates. We formed a loosely structured team interested in social media, and schedule a 1-hour meeting each Friday to review recent stats and determine actions for the coming week.

Of course, the social-media landscape is constantly changing. Channels such as LinkedIn, blogs, knowledge wikis, or some not-yet-invented community could change our focus at almost any time. (LinkedIn communities, for one, are growing rapidly.)

Engineers have different needs and less time than consumers. But social-media channels can benefit the engineering community because users control the inbound flow of information. Subscribing to the most useful resources lets engineers get quick updates on trends and innovations that might stimulate new ideas. Our mission is to respect these unique needs and foster innovation wherever we can.

View Bosch Rexroth’s Facebook page at facebook.com/boschrexrothus. | Edited by Kenneth Korane | © 2011 Penton Media, Inc.