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Mar28

What Does Engagement Mean to You?

BY KATE KUNKEL

engagementLast week I gently suggested that, even for older valve industry professionals, it wasn’t such a bad idea to dip some toes into the roiling waters of social media. Hopefully you’ve at least opened a LinkedIn account and linked up with VMA.

But don’t stop there! Opening up an account is one thing, engagement is another. Here is where the challenge begins.

Join the conversation

You have to make a commitment to use your social media account(s) to interact with the people you’ve just connected to. You have to post, comment, and otherwise open the conversation. It’s like being at a networking event or party. Everyone around you is talking, sharing ideas and contacts. If you just stand there watching and listening to them, they won’t pay any attention to you, and they won’t know what you have to share. Consequently, you might not get invited to the next party.

Referring again to the report by IHS GlobalSpec, survey results show that industrial professionals are passive users of social media. According to the report, “This is really no different from how the typical internet user interacts with social media. Industrial professionals prefer to read and watch content rather than starting or commenting on discussions.”

So that leaves it to you, as a supplier, manufacturer, distributor, to provide the purchasers, engineers, project managers, whoever your audience is, with content that matters to them. While those people may not chime in on the chat, it doesn’t mean that social media lacks value as a component of your marketing mix. It just means that you need to match your social media strategy to what your audience seeks from these channels.

Since 52% of respondents indicate they use social media to keep abreast of the latest company, product, and technology news, it’s probably a reasonably good use of time to use the social media channels to reach that audience.

Content truly is king

content-is-kingAlso, about half of the respondents to the IHS GlobalSpec survey said they use social media to find peer reviews, new suppliers, and industry expertise. If you are a project manager and your peers are using social media as a resource for purchasing decisions, are missing out on the advantages they have if you are not so engaged?

For suppliers, social media is a great channel to market content. It can be a very efficient way to disseminate white papers, research reports, product announcements, and press releases to your target audience. If you’ve built a good network, your information will be at the forefront when they are choosing products.

A purchaser may learn about your new products through social media if it is business oriented, like a group on LinkedIn. And here is where the new kid on the block, Google +, which recently took over the number 2 spot behind Facebook from Twitter, is proving to be so valuable. Why? Because it has Google power, meaning that its own search engines favor any post, picture, article or link posted on Google + over any other postings.

google plusAlso, a purchaser reading the aforementioned releases and announcements from you, the supplier or manufacturer, will also have access to postings his or her peers may have shared about your products. For the purchaser, this can be a valuable resource when trying to wade through piles of specs and white papers. And while it’s true that most purchasers of valve, actuators and controls are not going to start their search on social media, they could use it to help whittle down the choices.

Engaging your audience on social media

Bottom line, as someone with something to market, you have to give your audience content that is valuable to them. It’s not necessarily that your followers will comment on you posts or videos, but they are reading and watching. So, the adage “content is king” is absolutely true.

It has to have value. It must offer solid, valuable information that can get your company’s products and/or services noticed by your prospects and picked up by the search engines. There is much discussion amongst the “experts” about whether your content needs to be long or whether it just needs to be good. I’m not sure the answer is a simple one, because, if you are in an industry where there really isn’t a lot to write about, there’s no point writing just for the sake of writing. Just posting about an event or a new product may be enough. But whatever you write or whatever video is posted - it must be interesting and engaging.

Measuring your success

The measurements that determine the value of your social media efforts are reach, engagement, sentiment and conversion.

Who are you reaching? Are you keeping them engaged in the dialogue you’ve started? What do they think about that and, perhaps most importantly, how many of those you’ve reached take the action that you want them?

Readers: Take a stand

tabletinbusinesswomanshandsFor all you passive consumers of content – if something does strike your fancy, or is of particular value to you, you can use it to your advantage within the social media realm as well. By commenting, you can illustrate your own or your company’s likes, dislikes, needs, questions. You can share good content with colleagues to help make their jobs easier, or a process more efficient. Let those of us who are creating content know what you would like to see. And I don’t mean photos of kittens in teacups.

So now you have a couple of extra tools in your professional toolbox. What are you going to do with them?

Kate Kunkel is Senior Editor of VALVE Magazine. You may reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mar21

Are You Using Social Media?

BY KATE KUNKEL

If you’re not reaching out to your potential customers via social media, you could well be missing out on opportunities to keep your valves, actuators or controls in the forefront of purchasers’ minds. While many people in this industry are not of the generation that communicates by tweets and postings, the bottom line is, social media is an important marketing tool. And it’s not going away.

The key to using social media wisely is knowing what social channels your customers prefer, and what they are looking for in the online networking sphere.

While most people have heard of Linked In, Facebook and Twitter, Google Plus is the fastest growing social media tool. In fact, according to a recent social media survey conducted by IHS GlobalSpec, 36% of industrial users now have a Google Plus account, up from 23% in 2011. The company suggests that suppliers should pay attention to Google Plus and figure out how it could supplement their social media strategy.

Also according IHS GlobalSpec’s survey, while a relatively small number of companies are using Twitter, 63% of industrial professionals have a LinkedIn account, where the two activities they perform most are searching for contacts and reading product and industry news. Of that number, almost 67% belong to at least two groups.

Get Linked Up with LinkedIn

If you are not on LinkedIn, or don’t know what a LinkedIn group is, stop reading right now and go to the site, sign up or sign in, and start hunting with the keyword VALVE. There are a couple of groups that you need to join now. While you’re there, you might as well hook up with the Valve Manufacturers Association. Hit “Follow”. That way, you will get updates in an instant news feed with all the important information posted daily for the association and VALVEMagazine.

Once you’re linked in, you can use that link to meet other members of groups that share your business interests. You can start discussions, offer comments on other discussions, and generally keep your company in the consciousness of the people in the groups.

FB screenshotFacebook

While Facebook is a popular social networking tool, it is not as popular for industrial and technical professionals. Still, about 54% of your peers have accounts on the site, and they do “like” or “follow” companies within their sphere of interest. 32% like or comment in work-related discussions and 34% say they research and read work-related content while on Facebook. The experts at IHS GlobalSpec believe it is still a good channel for your content marketing and presents an opportunity for increasing brand awareness.

If you do not have a personal account, at the very least your company should have a page administered by someone who is responsible for updating company information and using it to network with potential and current customers.

You Tube

YouTube screenshotA picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, think of how many words a 2 minute video is worth. You Tube is the most efficient way to show off your products. In those 120 seconds, you can extol features and benefits in a setting that makes sense to your potential customers. And if you think industrial buyers aren’t checking it out, know that You Tube is used as a research tool so often that there are even guidelines on how businesses can use keywords to get the best results when searching You Tube for a business-related project.

According to IHS GlobalSpec, 47% of industrial respondents use YouTube and other video sharing sites. Given the nature of their work, engineers and other technical professionals mostly watch product demos and how-to videos. If you produce videos, you should consider publishing them on video sharing sites. If you don’t produce videos, well, why not?

The big challenge of course, once you have that social media account with the photo that makes you look much younger than you really are, is utilizing it to engage the people you are trying to attract. We’ll save that blog for next week…. But in the meantime, share your thoughts about social media in the valve industry below. You may also comment on this posting on LinkedIn or Facebook, or share it on Twitter!

Kate Kunkel is Senior Editor of VALVE Magazine. You may reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mar05

Frustration and the Fiscal Cliff

BY KATE KUNKEL

bordertrafficbackupWhile the U.S. government sits mired in the muck of yet another financial quagmire, sectors whose fiscal health impact the valve industry face an uncertain future.

The new fiscal cliff includes severe spending cuts that will take effect on March 27th, 2013. The Center for American Progress estimates that program cuts could range from 8.5-10% for 2013 with large cuts on defense spending. While that certainly impacts weapons manufacturers, defense cuts are relatively low on the list of things about which the industrial valve industry should be concerned.

For manufacturers in the U.S., the biggest problem with a stalemate and budget cuts could sit right at the borders. U.S. homeland security chief Janet Napolitano projects the cuts could affect the equivalent of about 5,000 border patrol agent positions, many on the Canada-U.S. border. The equivalent of 2,750 inspectors is also on the chopping block. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency estimates these cuts could result in as long as five hours at larger ports of entry.

This comes at a time when the recent U.S. successes in hydraulic fracturing are beginning to attract attention in other countries. Poland and China are planning a fracing industry, and the U.K. recently backed off an earlier ban. But if there are huge delays in imports and exports, what impact will that have on industry that relies heavily on goods moving across borders?

In a memo sent to its members this weekend, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters group warned that there is no evidence that any border contingency plan has been worked out between the U.S. and Canada. Beyond that, what about people moving across the borders? What effect will increased border wait times and cost of travel have the valve industry when so many of its executives and engineers must travel as they interact with end users, suppliers and offshore plants?

On another political front we sit, still, with the whole Keystone XL pipeline debate. Or should we say debacle? In early February, a prestigious science journal, “Nature”, green lighted the project by saying that the oil coming from Alberta’s oilsands is not as dirty as some content. In an editorial entitled “Change for Good”, the editors argued that the pipeline won’t determine whether the oilsands are developed, and oil produced from the oilsands is not as dirty from a climate perspective as many believe. The editorial actually argued that some of the oil produced in California is in fact worse, and that there are several benefits to approving the pipeline.

For U.S. energy security, this seems to be a no-brainer, but if Keystone XL is nixed, will it mean the valve industry will be left out in the cold? Probably not, because that oil still needs to move from point A in Alberta to markets elsewhere. Many Canadian politicians and energy sector heavy-hitters are tiring of the never-ending debate about sending it south, so they are looking east to get the country’s largest natural resource to market, leading from Alberta to Saint John, New Brunswick, from where it can get to international markets.

For suppliers north of the 49th parallel, it could be a windfall if border backlogs affect delivery times for valves, pipes, actuators and controls from the U.S. Even though many North American valve industry players have interests on both sides of the border, it could become a detriment to the viability of some U.S. companies at a time when growth is tenuous at best.

The frustration in all of this is that nobody seems to be able to make a decision, stick with it and get on with the business of business.

Kate Kunkel is senior editor of VALVE Magazine. You may reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Feb15

Who’s Going to Fill Those Jobs?

BY KATE KUNKEL

obamaIn an initiative laid out in his State of the Union address, President Obama has stated his plans to build on the momentum of manufacturing growth in the U.S. The plan basically rests on four proposals, outlined here from the White House web site:

  • Partnering with businesses and communities to invest in American-made technologies and American workers through a network of new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes: The President has proposed a one-time $1 billion investment to create a network of 15 manufacturing innovation institutes across the country, and urges Congress to act on this proposal. But to make progress right away, he is also acting through executive authority to launch three new institutes, which are partnerships among business, universities and community colleges, and government, to develop and build manufacturing technologies and capabilities that will help U.S.-based manufacturers and workers create good jobs.
  • Ending tax breaks to ship jobs overseas and making the U.S. more competitive: To support our manufacturers and encourage companies to invest in the U.S., the President has proposed to reform our business tax code, lowering the rate for manufacturers to 25 percent, expanding and making permanent the research and development tax credit, and putting in place a global minimum tax to prevent a race to the bottom in corporate tax rates.
  • Bringing Jobs Back: The President has proposed a new partnership with communities to attract manufacturers and their supply chains, especially to hard hit manufacturing towns. The President is also proposing to expand SelectUSA, a program designed to partner with our governors and mayors to bring in business investment from around the world, ensuring that America can compete globally and bring jobs and investment to our shores.
  • Leveling the playing field and opening markets for American-made products: In addition to the President’s efforts to double exports, including through new steps to open markets in Asia and Europe to American-made goods, the President will continue to enforce trade laws to protect American workers from unfair trade practices and strengthen the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center launched last year.

So, these institutes are “partnerships among business, universities and community colleges, and government, to develop and build manufacturing technologies and capabilities that will help U.S.-based manufacturers and workers create good jobs.” Translated: expensive consultants will be paid a lot of money to come up with ideas on how to make manufacturing more efficient, leaner, greener, more technology-based and sexy so that we can get more people back to work.

That sounds very cool, but I’m a little confused about how they are going to solve one of the biggest issues faced by manufacturers even now. So many times in my interviews, I hear that, despite the high unemployment rate, companies have to scramble to find skilled workers or to find replacements to fill the jobs vacated in increasing numbers by baby boomers. This is true of manufacturers and end users including refineries, petrochemical plants and utilities. Are training programs going to be included in these institutes? And if they are, where are potential employees going to get the money to take the courses that will prepare them for high technology manufacturing jobs? Is that money going to be included in these billion dollars?

If anyone out there has the answers, I’d love to hear from you so we can pass them on to our readers.

Thanks!

Kate Kunkel is Senior Editor of VALVE Magazine. You may reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Feb01

Clearing the Air by Coming Back Home

BY KATE KUNKEL

chinese factory pollutionIn the Winter 2013 issue of VALVE Magazine Harry Moser and Millar Kelley expanded on an article I originally wrote about Moser’s work in a Web Feature entitled “The True Cost of Reshoring." For anyone considering the possibility of bringing manufacturing back to America, there is plenty here to consider, not the least of which is the potential to improve our domestic economy.

Even ignoring the human rights issues, there are many benefits to reshoring, but one thing that isn’t usually taken into account when considering such a move is the environmental benefits of bringing manufacturing back home. While it might be beneficial to our own environment to have manufacturing going on somewhere else, the overall impact on the planet needs to be considered, and when we see what happens when air quality is ignored, it might behoove us to add this into the mix when discussing the benefits of reshoring.

Consider that on Tuesday, January 29, the Chinese government ordered 103 heavy-polluting factories to suspend production until Thursday due to the extreme levels of industrial smog that suffocated the city for the fourth time in the past month. Residents were urged to stay indoors and more than 100 flights were cancelled in several cities as visibility was reduced to about 300 feet.

But China is hardly alone in its pollution problems. Since its shift to a more open and liberal economy in the 1990s, India has grown to be the third largest global economy after China and the U.S. With the grown in the textile, food processing, chemical, steel, mining and petroleum industries has come pollution on a scale that is hard to fathom.

In China, India and other developing economies, environmental controls are practically non-existent. While there may be laws and regulations on the books, they are largely ignored or enforced only when politics or some disaster makes it impossible to hide the impact deadly runoff, spills or emissions have had.

While it’s easy to imagine that the pollution to the air and water and soil that happens in these nations has no effect on us here, that simply isn’t true. Scientists have been documenting the path of pollution clouds from Asia to the U.S. since the 1990s, and recent research from Princeton University indicates that Asian emissions directly contribute to ground-level pollution in the United States.

On the other hand, here in North America pollution controls are generally stringently enforced, as are labor and materials safety laws. Independent of whether or not climate change is real and independent of whether it is caused by humans, air and water pollution are global concerns.

Compared to similar facilities in China or India, American factories generate little environmental impact and perhaps that should be on the balance sheet when considering whether or not to bring manufacturing home.

Kate Kunkel is Senior Editor of VALVE Magazine. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

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