From a less-than-five-minute segment on a cable TV show to a 5.5-million view YouTube video, Z Corp.'s YouTube tale shows how influential the site can be. Z Corp. became a internet sensation after a video the National Geographic filmed during a visit to to the company for its "Known Universe" program hit YouTube. Nat Geo found Z Corp (www.zcorp.com), a manufacturer of 3D printer systems used in the additive manufacturing process, through an online search, explained Julie Reece, director of Marketing Communications for Z Corp. The four-minute and 27-second video shows how to scan an actual steel wrench, then make an exact, working copy of the wrench using powdered resin in a Z Corp. 3D printer. The amazing thing was that the screwing mechanism, which Z Corp was able to make in a red color, on the wrench actually worked, and the narrator from Nat Geo used the wrench to unscrew a nut from a bolt.
Reece said she began experimenting with social media about two years ago, but not everyone in the company was convinced of its value in a B2B setting. However, any doubts anyone at Z Corp. had before the video went viral have been put to rest. "The week of July 8 the lead flow through our web site began to explode, and we started getting all kinds of comments about how amazing this technology is," Reece said. "We couldn't ignore it - it was going crazy and had hit 1 million views that first week. The video had gone viral!"
Of course, with all the positive comments about additive manufacturing, there were also a number of negative comments from people who were not aware of additive manufacturing's capabilities and thought that the wrench was a fake. That's another down side of social media - you're open to people who love your products/services and also to people who will make negative or derogatory comments about your company's products or services.
As of this writing, the views of the Z Corp. video have gone past 5.5 million. "We've had that conversation internally about whether it was really an accident that this video got out there, and decided it's combination of accidental and intentional," Reece added.
Obviously, Reece's marketing communication efforts started the ball rolling with the company's web site, it's public relations efforts (the company also uses an outside public relations firm), and some social media activity. All of those contributed to National Geographic being able to find Z Corp., and the rest, so they say, is history.
"If anyone questioned social media as being worthy of our efforts those questions have been answered," Reece said. "Our qualified leads have tripled, and our web site traffic has exploded. There are the ancillary benefits as well, such as the fact that the video was picked up by lots of large news chains, and other media outlets such as TV and the magazine Popular Mechanics. We've gotten lots of attention. It's the most amazing thing ever."
Reece said that the one big lesson she's learned in all of this is that a company, even a small company like Z Corp., has to incorporate a variety of strategies to get its name out there. "It's all intermingled - the web site, the PR and the social media," she noted. "You cannot look at social media as a stand-alone effort. People have to look at it as very synergistic and intertwined with all the other marketing and PR efforts in which a company engages."
Another benefit is the morale boost Z Corp. employees have experienced. "We're a small fun, entrepreneurial company, and I can't tell you how excited everyone is about this," Reece said. "It's been amazing and everyone is so jazzed about it. It has very real, positive benefits.
What makes a good video?What makes a good video for social media? Z Corp.'s Reece said that first, they should be short, and focus on "how-to" or "how it works" or "how it's made." However, she cautions that they should not be too technical that the mainstream audience doesn't get it. As in the case of Z Corp.'s additive manufactured wrench, it just looked to amazing to be true. In fact, Joe Titlow, Z Corp.'s vice president of product management who appeared in the Nat Geo video, has since posted some more detailed information about the additive manufacturing process to help the "doubter" understand what is happening during the process.
Reece advised that a good video should also have some of the entertainment or "WOW" factor, but added that this also made the Nat Geo video controversial. She said that many successful videos, including the Z Corp. video, don't look "highly produced" they don't looked overly polished like a TV commercial. Yet, for B2B purposes it should have a "professional" appearance. For example, the narrator from Nat Geo was a professional speaker.
For B2B companies in the manufacturing sector, Reece said there's "nothing like actually seeing how things are made, and videos allow you to do just that. You just have to be creative and always thinking about what will work," Reece advised. "But beyond creating the video, you have to be thinking about how to promote it and the best places to post it." Videos posted on YouTube rank high for searches, Reece added. "The Nat Geo/Z Corp. video is currently #1 or #2 on 3D searches."
Some ideas for molders and moldmakers might be to showcase a high-speed machining center with close-ups of it running, throwing chips and cutting steel like soft butter, with a narrator explaining the process. Talk about a way to promote your latest piece of equipment to customers and potential customers! Not to mention a great way to attract young people to the plastics industry or moldmaking trade!