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To build its brand among new customers as it seeks to expand globally and across new industries, manufacturer Edmund Optics, Inc., also known as EO, has found there’s nothing quite like LinkedIn.

Founded in 1942, the family-owned company manufactures lenses and other optics, imaging and photonics products for several industries including electronics, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, biomedical and military.

Among its marketing efforts is a strong presence in social media, including videos on YouTube and communications on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. It gets extensive online exposure on Wikipedia, where optical engineers along with engineering professors often cite Edmund Optics as a source when producing educational content on that social media site. That has helped direct Wikipedia readers to the manufacturer’s e-commerce site, EdmundOptics.com, says Geoffrey Forman, marketing analyst at Edmund Optics. Forman spoke about EO’s social media strategy at an eCommerce Futures conference co-hosted in Rosemont, IL, last week by Peer 1 Hosting, Alpine Consulting Inc., web personalization firm Qubit and data storage provider EMC Corp.  

The extensive mentions of Edmund Optics on Wikipedia made that social media site, until recently, the largest source of social media web traffic to EdmundOptics.com, Forman says. But that was before EO started experimenting with new marketing and advertising applications on LinkedIn.com, the social media site for business professionals.

Using LinkedIn’s Sponsored Updates program, Edmund has posted messages on the social media site targeted to particular groups of people based on such criteria as their job title, geographic location and membership in industry organizations. “Professional organizations of optical engineers and trade publications all have groups on LinkedIn, and each has a surprising number of individuals,” Forman says. “It’s a great way to get messages out to customers and potential customers grouped by their interests.”

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“You can be very confident that the targeted audiences will accept the sponsored content,” he adds. “LinkedIn is now contributing the majority of our social media traffic.”

Before using the Sponsored Updates program, Edmund received about 2,300 impressions on content it posted to general audiences on LinkedIn over a period of 22 days, Forman says. By comparison, content posted through Sponsored Updates and targeted groups by their personal interests produced 15,000 impressions within one week, he adds.

The increased exposure of Edmund Optics through social media, Forman says, is helping the company build its brand. Drawing more people to EdmundOptics.com, which EO maintains in-house, helps to educate visitors on the manufacturer’s broad range of products, and can serve as the first step toward turning new customers into high-volume ones.

Customers who start buying products on the EO e-commerce site typically purchase items in relatively small quantities, but then switch to working directly with sales reps after they get to know the EO product lines and begin to order in much higher volumes, Forman says. “Ideally, we want to build web traffic to our site and turn low-volume customers into higher-volume customers.”

To facilitate that transition, EO has developed what Forman describes as a user-friendly e-commerce site where buyers can quickly search among the company product lines, see detailed images, download PDF files with detailed product specifications and dimensions, view a large number of product demonstration videos, and place online orders. Buy pages let customers see prices according to the number of items in an order, and give them the option to click to request a quote for large volumes. Edmund uses personalization software from Qubit that lets its conduct A/B tests to personalize the customer buying experience.

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The site also offers a live chat button and toll-free telephone number on every web page to let customers communicate with a sales or tech support rep.  Customers that sign up for an account get exclusive access to content in addition to expanded purchase and order history functionality.

When customers work directly with sales reps, the reps can use their iPads to show online product content and demonstration videos to assist buyers in choosing products by showing product specifications and examples of how its products are used.  Edmund Optics also markets its products through printed catalogs.

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