In Sight KTR – the video cast
Episode 22: Social Media in Engineering
Text of the current episode:
Julia Ures: Nice to have you here, welcome to a new episode of “In Sight KTR”, our podcast, which you can also find as a video on the web, today on the topic of social media in mechanical engineering. And there’s a great thing happening today. The woman who is usually behind this format and collects the questions, which I then pass on to all the experts, is being interviewed herself today. She doesn’t know what’s going to happen yet, and we also have another expert on today’s topic. I would like to welcome both of them very warmly. Ellen and Ben, first of all, it’s great that you’re with us today.
Benjamin Gust: With pleasure!
Ellen Herdering: Hi!
Benjamin Gust: Hi!
Ellen Herdering: We are pleased!
Julia Ures: Now I would like to introduce you briefly. Ellen Herdering is Social Media Manager at KTR since 2020. And I have already said, “In Sight KTR”, this is also a little bit her baby, which she always organizes, she does it wonderfully. And today she’s getting involved in it without having any idea what’s going to happen here. With her is Prof. Dr. Benjamin Gust, because that’s Ben’s name in detail. We’ve just agreed that we’ll be on a first-name basis today. He is a professor of Social Media at the Technical University of Mittelhessen and a self-employed social media consultant. Nice to have you with us as well today.
Benjamin Gust: With pleasure!
Julia Ures: So, you two, let’s get started with the questions. Ellen, I’ve already said twice that you don’t know these questions, your colleagues have come up with them. We would like to start with the first question. We always have about 20 minutes to answer all the questions that you send to us, for example to firstname.lastname@example.org, or also send to us in all other ways that we can bring into the format here. That’s what we want to do today as well. The first question that has come now from your colleagues. You are both from the same village, that is really a very exciting and funny coincidence. You come from Wettringen. Now let’s first briefly classify, where is that?
Ellen Herdering: That is, I think, for those who do not come from the region, a very unknown place, I would say. So if you know Münster or Rheine, then you’re already heading in the right direction. And from our headquarters here in Rheine, it’s about 10, 12 kilometers, I would say, in the direction of the Dutch border and then you come to Wettringen.
Julia Ures: Is, Ben, this is a question for you now, is Wettringen the new stronghold for social media managers? Is that something like the Silicon Valley of social media, only in Germany?
Benjamin Gust: Well, in general, quality always wins out. No, I have no idea. I wouldn’t call it the new Silicon Valley, but it’s certainly an exciting place that hasn’t missed out on digitization.
Julia Ures: Today we want to talk about social media, especially in the business sector, of course. The title of today’s episode is “Social media in mechanical engineering”. I’d like to know from you whether you’re actually – I’m sure you are, but I’ll ask you anyway – also privately active in social media and what fascinates you about it? Ellen, how active are you?
Ellen Herdering: Well, I have to admit that I’m not as active in social media outside of work as I used to be when I wasn’t doing it professionally. So I’m very active on YouTube, I like to watch YouTube videos, I also make YouTube videos myself, but when I’m otherwise on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, it’s really more to see what’s happening at KTR, and not to be active there myself. And I also have the feeling that I’m not the only social media manager for whom this is the case, because at some point in the evening you simply want to see something other than the social networks. But what’s always been exciting about social media for me is that it brings people together without barriers. The people who can talk to each other are often people who have never met in person and perhaps never will because they live too far apart or other circumstances would prevent them from doing so. And that’s what I find extremely nice about social media, that you can break down barriers like that.
Julia Ures: Ben, what is it about you, fascination with social media, what makes it tick?
Benjamin Gust: I can completely agree with what Ellen said. I may say in advance, it was a bit harder for Ellen to reach me because I’m relatively good at it when it comes to ignoring WhatsApp messages. Not at all concerning Ellen, but I don’t feel like it quite often in the evenings anymore, I have to honestly confess. I’ve learned in the meantime that I can live with it without any problems, if I have this little red bubble at the top of WhatsApp on the homescreen and then it says that you have x messages, then that’s just red. That’s okay for me. Eventually I do reply, Ellen has experienced that as well, but it can take a minute longer than other people possibly. And the same with LinkedIn and with Instagram, because it’ s flashing all over the place anythime. And that’s where I get to the fascination. I find totally beautiful about social media that I can see things from people or topics that interest me, but only when I want to. So I can turn it off, if I don’t open the app, then I just don’t see anything. But if I open it, I can make my respective newsfeed on Instagram, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, one of my favorite networks, just what I really want to see, and I can always, by interacting, make sure that I only see the content that I really want to see, and the others just not. And that’s the beauty. But only when I really feel like it.
Julia Ures: The fact is that social networks are constantly changing. There are these long-term developments, for example, that Facebook users are generally older now, and the younger ones are actually appearing there less. But there are also always short-term changes, functions that change, legal regulations that change, and so on. Ellen, how do you keep track of all that?
Ellen Herdering: That’s not all that easy. You definitely have to stay on the ball. I’ve definitely learned that it’s good to have a good network. So you should definitely network with other people who are also active in social media and do it professionally. There are also associations for that that also help you meet the right people. For example, the BVCM, that’s a good example. I think it’s really necessary to follow those people a bit and see what they write about the topics, and to keep an eye on certain websites where such changes are communicated more often. And that you yourself are on social media every day at work. I also know colleagues who use planning tools, for example. We do that, too, of course, but it’s true that you shouldn’t just plan the next 20 LinkedIn posts in advance and then no longer look at LinkedIn to see what’s going to happen, but rather use this network yourself every day. Maybe not in your free time, but at work, because then you’ll notice when something suddenly looks different or works differently or someone has a cool function that hasn’t been rolled out for you yet. You definitely have to deal with it every day.
Julia Ures: Ben, I can see you nodding. We’re seeing each other here right now because we’re connected in a conference. How is it with you, how do you keep track of everything? Ellen has already described how she keeps up to date. It’s also like that, the social networks don’t constantly send us a message about every change and say “Hey! By the way, we’ve now made this and that new”, but you have to discover and find a lot yourself and then also master it yourself.
Benjamin Gust: Exactly. I have to smile right now, because the notification is actually at least rudimentary in some networks, so that you get information when something is available, but I think in the years when Ellen and I started out in the social media world, I think those were the years when I personally “abused” Facebook private pages at Douglas Holding, among other things, in order to become active there as a company. And then every few weeks the page looked different again. Then you’d come into the office in the morning and think: Oops, what’s going on here? Why is everything not quite right? So it was really like that, everything was crashed by the network itself, so to speak. And that’s exactly why the most important thing, and I can sign Ellen’s statement again, is to stay on the ball, to participate yourself. You don’t have to use everything, I don’t use every function everywhere and I haven’t danced TikToks yet, simply because I don’t know who would want to see it. But I still look at it, I look at what others are doing. I look at how it works theoretically. And then I do some things practically myself and some only in such a way that then only personalities selected by me see it, for example Ellen. But I think it’s really, really important not to lose touch. And that’s where the network that Ellen just mentioned helps again, that you have people around you who can join in the discussion, even if it’s about the sense and nonsense of new functions, new social media platforms and so on. Because let’s be honest, social media is not a cure-all. There are also things where social media simply can’t help us, and sometimes it’s a real annoyance.
Julia Ures: If you want to see Ben dancing on TikTok, please send us an email to email@example.com. As well as all questions you would like to ask “In Sight KTR”, which we will then gladly pass on to all contact persons, or also suggestions for topics. Ellen, your colleagues would like to know: What do you actually do all day at work? Isn’t it just that you scroll through LinkedIn, Instagram, and the like? What do you do?
Ellen Herdering: I can really feel the thieving joy with which this question was written down, simply because they were also now allowed to handle these questions in a secretive manner. And of course, they’ve now picked the classic. I think every social media manager has heard that one before. ‘But it’s nothing, you’re just doing a little bit of Facebook all day.’ That’s definitely interesting, what the outside perception of what we do is like, because a lot of people just can’t imagine what’s behind it. And that’s a good thing to a certain extent, because then we’ve done our job well, if the other people have the feeling that it’s all so easy and that it’s somehow a nice contribution, then you don’t notice that it’s sometimes exhausting, I actually think that’s good. But what we do now besides, scrolling and updating a little bit on LinkedIn, then is creating the content for example. So every post that you see from KTR somewhere didn’t fly to me, I had to create that somehow, of course. And then it’s a matter of asking colleagues “What are interesting topics?” from each area, then also taking pictures or creating videos together with them. I don’t come from the mechanical engineering sector either, so for me it’s often still a hurdle to understand: What am I seeing in this picture or on this video? What exactly is the background for this product? What is so special about it? How does it help the customer? And so on. So I have to do all this research work, then talk to colleagues. That’s also the best part of the job, by the way. I don’t think there are many jobs where you have so much contact with your colleagues somehow and learn so much every day. And that content has to be created. It’s also a lot of strategic planning. Decisions have to be made, of course: What should be communicated where and when in the first place? Which channels are the right ones, too? Because, as Ben already said, there are always new things coming along. Then you have to deal with the question whether this could also be something for KTR or not. There are many, many small steps every day, where you have to make sure that you get it organized so that on day X there is definitely content there. And social media management always depends on regularity, which many people forget. There always has to be something there.So if you have set your sights on a network and want to be present there, you can’t just do it whenever you feel like it, you have to do it regularly. And that means that you also have to make sure that it happens in the background. And that’s what we really do. And then, of course, also see what happens. So when a comment comes in, when a question comes in, to also take care of it. I always find it difficult when you use social media as a megaphone, always just throwing out your message, but then not being prepared to respond when someone has a question or reacts in some way. And that’s also a big part of the job, to interact with the community.
Julia Ures: So highly professional work, you hear it already, as Ellen just describes it. It’s much more than just casually scrolling through and looking at colorful pictures. Ben, about you, you have a PhD and you’re even a professor in the field. First of all, I wasn’t aware that this was possible in the field of social media, that there are already professors there. Why is it important to raise this to this level academically?
Benjamin Gust: Well, in principle, science in general is always in demand when we want to understand things. It’s about, now I have to be careful that I don’t bring the definition of scientific work and thus as long as I always tell my students in the first semester. But science in general is about investigating phenomena in order to find insights for the real world and to discover new worlds. That always sounds a bit like Star Trek, but in fact that’s the core of science. So it’s not about discovering new worlds, but about understanding phenomena. That has always been the case with everything that has to do with people or things. So if we look at sociology or communication or the humanities, then in principle there were already the first studies in the 80s, 90s that dealt with the Internet and digital communication, which is simply different when we communicate with each other via computers, as we are doing now. Now, not to get too long, why does it need that for social media? Basically, to look more closely at exactly what I just said within social media platforms. When we talk about hate speech, we want to understand why people are actually using different profiles. But also, when we’re talking about just normal content, we want to understand why people are actually clicking here or there or over there. Or for example, I’ve been looking at how people actually want to be targeted by companies when they’re out and about on social media platforms as well. You just mentioned my doctorate, so I’ve been looking into corporate communication within social networks and I’ve been looking very, very explicitly at how such a posting actually has to be if the company interferes with the most private thing we have. Because we as a company always reach users, well, in bed, in the bathroom, on the subway, and wherever, just then. When we open our smartphone and real life is kind of boring, we open Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and whatever, but not on the computer, but on this little smartphone to distract ourselves. And we actually want to see what our friends are doing and “Oops!”, suddenly there’s something from a company in between, from whoever. And we have to fit in somehow.
Julia Ures: This brings us exactly to the next question. I have to watch the time a little bit, because the heart of “In Sight KTR” is quick questions and concrete answers and that the whole thing doesn’t go much longer than 20 minutes. But we can still fit in two compact questions. Ben, you have just described that companies also successfully use social media, as well as KTR. From your point of view, why does it make sense for a company in the field of mechanical engineering, where you might not have thought of it in the first place, social media is also suitable for such companies?
Benjamin Gust: I can even answer that very briefly, because that’s where the people are. So we want to communicate somewhere where we also reach a certain target group. And whether I’m B2B or B2C, I’m always the same person. Sometimes I think B2B and sometimes I’m the B2C person. Long story short, we all know that when it comes to social media, we’re online quite a bit on a daily basis. And if KTR wasn’t involved in that, it might not reach the right people in the right place.
Julia Ures: Ellen, your job is to fill the whole thing with life, that is, to fill the channels of KTR with content, as they say. Here’s another question for you: Isn’t social media in mechanical engineering boring? And the follow-up question: Ellen, how do you manage to inspire the employees of a medium-sized mechanical engineering company for this kind of corporate communication?
Ellen Herdering: I don’t find it boring at all. I have to admit honestly, before I started at KTR, I also thought about it, because I came from a completely different industry before, where also many very emotional topics were discussed. And at the beginning I didn’t know how I could make the topic of couplings, brakes and so on “sexy”, in quotation marks. But I very quickly learned from talking to my colleagues here that what we do here and the products we have here, which have such a blatant variety of applications, which occur in so many things that we also use in everyday life, are absolutely not boring. And the fact is it’s often the case that when I talk to other social media managers from B2B, that many have the problem that their colleagues have a bit of an attitude like: But what are we supposed to tell? Is this really something that people want to know? But if you then look at our posts and the reaction to them, then that is very much what people want to know. Because who has insight into an industrial company like ours? Who can claim to be able to walk into our production hall, for example, and see how a coupling is made? And these are insights that only we can provide. And that’s why it’s very exciting what we’re doing here. And I’m now very good at getting my colleagues excited about it, because they’ve now seen for themselves how people react. And I think the idea of my colleagues at the beginning was also: I don’t know if people want to know. And we are also very modest. So many of my colleagues at KTR are super modest and just say, I just do what I enjoy doing here every day, but I don’t know if we necessarily have to tell everyone what we do and why. But because the reaction is so positive, I think my colleagues are now also very much on board when I ask them. And I think they also notice that I find what they tell me exciting. And then they also enjoy showing things to me and then a post comes out at the end and then everyone is surprised at what has happened. And that’s why it actually works pretty well.
Julia Ures: Ben, I just said two last questions. Now I’ll add one very briefly, namely a look into the future. How do you think the role of social media in the industry will develop in the coming years? And what is your tip, what is the business channel of the future? There’s constant change in that, too.
Benjamin Gust: Social media, I’m always not a big fan of crystal ball gazing. So whenever it’s the end of the year, it’s always about what are the social media trends for next year? I’m always a bigger fan of looking at what’s happened so far, even what’s happened in the last few months, and then thinking what might stay from that and what might not. If you look at what’s happened in the last, actually, months, video, let’s look at TikTok or let’s also look at reels on Instagram, will obviously become more important. Social Audio tried to get big with Clubhouse about a year ago, January 2021, it worked briefly, but the whole thing is now being rolled out to other platforms. Long story short, what you realize is that people still want to see what other people are doing. The core of social media is social interaction of some sort and everything else is not, but always social interaction. And that’s certainly going to continue. You can see that just by looking at what Meta is up to with the Metaverse, i.e. Facebook/Meta right now: there, too, it’s all about social interaction in virtual worlds. In other words, social interaction will continue. And I can’t say which platforms will become important in the future. We as users will decide that. I’m a user, too, and I help decide that to a certain extent, but so do billions of other people besides me. And which business platforms are decisive, at the moment you can’t get past LinkedIn at all, whether that will be the case in three, four, five years, I can’t say. We decide that, we as users.
Julia Ures: In other areas you say voting with the feet, in this case voting with the mouse is already outdated, because you just said, we almost all rather use, exactly, the screen, over which we slide and scroll. So in that sense, voting with the thumb is probably more like it.
Benjamin Gust: Yes.
Julia Ures: You two, it was a lot of fun talking to you. I got the impression that it’s not a coincidence. You just said, Ben, social interaction, that’s actually the core of social media. And I think social interaction is something you learn quite well in the small village. And maybe that’s also in Wettringen, for example. Maybe that was also a good prerequisite for both of you to go into this field later on professionally. I would like to thank you very, very much for this little adventure, that you got involved in the unknown questions, and I would like to invite you to send us your questions. I’ve just said it before firstname.lastname@example.org, feel free to write us anything that’s on your mind and we’ll try to include it in this format. Ellen and Ben, all the best! And we’ll see you at least on social media and otherwise in real life.
Ellen Herdering: Yes, great!
Julia Ures: See you soon! Take care!
Ellen Herdering: Thank you! Bye!
Benjamin Gust: Bye!
Julia Ures: Bye!