A friend from another company in the CFD world phoned the other day to ask some questions that had been bothering him. “What’s this social media thing about? You use it. Has it led to any sales yet?”
I don’t recall anyone asking several years ago whether our new phone system had led to any new sales.
Most CFD engineers react to Twitter with an expression that’s half befuddlement and half incredulity. They seem to think Facebook is something only their neighbor’s 12 year old daughter would use. To them, blogging is where something called LOLCATS comes from, YouTube has that honey badger video, and Tumblr – well, just don’t even try to explain Tumblr to them.
I don’t understand why a technologically savvy group of people like CFDers would be so averse to an entire class of electronic media. Maybe these are the same people who are still waiting to see if that email thing catches on.
So why does CFD hate social media?
Let’s eliminate two serious reasons first. A lot of CFD is done at big companies or government labs where certain websites, probably including Twitter, Facebook, etc., are off-limits.
Second, we’re talking about engineers who have a reputation for not being gregarious. (Do you know how to tell an extroverted engineer from an introverted one? The extrovert looks at your shoes when he’s talking to you.)
What’s surprising is that social media at its best is about learning and the exchange of ideas. I’ve yet to meet a CFD engineer who isn’t interested in learning stuff that will make their job better. But I get the impression they view social media as a toy. It’s not that way for all engineers. The CAD world seems to make quite extensive use of social media.
So let’s delve into a few social media platforms where CFD is represented. I do not claim to be providing an encyclopedic reference of CFD on social media. These are just the ones I either follow or have seen. Nor am I claiming to be a social media expert.
Of course, if you’re interested in keeping up with the happenings in the CFD world the two sites you need to visit, sign-up for their newsletter, and follow on Twitter are:
CFD Review: www.cfdreview.com
CFD Online: www.cfd-online.com
CFD on Twitter
Who would’ve thought you could send an email without specifying any recipients? That and the 140-character limit are the true joys of Twitter, which turns out to be a great tool for keeping up with people and organizations. Someone called Twitter a platform for sharing ideas, which I think is a great metaphor.
Regarding Twitter, I was once asked “Why do I care what someone had for lunch?” First, if you don’t care, you should unfollow. But keep in mind that because the best Twitter feeds have a personality behind them, you should anticipate seeing a mix of things in their tweets, from professional to personal. It’s just like interacting with your co-workers: you don’t talk about work all the time.
The thing about Twitter is that it has to have a genuine personality behind it to be done well. Your tweets can’t be like 140-character news releases. If you tweet like that, you risk sounding like boring cocktail party guests. All they do is talk about their work: this press release, that trade show, this new product.
I follow several CFD-related people and organizations on Twitter, but here’s a short alphabetized list of the ones that are the most active.
CFD on Facebook
Facebook is where you can, if you’ll pardon the pun, put a face on your organization. It’s a way to humanize, with photos and lighter news, what your organization is about. You can think of it as a recruiting tool to get people interested in working with you. Or you can think of it as advertising of the form “look what you missed at our big event this year.” For better or worse, few CFD organizations are on Facebook.
CFD on LinkedIn
Think of LinkedIn as Facebook for business purposes. I personally have never been comfortable with LinkedIn because I never liked the user interface, but there are some CFD groups on there.
- CAE Professionals
- CD-adapco’s Official Group
- Computational Fluid Dynamics Group
- Computational Fluid Dynamics Group (there are 2!)
- Mesh Generation
Writing a blog is your chance to educate, inform, and share with your audience and do so in a slightly more casual way than you’d do on the company website. There actually are more CFD-related blogs out there than you’d think, with some more active than others. You can subscribe to these by email or by RSS (using something like Google Reader). Here’s a list:
- Another Fine Mesh (Pointwise)
- CFD Discussions/Threads/Useful Links
- CFD Doesn’t Mean Color for Directors (Mentor Graphics)
- David Tatchell’s Blog (Mentor Graphics)
- Engineering Simulation (SimuTech)
- Free your CFD (SALOME, etc.)
- Hanley Innovations
- Innovative CFD Blog
- Life Upfront
- Simulate Reality (MSC Software)
- Symscape Blog
- Tecplot Blog
- Upfront CFD (Autodesk)
CFD on YouTube
YouTube has too many CFD videos to count, although they seem to be organized by user rather than by organizations hosting their own channel. Here are a few.
How to Do Social Media
If you want to start using social media, maybe the first thing to address is what not to do. Here’s a CAD Insider blog post describing exactly that.
- Don’t dismiss it or the world will pass you by.
- Don’t question it. Keep in mind who your next generation of customers will be.
- Don’t misuse it. “Watching some companies trying to use social media makes me squirm.”
As for what to do, there’s no trick to social media. Be yourself and engage with your audience in a variety of different ways and to help them learn – learn about you, learn about the industry, learn about your business. If you start reading some of the resources posted above, I think you’ll agree. And if you start sharing your expertise, I think things will be a little better for all of us.
As for my friend’s question about sales and ROI, my answer is twofold. First, the investment is very low. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the others are all free. It just takes your time to share content. I’ll admit that blogging isn’t easy and writing something worth reading takes time. But Twitter’s 140 character limit removes that burden but still let’s you share ideas. The return on social media is the awareness, trust, and confidence that you build in your brand, whether that’s you as an individual or your organization. And there’s no telling where that might lead.
I’m going to turn this post into a resource page on the blog and I know I missed some social media CFD. So send me everything I missed and I’ll add it. And get online and start liking, following, posting, tweeting, and blogging.