Social media is the craze these days. The question is, “Is it relevant to the thermal-processing industry?” For those of you shaking your head “no” right now or thinking the equivalent, keep on truckin’ because chances are very good that your disinterest in social media will not hurt you in the short-term or intermediate-term future.

But there are some interesting applications of social media that may surprise you.

For example, did you know that if you search “heat treat” on YouTube, 525 results appear? A large percentage of these are industrial in nature. However, you will have to skip over a good number of “Zeno Heat Treat – Acne Miracle” videos to get to the truly industrial applications.

Eurotherm has a pretty active YouTube channel that you can access by going to www.youtube.com/heattreatandbeyond. Other notable YouTubers are Inductoheat (www.youtube.com/inductoheatinc), Inductotherm Corp., (www.youtube.com/inductothermcorp), Ipsen (www.youtube.com/ipsenheattreatnews), Rex Heat Treat (www.youtube.com/rexheattreat), Solar Atmospheres (www.youtube.com/solaratmospheres) and a whole boatload of one-offs dealing with how to heat treat knife blades and/or gun barrels.

Industrial Heating also has a YouTube channel (www.industrialheating.com/ihmagazine) with over 45 videos available for viewing – some technical, but the vast majority are business and/or promotional related.

I gave a talk one year ago dealing with social media to a furnace manufacturer. At that time, there were essentially zero companies using YouTube in the thermal-processing industry. Today, it is catching on. By my estimation, YouTube holds the greatest potential to be useful to thermal-processing professionals. Industrial Heating will continue to work on organizing and clearly presenting video content provided by the industry. Stay tuned.

Another useful social-media tool with reasonable applicability for the thermal-processing industry is LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com). If you have not already, you should create an account and then join the “Industrial Heating” group on LinkedIn. It is a great place to connect and meet industry people you might not otherwise know. LinkedIn is more business-focused than Facebook, but it can serve the same networking purpose – keeping people in touch with each other and helping them do their jobs better. If you have a LinkedIn account, you can join Industrial Heating’s LinkedIn group by going to www.industrialheating.com/connect.

Other social media includes Facebook, Google+ (a new kid on the block) and Twitter. Let me encourage you to take advantage of Twitter this month. Here’s how.

During the ASM Heat Treating Society’s Heat Treat Conference and Exposition, Eurotherm, in cooperation with Industrial Heating, will be sponsoring “Twitter Screens.” There will be large-panel TV screens posted around the exhibit hall where Twitter users can post their comments to be read by all passers-by. In addition, if you can’t make it to the event, you can follow the Twitter feeds on Industrial Heating’s website … even if you aren’t a Twitter user. At the bottom of Industrial Heating’s home page (www.industrialheating.com), you’ll see a graphic like the one shown here. This “Twitter Widget” will scroll the Tweets, and you can keep up with what is happening at the show – what’s good, what’s not so good and what is fantastic.

Social media is not for everybody. But for those of you that are so inclined (and the numbers are growing), please feel free to participate in the first-ever Twitter event. If you want your comments to be posted to the aforementioned Twitter widget and Twitter Screens during the show, be sure to use the following hashtag – #hts2011 (you must include the #). For example: #hts2011 This heat treat event is the best in years.

It doesn’t matter if the hashtag is first, last or in the middle, as long as there is a space before and after. It will be picked up and appear on the widget. This is an excellent opportunity to experiment with social media. IH