When we write about how companies or individuals are using social media in their marketing strategies, it’s usually in the context of a business to consumer relationship. However, business-to-business (B2B) marketing is really getting a boost from social media as well. According to a recent study, 60% of B2B marketers plan to increase social media marketing spending this year.
Non-B2B-centric services like Twitter and Facebook can still offer great opportunities for B2B shops. Sometimes, the approach is the same as it would be in non-B2B marketing, sometimes it can be very different.
Figuring out how to best implement and harness social media in the course of B2B marketing can be difficult but we’ve put together ten tips to help get you on the right track!
1. Use Twitter Effectively
This may seem like a no-brainer, but plenty of businesses and even B2B marketers aren’t on Twitter. Get an account on Twitter and start engaging. While having profiles on other social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn can be equally important, Twitter remains one of the best ways to find and engage with others.
How do you do that? Start by searching for phrases relevant to your business and by monitoring those searches regularly. Look at what people are saying and join in the conversation. If people aren’t necessarily looking for your business offerings right away, start joining other conversations of interest. The more you build bridges, the more likely you are to be noticed.
Second, use hashtags. The #B2B hashtag, for example, will connect you with several other like-minded businesses who are also trying to leverage Twitter to build an online presence. Don’t overdo it, though. There are some people #who #tweet #like #this.
We’ll discuss this in the next point, but consider Twitter to be an informal medium. With social media, businesses can (and should) be human again. That’s why it’s safe to use Twitter not just for pure self promotion but to build a meaningful relationships with those who you are likely to do business with you in the future. If you feel comfortable using your business Twitter feed to talk about what makes you tick (versus purely promoting your business), you might be pleasantly surprised to see that your audience might very well be receptive to that messaging.
What’s great about Twitter, especially from a B2B perspective, is that you can follow just about everyone. Take advantage of the opportunity to follow your industry influencers, connect with potential customers, and keep a heads up on the competition.
A great example of Twitter usage from a B2B perspective is @salesforce. Salesforce has used its Twitter feed to share relevant news, to empower current customers, and to offer customer support.
2. Figure Out Your ‘Social Voice’
Social media works best when it is personal and authentic, and thus, it’s important to make sure that the way you communicate when using social media tools comes from a personal and authentic place.
Kevin Dugan, the Director of Social Marketing for Empower MediaMarketing recently wrote a blog post about finding your social voice. I spoke with Dugan about establishing a social voice, and he had this to say:
“It is critical that brands understand a social voice is different from brand voice. Social voice reinforces the brand voice indirectly. Social voice doesn’t follow communication guidelines or identity standards. That’s because a social voice equates to a person. A brand voice is anonymous while a social voice can be found on Google. They must also have an understanding of the brand and a passion for it.”
Social networks are now helping to put the “human” back in businesses again. The traditional messaging of yore has been replaced by businesses who actually appear to show that they care about their customers. With a social voice, informal is perfectly acceptable. Having a social voice, as opposed to just a generic “brand voice,” is an important step when connecting with potential customers. Prospective customers want to connect with businesses who think just like them.
Just because your clients are other businesses doesn’t mean that the “social” aspect of social media needs to disappear.
3. Take Advantage of Opportunities on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is continuing to get bigger and bigger and it continues to be a great resource for businesses and employees to connect with one another.
One of the best things about LinkedIn is the Shared Connections feature. This feature makes it possible to find people like potential clients and then see what connections you have in common. Shared Connections then makes getting a virtual introduction that much easier.
building up a strong LinkedIn network and being willing to introduce others (in good faith, of course always use your best judgment) can also increase what opportunities you can get in the future.
B2B marketing is often built through trust and word of mouth. Having a shared connection is a great way to start establishing some of that trust from the very beginning.
LinkedIn also has a community of active participants. LinkedIn Answers serves as a knowledge base where business representatives can establish authority and expertise by participating in the ongoing discussions. LinkedIn Groups is an opportunity for business professionals to interact with other topics relevant to his/her interests. One business successfully used LinkedIn Groups as a way to build business leads. This business opted to engage in relevant industry discussion and offered business services when requests were made, thereby bringing in a highly targeted business lead. Actively participating in LinkedIn is often one of the best ways to not only help people out, but also to make a connection for your service and even generate leads.
Answering questions across LinkedIn Answers and LinkedIn Groups doesn’t mean to simply put out the marketing blurb, but to really engage and offer feedback and solutions. Again, social media is most effective when it is genuine.
4. Start a Blog
Social media provides the opportunity for companies to promote themselves but also to welcome commentary from a community of peers. By starting a blog, you give your readers an opportunity to see you with your social voice outside the typical corporate website’s newsroom. Blogs become platforms where you can announce new product releases, share personal company stories, answer any specific questions from your customers, and empower customers to achieve success with your products and service offerings. Blogging can also establish business professionals as thought leaders in their field, thereby aiding with client acquisition.
Blogs can build up qualified prospects through search engine rankings too. Be sure to update your blog regularly with valuable content and follow up with the comments written on each individual post.
5. Monitor Your Industry
Social media means that content is being posted everywhere, and businesses have a unique opportunity to gather intelligence to make well-educated and informed business decisions. Google Alerts is a great tool to keep up with what’s happening in relation to your company, your industry and your competitors. You can get updates via e-mail or in RSS (and even in real-time) about new search results or news stories for a certain query or topic.
Further, free tools like Social Mention and YackTrack will monitor the social sphere for other mentions of your business on social sites, especially. BackType will take that a step further and monitor phrases in comments on blog posts. All of these aforementioned services can be emailed to you in a daily digest format which your team can evaluate to find opportunities.
If you don’t already have alerts set up on these services for your company name, do it now. Also set up a more generic alert for your industry as a whole to see what people are talking about. If you want to see what your competition or other big industry players are doing, add those to the mix as well.
Monitoring can also be useful because you can then highlight the big stories on your own social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, etc.
6. Be Consistent and Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Up
While you don’t want to be creepy, it’s important to not let potential opportunities slip by when using social media. If you’ve answered someone’s question on LinkedIn or on Twitter, don’t be afraid to reach back out to that person to ask if they have any follow-up questions or if you can send them more information. There’s an abundance of opportunity to strengthen a business relationship but it starts by initiating and then making sure that your business is fresh in your prospects’ minds.
Staying engaged and staying communicative is really important. Social media is not about setting it and forgetting it. It’s about being social, so don’t be afraid to reach out and check back in with potential leads you meet using social media. Similarly, don’t be afraid to direct message your followers on Twitter when an opportunity presents itself. They followed you because they want to hear from you. Use that opportunity to your advantage but don’t overdo it. Auto-DMs are a no-no.
If you’re going to blog, don’t leave that blog stagnant. Provide valuable content on a regular basis. Give employees of your company an opportunity to help build your brand. You can get a lot of great blog content by involving many company employees in the process. Similarly, get many employees of your company to utilize the social networks and to be continually responsive to customer inquiries. Remember, the more visible you are on the social networks, the more likely you are to be remembered when another business actually needs to utilize your services.
7. Leverage Your Analytics for Business Metric Measurement
After you’re involved enough in the social space, you’ll likely see tweets, retweets, traffic, and social network links that point to various parts of your company website. Take a look at your website analytics and start seeing where you’re making a difference, especially as it relates to ROI measurement. Don’t lose sight of your business metrics and start considering practical social media measurement to assess clickthroughs, popularity of links, and other important metrics.
As part of measurement, consider using URL shorteners. Not only do they make links more manageable (and limit the number of characters in a Tweet or Facebook message), they also can be a great way to track data as many URL shorteners provide valuable statistics about the performance of each individual shortened URL. Monitor this data throughout the process with your main website analytics package to see if your message attached to the shortened URL resulted in conversions.
When looking at conversion trends or successful tools in building leads with social media, reviewing analytics data is crucial. It gives you insight into content that performs very well in the social space but also through other marketing techniques, such as search engine optimization. Use the data as an opportunity to improve your content or your social media/search marketing efforts.
8. Find and Follow Industry Influencers
B2B social media marketing is often about connecting with the right people and about building relationships. Social media makes both of these actions simple and painless. Being aware of who the influencers in your industry are and then following them, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or their own blogs, is the first step to building a connection with those influencers. With a genuine relationship, these influencers may be able to help you make your mark in the social media marketplace. This is especially true of influencers who may already have your target audience at their disposal.
This doesn’t mean you need to retweet every tweet or share every blog post on Facebook, but it does mean that you should be aware of who the movers and shakers are. By following them and then reaching out when appropriate or just to get to know them further, you have a much better shot at getting some attention.
Even if you’re not necessarily connecting to influencers, social media affords the opportunity to connect with other people in your industry and your customers. Use the various social media platforms as an opportunity to connect with these industry colleagues and peers and build upon each other. Consider celebrating your colleagues’ or customers’ success. Make it known that you’re here to help them not just yourself. Repeat this process with anyone of interest and you’re bound to attract eyeballs.
9. Use Social Media for Giveaways and Promotions
Sometimes, the hardest part of social media is sticking out from the sea of other users. Giveaways and promotions are a great way to help differentiate yourself and your business. Using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, you can target your desired customer base and then let them know (if appropriate) about different promotions or giveaways related to your product. If you offer a service, consider giving a free year to a loyal customer. If you manufacture products, give some away.
Offer a coupon on your company’s Facebook Page and pair it with a lead-generation form for future contact. Let people know on Twitter about specials or contests that are going on and follow-up with those that show an interest. Perhaps you can have a retweet contest where you can monitor responses or host some trivia on your Facebook Page. You can also open an online survey to get feedback about your offerings and reward participants. The possibilities are endless. Creativity in this capacity breeds success.
Companies like Wildfire make it really easy to build these sorts of promotions directly inside your own social media channels.
10. Don’t Be Creepy
If you use social media like a keyword searching robot, you are going to come across as creepy and turn off potential clients. Don’t be creepy.
Use best judgment and common sense when approaching people using social networks. If you wouldn’t want to be approached the way you are approaching another user, don’t use that approach. It’s as simple as that. Social media etiquette isn’t much different than real life relationships, so what won’t work in “real life” probably won’t work online.
Respecting boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t still answer questions, engage and follow-up with potential leads, it just means that if it’s clear that the other party isn’t interested, or more importantly, if the context of their communication really doesn’t involve or seek out input from your company, don’t do it.
Context is really important in social media and it is something that is very, very easy to overlook. While we think that using keywords and Google Alerts are good methods for keeping atop of your field, that doesn’t mean you can automate your responses or just go into autopilot based on those alerts.
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