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How B2B Can Get More Out of Social Media

April 29, 2012 · 4 comments

in Social Media

B2B Social MediaA few years ago, I was on the other side of the Twitter debate. “Rubbish”, I called it.

A “fad” that will never catch on in B2B circles, because businesses don’t communicate with businesses over social networks.

I still think that I was partly right, and I still can’t help but raise a smile whenever I see a marketing manager at a mid-level accounting software business declare “we simply have to be part of the social media revolution – get me a Facebook page now.”

Can B2B really get anywhere with social media? Or should b2b marketers simply shift their focus back to the real world, i.e. face-to-face market research, lead generation and getting “face time” with prospects?

I’m starting to believe that it can. Talk of a convergence between B2B and B2C has petered out of late, but I can see b2b marketers using social media in a more traditional manner: nurturing and understanding prospects and customers. Let’s look at the common social networking sites and how we can best take advantage of them.

Twitter

On a personal level, I’ll be damned if I ever want to ‘engage with a brand’ on Twitter. But that’s just a characteristic of mine, and any B2B marketer had better understand that before they talk to me. However, I am there, and you can ‘engage with me’ should you wish to – and many of your potential b2b prospects are on Twitter, too.

While many businesses simply ‘tweet’ their latest news and product promotions, they are left scratching their heads at why Twitter doesn’t generate a) clickthroughs or b) leads. Instead of being outside the community, shouting into it, they should be in it, saying something interesting. People don’t want to engage with your brand, but they would engage with it if you had something of value to them. Give them research, white papers, exclusive downloads, anything you can package for free that is done by you, but not about you. Position yourself as a thought leader, and don’t expect anything in return!

Here’s how to do it:

1)   Build up your community by following people who have an interest in your industry or niche. Followerwonk.com helps you do this by searching through peoples’ bios – or you could just search through tweets.

2)   Use twitter handles (@something) as part of your overall data set – they’re as important as e-mail and postal addresses now, so get your CRM fixed so that it includes this.

3)   Say something interesting – comment on the latest industry news, share some articles (not your own), and join in conversations.

4)   Keep adding hashtags to commonly used keywords, so that you turn up in searches.

5)   Retweet things that you find interesting

6)   Monitor your engagement with target organisations and personnel. Record it in your CRM, if you can, and you start to build up a picture of behaviour and attitudes that is useful for other people in your organisation (sales, perhaps?)

7)   Once you’ve built up a decent list of followers, start giving. Freebies create goodwill, so start spreading the love.

8)   Again, as a good B2B marketer, you’ll know what to do next: monitor, measure, record and react. If you have multi-channel contact possibilities, an e-mail will likely be better received. A phone call may even be welcomed. Nurture your list.

Pinterest

This made me smile: http://pinterest.com/search/?q=Vmware

No re-pins yet. Bless them for trying, though. You see, Pinterest is developing at a rate of knots, and it pays to be at the forefront of these so-called revolutions. If you haven’t yet discovered Pinterest, it’s all about ‘pinning’ images onto virtual pinboards. It’s very popular with women, especially brides who are looking for inspiration, but also anyone who is looking for interior decoration ideas. In short, anything where people can share and comment on images, or even videos.

It’s developing, too – more and more, people are sharing the ubiquitous memes, lolcats and the like – but increasing numbers of businesses, mainly B2C are seeing potential by adding prices to their products.

Chances are that your prospects aren’t using Pinterest at work – and if they are, they won’t be in their job for long. However, that’s not to say that you can’t find ways of generating a buzz through Pinterest – the only cost is your time. Just think about how imagery can convey something about your business – it could be an infographic, it could be a compelling image from your blog, it could be an eye-catching graphic that opens up a conversation.

Google+

The problem with Google+ is that hardly anybody knows what it’s for, apart from SEOs and photographers. Oh, and Google.

Research has shown that people only spend a few minutes per month on Google+, compared to several hours for Facebook, and the entire month for certain Pinterest users. There was even an open letter to Google from a former employee damning the company for the haphazard launch of G+.

That said, it’s Google’s toy, and they’re pushing their own content into the first page of your search results. When signed in, users get personalised content according to the people they’re connected to (if they’re connected to anyone). Therefore, having a Google+ business page is essential.

The future of G+ is unclear, but one recent Google patent shows that author rank is going to play a major role.

So what is author rank? Again, we don’t really know yet, but it all revolves around author popularity and authority. So, if you’re writing, you have to connect your blog up to Google+ (and vice versa), and you have to write content that is compelling enough to be shared. The more shares you get, the more authority you have.

If this is Google’s end game with Google+, then it makes perfect sense: those who have something interesting to say, and who act as part of a community, will benefit in the long run. So start now. Write – not just for yourself, but for other websites. Find content partners, and share content. In the years to come, your effort should pay off with better search engine rankings, and better clickthrough rates from the SERPs.

Finally, it’s a marketing mix, as we’re always told, and it’s what works for your business. The only real investment here in social media is time, and time is precious. But as with all other elements of the marketing mix, the essentials are there: if you can’t measure it, don’t do it.

Image Credit: Stuart Miles

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Gareth Cartman is an IDM-qualified marketing professional and is currently working with BIG Research

has written 2 awesome articles for us at Opportunities Planet

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