Repost from Business2Community, November 25, 2013
By Eunice David
Business to Business (B2B) companies often find it hard to see the benefits of social media in their marketing strategy. Because their market is usually smaller and more vertical than Business to Consumer (B2C) companies, they often don’t see how implementing a solid social media marketing plan has the potential to help close new sales.
The fact is, social media is a pervasive force in society today, and its influence is only growing. B2B is not insulated from the movement, as evidenced by more and more marketing budgets incorporating social. If you don’t want to be left behind, you better get out in front of it, right?
A good place to start is to develop a well thought out social media marketing plan. One way of approaching your social strategy is to incorporate traditional marketing plan elements into your B2B social media plan.
1. Know Your Goals
What do you hope to achieve with your social media marketing efforts? Do you want to grow your reputation and awareness among potential buyers? Do you hope to improve your inbound marketing strategies and leads? Do you want to grow and nurture your relationship with current customers? Do you want to be seen as a thought leader? Planning what you want to achieve will help you continually determine if you are on the right track.
2. Assess Your Situation
Good old SWOT factors play into a great social media marketing plan, as well as they do in any traditional marketing plan. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Knowing these can help you with developing strong social media marketing action items that will lead your business in the right direction among social channels.
3. Analyze Your Market
As a B2B company, you likely already know your market and customers quite well. Use that information to identify where they fall on the social spectrum. Think about the kind of time (and when) they spend online and where they are most likely to be exposed to your marketing message.
Social Media is a great way to gather data or build an audience for your upcoming or established product, brand, or service. You could integrate social media poll results in your analytics to get a better picture of how your audience is perceiving you product, service, or company. You can also monitor conversations about your brand, or industry as a whole. You can use this data to make your business to business marketing strategy even more effective.
4. Become an Influencer
Social media provides the opportunity to keep your business relevant to potential customers, define your brand identity, and position your business as an influencer & thought leader in your industry.
Stay on top of the industry by producing valuable content that will resonate with your audience and peers. Think of your social media channels as a pedestal for leadership. Lead the flock with content that is engaging and that matters to your target audience.
5. Devise an Implementation Plan
The other steps are important, but this one is crucial. After all, without implementation, there is no social media marketing success because there is no social media, right?
There are two critical things to consider when developing your implementation strategy:
- What – Developing a plan of quality content which delivers a clear message is critical. Know what you’re going to say and how you’ll be saying it. Keep in mind that social media is a conversation tool that can lead to a relationship with a potential buyer. What are you wanting to discuss, or share with your potential buyers? Don’t be salesy. Integrate thought leadership, industry news and other conversation factors into your social media posts.
- Where – Which social media channels do your potential and current buyers frequent? Go there. Remember that your buyers are not some mysterious entity existing somewhere in your marketing funnel. They are people, and a lot of people are on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social channels these days. Having a consistent and strong presence in these places can help you connect with those people.
LinkedIn is a particularly important social medium for B2B businesses. Because LinkedIn is business-oriented, it is populated with a pre-qualified audience. According to a recent article on Forbes, “LinkedIn should be the focus of any B2B social-marketing campaign, because traffic that comes via LinkedIn is much more highly qualified than traffic that comes from Twitter or Facebook.”
This doesn’t mean you should abandon other channels, it just means that LinkedIn is already business-minded and you’re likely to find a higher volume of individuals within your niche to network with. The article continues to say LinkedIn outperforms other channels in lead conversion. “HubSpot research shows LinkedIn traffic has a three-fold advantage over Facebook and Twitter in B2B lead conversion. Whereas one out of 100 people who visit a website from Facebook or Twitter converts to a qualified lead, three out of 100 from LinkedIn become qualified leads.”
The moral of the story is that if you are new to social media marketing, and you have a B2B company, LinkedIn is an excellent place to start.
6. Evaluate With Useful Metrics
What good is any plan if you can’t measure the results? With good analytics, you should be able to determine how successful your social media marketing plan is. From there, you can decide what changes you want to make to continually improve your results. Figure out what works for your buyers and what doesn’t. Then, do more of what is working.
Social media platforms like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck offer insightful analytics to help you keep track of what’s working and what’s not. Yu will be able to track engagement levels for specific posts and determin what is resonating with your audience.
All social media strategies should be considered long-term, as awareness and brand engagement takes time because it builds on relationships and trust. Don’t expect instant results; instead watch for measured successes, lags and trends. Consistency is key.
Pay particular attention to two key metrics: quantity (the amount of likes, followers, etc.) and quality (the amount of engagement via comments, retweets, shares, and most importantly sales etc.) These will help point the way to a successful B2B social media marketing plan.