Claiming a Seat at the Social Media Table: Successful B2B Strategies
By Andrew P. Lombard
B2B buyers on social media
In recent years, some companies have become well-known for their strong social media presence, such as Subway, Target and Dell. These companies know how to use popular platforms to promote their products and inspire brand evangelists. Mostly, however, they direct their efforts at consumers, with the goal of turning fans and followers into customers. Perhaps this is why so many companies think social media is too personal, informal and irrelevant for B2B corporate initiatives. And of course many B2B marketers assume C-suite leaders and top executives are too busy to be on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
But here’s the reality: professionals with purchasing power are quite active on those platforms. Even though we might think in terms of job titles when it comes to our B2B buyers, behind every decision-maker is a person who probably has a Facebook profile, and almost definitely a LinkedIn account. We have to remember that companies are comprised of people who learn and socialize online, and just as an executive might check out the profiles of their favorite coffee brand, they are just as likely to visit the pages of companies with which they might do business.
Another benefit for B2B marketers is that—with the right platform partner—social, mobile and digital campaigns can be launched and measured immediately. There are no months of planning and production to consume your staff hours and budget. Social media campaigns can be released in weeks or days, with the flexibility to be modified in real time.
In other words, there is absolutely a place for B2B at the social and mobile media table—and a failure to participate can make your company feel out of touch and obsolete.
From social media to sale
The B2B social media methodology doesn’t differ too much from B2C companies. The basic strategy is to create mobile, social and digital campaigns that engage consumers, extend reach and capture interest and attribute data, with the ultimate goal of attracting new partnerships and business. And just as with B2C, the advantages are multifold. A skillful social media execution can not only increase inbound leads but help you score and segment those leads, engaging with them in a profound way, while boosting your search rankings and deepening your knowledge of marketplace insights.
So just how does a B2B business launch a smart and effective social media campaign? Three steps can take you from campaign to close.
Engagement. You probably knew this already; social media is all about engaging users through interaction and compelling content. Not only do you want to attract interest through visually appealing platforms, but you need to publish useful content as well. Offer webinars and demonstrations to develop trust and credibility, and make sure that your content anticipates and answers typical questions and overcomes buyer objections. Remember that this isn’t a sales campaign; you’re approaching users who haven’t necessarily expressed any interest in your product, which means you must adopt a more subtle approach. The idea is to interest those users in your content now while slowly building future interest in your services.
At the same time, although you’re not exhorting anyone to buy yet, your content should be designed with sales in mind. This means that your social media environment should make it easy for potential buyers and partners to act at any time, with links to your sales team and product information on every page. Another tip: test a variety of calls to action, so you can determine which is the most effective.
Extend campaign reach. Users rely on a mix of web, mobile, and social media—and they can change their preferences for each on a dime. This means that to reach the right audience at the right time with the right message, you must repurpose your content across all three delivery paths as you gain more insight on your leaders and customers. Make sure that your content adapts to the demands of each channel; copy and design that works on a landing page will probably need to adjust to a mobile platform. The end result should be a seamless user experience of synchronized and complementary content across whatever channel a user chooses at any moment. Not only will this create a ubiquitous and unified brand presence, but you will disseminate a consistent message to a larger number of leads.
Capture interest and attribute data. Data is gold to the B2B marketer—and social media provides a wealth of it. While measuring your efforts through tools like Google Analytics and HootSuitePro is a smart first step, you should also capture interest and attribute data to gain more insight into buyer dynamics and motivations. Nothing will provide more value in refining and tailoring your content to target specific interests and foster meaningful connections.
Joining the conversation
It’s undeniable: smart social media campaigns drive revenue, brand presence and customer loyalty. And in a world where both businesses and consumers measure company profiles in part by their social media presence, it is quickly becoming mandatory. Nor is an active social media life restricted to B2B businesses who can maintain a dedicated staff. These businesses have social media tools available to them that can create polished, on-message campaigns while shaping and monitoring online discussions across multiple platforms.
Countless potential buyers are visiting social media platforms every day, looking for their next business solution. It’s time for B2B businesses to join the social media community and connect with them. Their next customers are waiting to welcome them.
As the CEO of SocialWhirled, Andrew P. Lombard oversees the innovation, growth and direction of the company. Lombard’s deep knowledge of both public and private operations, passion for entrepreneurism, and extensive expertise in digital media, venture capital and Web technologies enables him to guide the company as it evolves the social, mobile and digital publishing landscape. www.socialwhirled.com