Although social media for B2B companies has been around for some time now, it took some years before businesses started appreciating its potential in the world of marketing. Those in B2B industries were even slower to embrace social media marketing, instead assuming it to be something better suited to B2C companies. As has long been the case with online marketing, things are continuing to change rapidly, and today, the vast majority of B2B companies are jumping on the social media bandwagon too.
While there are many, sometime subtle, differences between B2B and B2C SMM, the core concept is much the same. As is the case with any type of company, social media plays a major role in the decision-making process, and it presents the opportunity to build up meaningful relationships, generate leads, influence potential customers and conduct essential market research. This guide explains how to execute a robust SMM campaign, make the best use of the tools available to you and track your ROI thereafter.
Chapter 1 – How Social Media Marketing Works
In the late 90s, Internet marketing was still in its infancy, and social media barely existed. Both B2B and B2C companies which embraced Internet marketing at the time made use of email, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, affiliate programs and extensive search engine optimization. While these tried and tested methods are still just as important as ever, social media has now become deeply intertwined with the online marketing process. Social media sites now account for the majority of decision-making processes, which is largely due to the fact that potential leads are far more likely to hear about your company by way of third-party reviews and other such content. Where traditional advertising relies on interrupting people, social media is more about delivering a solid value proposition to your audience and encouraging engagement, community development and word-of-mouth recommendations.
The first thing you’ II need to do is choose a social media identity which will remain consistent across all of the platforms you plan to use. You’ll likely want to stick with using a brand name, since people will be more likely to recognize you. However, personal accounts can also play a valuable role in the B2B marketing process. These accounts will belong to senior staff members and should be used to share information relevant to their particular field in order to help build up your brand’s image and authority. By contrast, company accounts tend to be more promotional orientated, focusing more on nurturing existing leads by way of sharing information about the company and its products and services. To check if your brand name is available across a wide range of social networks, you can use a free tool such as the one at namechk.com.
SMM is much more complex than just opening a company page on the major social networks, and you’ll also need to make use of a variety of tools for social media monitoring, posting and analytics. When building up your in-house online marketing team, you’ll first need to conduct some research by monitoring your competitors and your potential audience. A good place to start is the social networks themselves, most of which include search functions whereby you can view other company pages, trending topics and other useful information pertaining to your industry and its audience. A more sophisticated approach is to use specialist social monitoring software to automate searches, monitor keyword mentions and generate useful reports.
Social media is all about sharing, which is precisely what gives it its power as a marketing tool. To encourage sharing, you’re going to need to start with great content, which is why content marketing and SMM are so heavily intertwined. However, you’ll also want to make sharing easier, and there are very simple ways to make any website or blog more social-friendly. For example, the extremely popular Word Press platform, powering around a fifth of the Web, has a number of plug-ins available for it which can automatically add sharing buttons to each page of content. other ways to help facilitate sharing include making your email newsletters viewable as webpages and streaming social media posts on your website.
Whereas B2C buyers tend to be relatively easy to influence, B2B buyers are more likely to be highly aware of the risks involved. As a B2B business, you’ll need to focus on increasing your credibility and helping your potential buyers to overcome their fears. Social proofing refers to helping those among your target audience to overcome ambiguity by seeking out external cues regarding your company’s authority, popularity and trustworthiness. Social media is about building up a community whereby its members effectively do much of your promotional work for you, and a good way to have everything work together is to publish external comments, reviews and social media posts on your company’s website.
Organic vs. Paid Advertising
SMM can include either paid or organic (free) advertising. Organic advertising delivers a greater degree of potential to generate and nurture leads, but it is also more challenging, since it relies on promoting your brand, product or service as transparently as possible by way of social media posts and status updates. Successful organic advertising is all about offering value to your audience. By contrast, paid methods using social networks typically comes in the form of PPC advertising, as is the case with Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and many other social networks. Given the huge volume of social media users, it is easy to see the potential of such paid advertising programs.
Chapter 2 – Planning Your Social Marketing Strategy
You’ll need to develop a solid social marketing strategy if you want to succeed in generating leads and increasing your company’s revenue. Many companies jump straight into SMM without having a proper plan in place and end up wondering why their return on investment is minimal. Before your company can be ready to embrace social media, you’ll need to make sure that it meets the following requirements:
Your company has clearly defined goals. Your goals may include raising brand awareness, increasing website traffic, generating leads, nurturing existing customers or improving customer support. Most likely, your goals will include all or most of the above.
Your marketing team already has a solid content marketing strategy in place. You’ll need to be producing enough quality content on a consistent basis to inspire and sustain your social media conversations and communities. Your main company website should also be ready.
You know which social networks are popular among your target audience. Research is a critical first stage of the process and defining your customer personas and learning how they are likely to interact with your company is something you should do before you even set up your social media profiles.
You have the necessary human resources at your disposal. This guide assumes that you are working with an in-house marketing team rather than outsourcing your efforts. Your SMM efforts should be an integral part of the online marketing strategy which your team has in place already.
Defining your goals and preparing your business for social media will help to ensure that your resources are used to the best of their potential. Now you’ll be ready to plan your strategy. At this stage, you’ll need to ask yourself who you plan to target, how you intend to interact with them and what you hope to achieve with each segment of your social marketing campaign.
Creating Customer Personas
Before you can start planning, you should list the fundamental characteristics of a typical customer, since you’ll be using this information to formulate a suitable marketing strategy for your business. If your business has a particularly broad audience, you should segment it and personalize your marketing efforts based on the various customer personas. For example, some of your buyers may be more likely to use Linked In (particularly as you’re marketing a B2B business while another demographic among your audience might be more disposed towards using Twitter. You cannot simply take the same approach across the whole range of social networks. When defining your customer personas, consider their basic characteristics such as name, age, gender, and location as well as their professional attributes. As a B2B business, you’ll want to focus on professional characteristics.
Choosing Your Social Networks
There is no shortage of social networks to choose from as a B2B marketer, but there are only a few which are worth spending your time with. Additionally, there may also be some niche networks representing your industry, which can be excellent for generating valuable leads. Niche networks include GovLoop for those in government-related industries, Lawlink for those in the legal sphere, GBTA for those in the business travel industry and TheStreet for those in the financial industry. Of course, there are many other niche networks to choose from as well. However, even as a B2B company, the clear majority of your SMM efforts will involve the mainstream websites. By far the most popular in B2B marketing is Linked In due to its emphasis on professional connections and resume-like profiles. other important social networks include those which are also extensively used by B2C companies, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, SlideShare and Pinterest. The number of networks at your disposal may seem overwhelming, but it is import ant not to stretch your resources too far by overextending your brand across too many networks.
Defining Your Objectives
Once you have your profiles in place and the content to feed them, your online marketing team will need to establish a consistent routine for keeping its social strategy moving forward. Your objectives may include creating a blog post publication schedule, promotion of your own content on social networks or responding to comments both on your blog and on your social media profiles. Be sure to create some basic rules for your marketing team to follow and a social media policy which determines what your team should and should not publish.
Chapter 3 – Best Practices for B2B Social Media Marketing
In this chapter, we will take a look at some of the best SMM practices to use with some of the most popular networks, but first we’ II discuss some of the common pitfalls which must be avoided across the board:
- Don’t start posting unless you have defined your goals and objectives as well as ways to measure your success.
- Don’t use social media as a platform for sales pitches. While paid social advertising works much like traditional advertising, organic marketing relies on establishing yourself as a thought leader.
- Don’t assume that each and every social network is a good match for your business. By using the wrong networks, you’ll simply end up wasting your resources.
- Don’t forget to engage your audience directly through two-way conversation. Social marketing is about keeping your brand human, whereas true advertising is something for PPC campaigns and other such paid systems.
Provided that you have the content in place, such as an active blog, to drive your SMM campaign, you’ll be ready to start setting up your profiles. We’ll now take a look at getting started with the three largest and most important social networks for almost any B2B company- LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. A lot of these tips and techniques will also apply to other networks, and the following should give you a general idea of how to conduct your SMM strategy in an optimal manner.
With 300 million users, LinkedIn is the world’s premier business-orientated social networking service, making it a crucial platform for any B2B company. Businesses can use LinkedIn to create branded company pages, post updates about their businesses, link to blog posts and other content, generate leads and even recruit new personnel.
Only use LinkedIn to connect with people who you actually know in a professional capacity. The network has very strict rules with regards to establishing connections, and it does not tolerate unsolicited attempts to connect with other users of the platform.
Send invitations to connect with other users soon after you have had your first interaction with them, while they still remember your meeting. Likewise, encourage people to connect with your company of their own volition by promoting your LinkedIn profile on your blog.
Be sure to complete your profile in its entirety. An incomplete profile looks unprofessional and will be unlikely to receive much attention. Additionally, it’s a good idea to add a profile picture in order to give your profile and your brand image a more human face.
Pay close attention to any updates which you receive on your LinkedIn profile, since these can help to generate leads and reach out to a wider audience. Respond to comments as much as possible and thank people when they give your company recommendations.
Consider using LinkedIn’s paid services, since you’ll be able to benefit from a wider array of communication features, search options and more. LinkedIn also provides a paid advertising service called LinkedIn Ads, whereby you can set a daily advertising budget from as little as $10.
With approximately 700 million user accounts, Twitter is the world’s number one micro-blogging service, characterized by its short 140-character limit text messages known as Tweets. Twitter is entirely public unlike most of the other social networks, and people don’t even need an account in order to view your content. The platform is also known for its use of hashtags for categorizing and searching through content.
Complete your profile and ensure that it is branded in a manner which is consistent with your other online platforms. Be sure to include links to your blog and company website, a customized background, your company lo: and a suitable header image.
Seek out other Twitter users to which your business is relevant and interesting and follow them. More often than not, they will follow you in return. As you build up your community, your exposure will increase, and you’ll be able to associate yourself with a group of industry experts.
Nurture your followers by keeping a close eye on their Tweets and responding or sharing (re-Tweeting) when you have something to say. You can help to keep your Twitter feeds organized by using client-side applications such as Tweet Deck.
Have your marketing team commit themselves to a regular schedule of posting Tweets throughout the day, every day, and make sure that they keep the content relevant to your industry and interesting to your audience. Also, make sure that you get the timing right.
Use hashtags to help categorize your Tweets and increase their exposure in the search results. However, don’t hijack irrelevant hashtags, since doing so can backfire severely. When promoting corporate events on Twitter, consider using a dedicated hashtag for every reference made to that event.
Use a URL shortener such as bit.ly or tinyurl.com to shorten any URLs which you link to. With the 140-character limit on tweets, you don’t have much space to work With, so posting a complete URL Will leave you little or no space for important content.
Avoid using tools to post Tweets automatically, since they will inevitably end up looking like exactly what they are – spam. Automated tweeting will greatly increase the chances of people unfollowing you. Likewise, keep your Tweets from being overly promotional.
Facebook might not sound like a suitable platform for B2B marketing but considering its vast reach thanks to its 1. 3 billion active user accounts, it’s simply too huge to ignore. Facebook is a great platform for showing the human side of your company, promoting events and developing communities. While Facebook isn’t as important as LinkedIn or Twitter for B2B markets, it still helps to increase exposure.
As is the case with Twitter, do not send friend requests to people you don’t know. It looks unprofessional and is generally considered to be bad etiquette. It’s a good idea to ask someone before you add them as a friend, even if you know them personally.
Keep your Facebook profile professional yet human and use your privacy settings to ensure that your personal content is kept apart from your business content. Instead focus your efforts on your Facebook business page and its followers.
Although Facebook does not have the limits that Twitter does, try to keep your content as short as possible. You should also make use of hashtags and URL shorteners to keep your content concise and easily readable. For best results, accompany your posts with images, videos and other visual content.
Complete your profile to include an image, timeline header and information about your business such as contact details and street addresses. Again, stick to using consistent branding across the board so that your audience will come to recognize you more easily.
Gather fans to your Facebook business page by creating and participating in groups, responding regularly to comments and making full use out of the platforms discussion features. You can also use Facebook to create events and invite followers to them, particularly with regards to less formal events.
Chapter 4 – Tracking Your Success
One of the greatest advantages of any form of Internet marketing is the vast amount of data that it generates, which may be used for market research and calculating your return on investment. However, it can sometimes be difficult to make sense of all the information involved. Measuring your success can be difficult, but it is an essential part of the marketing process. In this chapter, we’ll take a look at some of the methods which companies are successfully using today.
Connecting Your ROI to Your Business’s Goals
The first step to tracking your ROI is to set secondary goals which complement your marketing department’s primary goals. Setting these secondary goals will help to break down the data collected from your SEM campaign into more manageable chunks. For example, if one of your goals is to increase your landing page conversion rate, you’ll want to track the number of paying customers who first find your company through social networks, including those which you generally don’t use yourself.
Tracking brand awareness is also important, and you can see how your company is performing in terms of exposure by following metrics such as the number of ‘Likes’ that your Facebook page receives, the +1 s you get on Google+ and the number of times people share (re-tweet) your Twitter posts. Among the other key metrics which you should track include the number of sign-ups and conversions, the amount of revenue generated by each customer, the main sources of traffic to your website and the number of leads generated from your social networking profiles.
Essential Analytics Tools
With your SEM goals in mind, you’ll be ready to implement a variety of methods to track and make sense of the data available to you. You may also want to add tracking codes to your URLs and build custom landing pages to break down your marketing campaign into more user-friendly segments. There are many free and paid tools which you can use for tracking your success, including the following:
Google Analytics is the most popular among the free tools, and it can help you to track import ant metrics such as the number of website visitors coming from each social network, the number of new visitors, bounce rates, page visits and the average duration of visits.
HootSuite is another popular tracking tool with a focus on social media analytics. It provides customized performance analyses from various social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. You’ll be able to track mentions of your business, direct messages sent and received and more.
TweetReach is the premier tool for Twitter promoters, and it provides invaluable insights into the reach of your Tweets. With a free account, you’ll be able to track the performance of your Tweets using usernames, keywords, and hashtags.
Facebook Insights is Facebook’s own tracking tool, and it is invaluable for finding out when your fans are online and determining which pages to watch to track the performance of your competitors’ posts. Other metrics you can track include page likes, post reach and various other engagement metrics.
Linked In provides a variety of tools of its own for tracking the success of your most valuable social media profile. Its new Content Marketing Score provides useful insights into the effectiveness of your paid and organic Linked In marketing strategies, while the Trending Content tool lists to pies which are currently popular among your target audience.
Social media marketing is not something that delivers results overnight, and it will take some time to come to fruition. Along the way, you’ll find certain networks and strategies which are failing to deliver, and you’ll need to adjust your strategy accordingly. In some cases, you may find that certain networks are simply not delivering to such an extent that they are will no longer be worth persevering with. Your social marketing campaigns will increase their effectiveness over time, provided that you track your performance on a constant basis and review the results regularly, such as once per month. Don’t forget the fact that social media is a dynamic thing. and as an ongoing process, your marketing team will need to continue to adapt its strategy.
Why shoot in the dark trying out ideas blindly when you can let the professionals at Fincel Design help to guide you? If you are interested in a social media marketing consultation to see just what we can do for you we would love to set up a time to talk. Give us a call at 904-834-0509 or contact us online.