Social Media & B2B : Where Should We Start?

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I was recently pitching to a potential B2B client and the guys said to me that of a few marketing companies they had spoken to, we were the only one that had such a focus online. I’m certainly not some little upstart that thinks that marketing online is the only way to go. Sure I lean to online when I can because hey, clearly there’s stillplenty of dinosaurs out there ignoring the opportunities, particularly when it comes to business to business marketing.

I understand (to some extent) why the B2B sector has been slow in taking up the online space, I just don’t agree with it. In particular it seems that B2B is ignoring Social Media as simply this glossy tool for marketing directly to consumers.

The fact is, the social media phenomenon is a human phenomenon. Last time I noticed, those involved with B2B still fit in that category. So no matter the specific industry, the opportunity must at least be explored. At its best a social media strategy for B2B will open up networks, generate leads and streamline your business’ customer communications. At its worst, you can spend too much time tweeting, posting updates and sharing articles.

The risk is worth it and in addition to the advantages noted, it all contributes to a company’s search engine performance, which nobody can argue with. So to get to the point, here is my Business to Business Marketing Guide to Social Media. They’re five of the biggest names but that’s for a reason isn’t it?


LinkedIn
I start with LinkedIn because it is being heralded as the social networking platform more suited for B2B. The Facebook for professionals (not really but that’s what they say). It has more than 2 million members in Australia and 100 million members worldwide.

Create your individual profile and complete as much information as possible, the more info and the better your SEO return. Make sure you change your public profile to include a vanity URL, i.e. linkedin.com/johnsmith. Connect with as many of your contacts as you can, then go through their contacts and identify some opportunities. Start joining groups that are relevant to your industry and engage.

You should also create a company profile and again complete as much of the profile as you can including products or services. Then encourage other companies to connect with your company.

Finally, there is an advertising platform for LinkedIn and it’s great. You can target other members via location, company and their job title. It can be a really effective tool depending on your specific business. For example, if you’re selling business insurance you could target the CFO’s within your local area from companies with 100+ employees.

Blogging

I would say blogging is the single-most beneficial social media platform for B2B. It can be time consuming but the advantages plentiful. Blogging will drive traffic to your website in ways that you may not have realised. So let’s say that you’re a professional services business with hundreds of competitors all trying to rank in the top five results in Google. The beauty of writing blog posts is, you write about something specific, something that your potential clients are searching for. Instead of searching ‘Accounting Company Melbourne’ or ‘IT Company Melbourne’ they might search ‘How to start a business’ or ‘IT Opportunities for small business’ and all of a sudden there you are (and not the hundreds of competitors)..

Blogging also allows you to validate your knowledge within the marketplace. Sure the customer can read your website and everything that you say you can do for them but they will get more from your opinions on relevant topics.

Facebook
I consistently find myself advising B2B clients on one or the other, Facebook or Twitter. Facebook is primarily an opportunity for you to create an online community for your brand and business. It is a great opportunity to encourage conversations and is best utilised when you can get a level of engagement from that community. This may or may not be possible for your B2B.

I guess an exception in this case is to use Facebook as a customer service tool. Let’s say you’re still in that IT business and you invite your clients to use your Facebook page as an opportunity to ask small questions, so your tech guys can leave answers that are there for the whole client community to see. If it makes it easier for the client, it has to be good for business right?

Twitter
A little more susceptible to a one-way conversation (still highly recommend you engage). Identify the companies you would like to target and follow them. Look for local business and follow them. Search to see who is talking within your industry and follow them. Before you know it you’re engaging in the industry and wider business community. If you want to get attention of people try retweeting them and engaging. Use hashtags to enter yourself into a live stream of conversation. Share relevant articles, express your opinion, share your blog posts, ask people to connect with you on LinkedIn.

Twitter like Facebook can also be a terrific customer-service tool. I rarely like to give telcos a plug but @telstra uses Twitter really well as a customer service tool, which if your query is generic is a real time-saver (compared to waiting on a call)

YouTube
The online video site is the second-largest search engine online. It’s a great opportunity for you to upload product and/or services videos. You can also use the site to produce video blogs with the same theory as above. Whatever the strategy, potential clients can find your videos through search engines to help convince them of your services or alternatively you can actively promote the videos to get that next client over the line.

Honourable @Mentions

Quora
A simple Question and Answer tool. Users follow particular topics and when a question is put out there, those following submit their answers and they are voted on. It’s great for those looking for the answers of course. But the opportunity for B2B is to follow the topics relevant to your industry and answering when you can. By answering you are establishing a knowledge within the marketplace and creating more links to your website and improving your overall search engine presence.

Google+
It’s the newbie out there at the moment, already tipped to reach heights greater than Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m yet to be convinced at this stage because, whilst I love the features, it’s hard to network when you know very few people using it. But if some of the expectations are true then it could very well be a social media tool well worth B2B adopting.

Among a few it features Hangouts, Circles and Sparks that might all benefit B2B. The Hangouts are a great way to video chat and perhaps coordinate face to face meetings between the sales team and prospective clients. The Circles feature would allow a B2B to segment their audience and tailor communications accordingly.  The Sparks feature will allow you to let your audience know when you’ve published content they’ll be interested in.

SlideShare
It’s a great site that allows you to upload your powerpoint presentations like you would videos on YouTube. People can search their interests and find your presentations. It’s a great way to get people to look at your work and of course use the opportunity to encourage people to connect with your company.

Whatever platform you choose to investigate, I hope you don’t flatly dismiss social media as being an opportunity for businesses marketing to consumers… You can always benefit in engaging with potential clients on a human level, isn’t that what the free lunches and tickets are for?