Are there any B2B companies today who aren’t using social media? Probably not very many. But while most B2B organizations are using social media, many are still not using it as effectively as they could be. In many cases, beliefs that their customers aren’t using social, or even concerns about risk and compliance are holding some B2B companies back. And even for those B2B marketers who are actively using social, calculating the marketing ROI for social media programs can still be a challenge.
So while it might still involve a bit of trial and error, it’s clear that social media is now an integral part of the B2B sales process. Even for the most technical or niche products, prospects today expect to be able to find the information they need online. (And if they can’t find information on your solution online, they’ll turn to your competitors.)
So now that social media is a given for B2B, how do you develop the best strategy for your products and company? Well, just like you do for your other marketing programs, start by defining your objectives, audiences, platforms and how you’ll measure your success. Let’s look at each of these areas in turn, as they relate to social media.
What result do you want from your social media activities? Do you want to generate leads, build awareness, upsell, engage/retain customers, register users, be a thought leader? Maybe it’s a combination of these, or even all of them. To start, think about how social media will align with your regular marketing activities, and which of your objectives social media can help you address.
You can develop a social media approach to support an overarching marketing goal (i.e. lead generation), but you can also create a social media plan for each separate marketing activity, such as a trade show or presentation, i.e. to build awareness of that specific event. Build this social media support into all of your marketing activities.
Who do you want to engage with? Prospects and customers for sure, but what about industry influencers, media, your competitors, prospective employees, your community … Go beyond customers and consider all of your stakeholders. In addition to your primary audiences, social media offers a compelling way to communicate with more peripheral audiences, such as community groups and people in your industry. What are your objectives for each of these audience groups?
Find out where your stakeholders are spending their time online. LinkedIn is a key platform for B2B, but Facebook and Twitter are increasingly important. Instagram is great for showcasing employee engagement and local events. And as you ramp up into video (with product demonstrations, for example), you’ll need to be familiar with YouTube. Take some time and explore these platforms, to see where and what your prospects and industry members are posting. Experiment with posts and ads to see what the response is, on the different platforms. And while you might decide to focus on LinkedIn to start, for example, you’ll still need to monitor the other platforms for any activity that involves your products, company or field.
The great thing about social media, of course, is the precision it gives you in measuring the response to your online activity. You can quickly and easily see the size of the audience achieved for each post, as well as the engagement (likes, shares, clicks, etc.), and all conversions (downloads, signups, etc.) Familiarize yourself with the dashboards for each platform, and check them frequently. Or for real-time insight into the impact of your digital marketing and how it supports your goals, sign up for a service such as SONAR, Living Stone’s digital marketing analytics tool and reporting service. SONAR aggregates all analytics from social media channels, Google Analytics-driven online pubs, e-news engines, and APPs into a single score, to provide you with precise information on the global impact of your digital marketing activities.
Your digital content needs to be the best quality possible, for several reasons. First, you want your website visitors to find all the information they need, quickly and easily. Testimonials from other users, complete technical information, comparisons to similar products – make sure it’s all on your website, so that visitors don’t have a reason to leave and go over to your competitors’ solutions. And actual visitors aren’t the only ones looking at your website. Google is also analyzing your content, and the quality will determine your Google ranking and how easy it is for people to find you online.