The media surrounding social marketing continues to stress the importance of integrating Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and numerous other social marketing tools into your marketing strategy. Further adding to this hype are the constant, if not overbearing, requests from companies to “Like” them on Facebook and Google+, or follow them on Twitter. What you aren’t seeing is clear, reliable details documenting the results of these programs and how they are producing leads for these organizations.
And if you’re in a business-to-business (B2B) marketplace, following a blueprint established for a more socially prevalent business-to-consumer (B2C) company can be an expensive, time-consuming exercise in futility. The challenge you face is to develop a B2B social marketing strategy that is appropriate for your business.
The first thing you need to understand when building a B2B social marketing strategy is how an investment in social media will help you win more business. Unlike consumer targeted programs, B2B social marketing strategies need to align with a more complex sales process in which multiple people are normally involved in a purchase decision.
In these cases, a single tweet, recommendation from a friend or “Like,” is not going to be enough to trigger a buying a decision. Instead, your B2B social marketing strategy needs to work in other ways to help move the buying process along. It can do this by working in parallel with your other marketing programs to help validate, enhance and spread positive communications about your organization. Here are some examples of how this can work:
- While few prospects will start on Facebook or LinkedIn pages as their primary source of information, they may use them to validate a comment or statement seen in a case study or white paper found somewhere else. Capturing customer feedback about the quality of your service in an open forum such as this is a great way to validate those messages without going through the process of writing new copy or asking for approval to use a quote.
- Creating discussion groups to encourage discussion on particular topics of interest is a good way to be part of the initial conversation, as well as set yourself and your company up as an expert in that specific area. This can add credibility to statements made in other areas as well as increase brand recognition.
- Hosting events and encouraging attendees to comment or stay connected with other attendees. Using social media to spur conversation is a great way to get people engaged and extending the life of your marketing investment.
- Personalizing your organization by giving customers and prospects a conduit to the daily lives of your employees. Allowing employees to talk freely about your organization is a great way to validate a healthy work environment that can translate into happier, more involved customers.
Each of these activities is designed to make your organization more transparent to your target customers and prospects. If and when you decide to use them, it’s important to understand the potential positive and negative consequences. B2B social marketing strategies need to account for both the good and bad aspects of these open forums; and in the end, your success will be measured based on how these comments and discussions are able to improve sales.