Business People are Social Too
Selling the latest gadget, pair of coloured jeans or a video game can seem much more exciting than selling IT infrastructure and industrial machinery, but that doesn’t mean social isn’t an essential feather in a B2B company’s marketing cap.
B2B is just as much about engaging with people as business-to-consumer, and so companies need to keep their ears to the ground and become a part of the social conversation. Organisations can only truly take advantage of social when they understand its landscape, and how their business fits within the broader conversation. Only then will they be able to find engaging ways to raise their profile and gain value through participating in the social conversation.
Here are some tips you can use to make social a killer tool for business success:
Think Like an Exec to Convince Your Execs: In a recent Cloudforce New York session, Jeffrey Cohen and Kipp Bodnar, authors of The B2B Social Media Book, delivered a remarkable statistic: 73% of CEOs don't believe marketers drive revenue. Leads fix this problem and can help prove the worth of social media endeavours. That's because leads are a proxy for sales. According to Cohen and Bodnar, you aren't buying leads with your marketing efforts; instead, you should seek to buy customers. Social media created a complex path to lead generation, which makes it critical to understand how to create leads using your social efforts.
Sceptical CEOs may need a deeper understanding of the benefits a B2B social media strategy can bring to their business, and so you need to speak to them in a language they will understand – results driven statistics that showcase the value of this approach. To get their attention, you need to think like them. What are their greatest challenges? How can you help them meet their goals? Show how social media can be the new guardian angel of the business. For example, the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) finds that fully implementing social technologies gives companies the opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers—high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals—by 20 to 25 percent.
Understand the Social Environment: Building a relationship with potential customers is a critical first, second and third step to generating leads and building brand loyalty. B2B connections are really about people-to-people. People at your company are doing business with people at another company. Get to know them online, make connections, communicate and share information. In order to create leads, you need to have interaction, affinity and time, which are all aided by social media. The best way to create strong ties through the social space is to follow, friend and connect. Remember that you are taking these actions with people, not corporate accounts, so treat these relationships accordingly.
Before you go and create that Twitter account or Facebook page, think about your audience. Where do they spend their time? Some industries hold more conversations on forums and blogs, for instance, so don’t just create social media presences that you think you need.
Develop Great Content: The most effective content on social media is not the stuff that sells products. It’s about creating content that delivers real value and helps your followers to achieve something. This will allow you to build a level of trust with your audience which positions you as both a resource and an expert.
Publishing and sharing content online is the single biggest lever to increase lead generation. What should you write about? Well, prospects don’t care about your products. They want solutions to their problems. So the content you create, in an effort to drive people to landing pages and generate leads, has to be helpful. The half-life of a social media link, according to Cohen and Bodnar, is three hours. After that, you'll need to regenerate interest to drive traffic towards a link. One of the best ways to create a content strategy is to follow the 10-4-1 rule. The rule states that your social accounts should drive to:
10 links to third-party articles
- 4 links to your blog posts
- 1 link to your landing page
Within what timeframe so you apply the 10-4-1 rule? Base that on the "4". In other words, as often as you have four blog posts is as often as you can use this rule. So if it takes you a week to create four blog posts then use this rule weekly.
Keep it simple: People are more responsive if you ask less of them – they’re much more likely to sign up for discounts or an event if they can do it at the click of a mouse rather than filling out a form, for example. Recent research into the subject found that simple directions such as ‘like’ and ‘post’ generated the highest levels of interaction. The case is very similar with Twitter, as the data suggested that asking followers to simply ‘retweet’ drove 12 times more engagement, boosting the chances of additional clickthroughs to a company’s website.
Identify your social heroes: There are employees within your organisation who can add a lot of value to your social media activity with something that simply can’t be taught – a genuine passion for what your business has to offer. Enthusiasm is infectious, so if a company can combine this with a high level of expertise in the key areas of the business they can take advantage of this and build strong, long lasting client relationships.
For instance, Reuters created a contest within their organisation where employees could submit an essay detailing why they should be social media managers at an upcoming conference. The winners got to tweet and blog from the conference with the supervision of the social media team. Similarly, Caterpillar rewarded employees who contributed content. By giving them badges or icons, or even swag, they were excited to contribute and worked hard to create successful content for the company’s own social media outlets.
In social media you can’t control the message, but you can control your culture. Employees will feel great about your company if you free them up to talk to customers. The power of social media is in the people within your enterprise.