Forrester Research published a report revealing how pervasive the use of social media is among B2B decision-makers in North America and Europe. Still, many organizations aren’t sure which social networks are relevant to their target audiences and worthy of time and resources.
Audiences across the top social media platforms have a degree of overlap, yet the varying features and uses of each network serve different functions for B2B marketers. So, why should a B2B marketer focus on each of these platforms? Which strategy is most effective?
Twitter can be both the easiest and most difficult social platform for B2B marketers. It’s easy in the sense you can quickly share 140-character bites of branded content with more than 200 million active users who are constantly consuming and sharing new content. It’s difficult in that it can be hard to be noticed in a sea of 400 million daily tweets.
A few tips to build a good Twitter strategy include:
Start by identifying customers, partners and industry influencers, then following and listening to them. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn about your own industry by monitoring content being shared and discussed by industry experts on Twitter. Understanding what’s interesting and significant to your target audience can help your company improve its products, services, and customer and business relationships, ultimately strengthening your brand.
Commit to being part of the conversation. That means consistently contributing content (external industry content is as important as internal promotional content) relevant to your audience, using #hashtags and responding to @mentions and industry conversations as appropriate.
Extra Twitter tip: The immediacy of Twitter and the use of hashtags are beneficial when promoting and monitoring live events, whether you’re hosting or simply attending. When hosting an event, try to create a hashtag for attendees to use in social media discussions before, during, and after the event. If you’re attending a big event, chances are there’s a hashtag you should be using in your social media communications.
With more than 1.15 billion active monthly users, Facebook is the largest social media platform globally and every business must have a presence there---if for no other reason than people expect you to be there. Period. Yes, most Facebook activity is for personal use and not a strong lead generation tool for B2B companies. But as the lowest common denominator for social networks, it’s a site where every organization needs to have at least a basic presence. It can function as a forum for customer service, event announcements, and targeted promotions in some cases. Although it may not serve a strong sales purpose, it can be a great platform for employee engagement.
Most companies, regardless of industry or geographical location, have employees active on Facebook. Engaging these employees through your company’s Facebook page can encourage creativity and collaboration, enriching your organization’s culture by adding a level of fun and opening a new channel of communication. (As an example check out Black Duck’s Ducks Around The World Facebook photo album with employee-submitted photos of the company mascot in different locations around the globe.)
Why use Google+? Three simple letters: S-E-O! Social media is increasingly integrated with search engine optimization, due in large measure to the efforts of the world’s largest search engine: Google. The more weight social carries in Google’s search algorithms, the more important it is to have a strong presence on Google+ (as well as other top social sites). Establishing a detailed company page and maintaining a comprehensive content sharing strategy on Google+ will help to ensure you don’t fall behind in Google organic search rankings.
Beyond SEO, Google+ has become the world’s second largest social platform, with 343 million active users (according to a December 2012 study by globalwebindex). The tech community, generally early adopters, seemed to be the first to engage with this platform. The rest of the Internet has followed. Google+ circles enable you to group your audiences, allowing for customized communications, and G+ hangouts are quickly becoming the new and improved form of live podcasts---even President Obama held a Fireside Hangout. This platform will only continue to grow, so if your target audience isn’t there yet, they will be soon. Get started by creating audience and influencer Google+ circles to share your company’s customized content and engage the community in a new way.
Founded over 10 years ago, LinkedIn is one of the original social networks specifically built for professionals and focused around developing business relationships, making it a natural platform for B2B marketers to tap. Two basic features all organizations should use on LinkedIn are company pages and LinkedIn Groups.
By developing a complete company profile on LinkedIn; highlighting products, services and available job opportunities; and recruiting new talent, you’ll establish a platform to reach a new set of potential customers and partners. Maintaining a regular stream of posts---including press releases, contributed articles, blogs, corporate literature, event announcements, etc.---will increase your brand’s visibility and capture the attention of LinkedIn’s business users. Built-in Company Page analytics make it easy to evaluate your page’s followers and their level of engagement.
LinkedIn Groups are another key marketing and networking feature allowing organizations and individuals to create or join forum-like groups for professionals with similar backgrounds, industries, or interests to share content, ask questions, start discussions, find jobs, or make business contacts. By finding or joining Groups within your industry (or your target audience’s industry), you can have one-on-one engagement with the professionals you’re looking to connect with, while learning more about their business pain points and the topics and trends they find compelling.
Marketers also can run paid promotions through LinkedIn Ads, targeting specific demographics such as title, industry, location, and company size. These ads even capture leads for you! It’s another reason why LinkedIn is a B2B marketer’s best friend.
Although at first glance it may not seem necessary for B2B companies to invest time and energy into all of the top four social media platforms, each has a different value to offer to your company’s brand. The key to success for these and other social networks can be boiled down to a few simple steps: listen, learn, share, engage, repeat.