There’s no shortage of social media campaigns in the B2C world, and stand-out efforts (like Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign*) have succeeded on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and other sites because of the fresh thinking behind them.
The business to business world, however, has been a bit slower to buy into social media marketing, but that’s changing quickly. From Global Fortune 500s like General Electric to Maersk, there are a growing number of B2B companies that now take social media seriously as a way to build brand awareness, generate leads, and recruit employees.
80% of B2B marketers plan to increase digital spending next year (up from 67% last year), and with a significant percentage of this spending going towards social media marketing, here are five steps every B2B marketer should follow in establishing an effective social media marketing platform.
1. Create a Strategic Plan
Before you jump into social media, it’s important to first define your strategic goals, objectives, and tactics. Once you have defined your overall social media marketing goals (grow inbound sales by 15%) and determined specific objectives (build 50 new LinkedIn connections), you can then focus on your core strategy (create thought leadership content) and tactics (post new content every other day).
2. Assemble the Right Team
Put the right people in charge. There are plenty of examples in the digital space of junior (AND senior) employees who lack the skills and experience to build and protect your company’s reputation online. The person posting on your behalf should always know your plan, know your voice, and know how to effectively handle issues that get out of hand. This free social media policy generator is a quick way to figure out what type of policies you should have in place for your social media team and beyond.
3. Choose the right tools
All tools are not created equal. Traditionally, LinkedIn is one of the top B2B social media marketing tools. It’s a great place to establish yourself (or company) as a thought leader and to connect with potential sales leads. However, there are plenty of other places to market online. With image-based social media marketing on the rise, investing time in platforms such as Pinterest might make sense for your company. For example, whether sharing photos “From the Factory Floor” or showcasing “Badass Machines,” General Electric does a great job on Pinterest.
Finally, we know that search engines dominate first phase research. More specifically, according to Pardot’s 2013 State of Demand Generation Report, 72% of product research for a future business purchase begins on Google. This means participating on Google+, which can positively affect your search rankings, is increasingly becoming a priority.
4. Invest in Content Marketing
Our Charlotte marketing agency strongly believes that content marketing should be an important part of your overall strategy. This includes creating blogs, photos, videos, and other RELEVANT content to educate the marketplace about what you do – and, more importantly, what you can do for customers. According to a recent IDG Connect B2B study, 89% of IT buyers want educational content.
Whether you’re creating short YouTube videos demonstrating how to use products or hosting live Twitter chats, the goal should be to educate buyers. Perhaps your core audience aren’t avid social media users, but if your content is exceptional, they will find you, remember you, and, hopefully, work with you.
5. Encourage Partner Amplification
Every business has partners. Whether these are people who work within your company or organizations outside your company, strive to build them into your social media marketing plan. Connect with all your partners who regularly engage online. Share their posts. Like their photos. Leave them comments. Put the spotlight on them. Because your partners can help you reach new audiences within your own industry, partner amplification should be an ongoing activity.
*Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign started in Australia in 2011 and expanded to more than 50 countries before going viral in the United States during the summer of 2014. The campaign netted more than 125,000 posts across all social networks, and saw 96 percent positive or neutral consumer sentiment.