There are plenty of well-documented social media stories in the business to consumer world, such as JCPenney's recent Super Bowl "Mitten" tweets.
However, the business to business world has been a bit slower to buy into social media marketing, but that's changing quickly in 2014. From General Electric to Maersk, there are a growing number of B2B companies starting to take social seriously in an effort to build brand awareness, to generate leads, and to recruit employees.
As an AdAge survey recently revealed, 80% of B2B marketers plan to increase digital spending next year (up from 67% last year). With a significant percentage of this spending going towards social media marketing, here are a few things every B2B marketer should do.
It's tempting to dive head first right into social, but it's important to take the time to think about your strategic goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics. Once you define your overall social media marketing goals (e.g. increase sales) and determine specific objectives (e.g. grow LinkedIn connections), focusing on your core strategy (e.g. create thought leadership content) and tactics (e.g. post new content once a day, Monday through Friday) will help you to succeed. Remember, not every platform is right for every business, and in this case, every industry. More on this in the Tools section.
Put the right people in charge. While your daughter's boyfriend might be a computer whiz, that doesn't mean that he is the right person for the social media marketing job. There are plenty of examples in the digital space of junior employees (some senior too!) or interns 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 escalate 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.
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 on platforms such as Pinterest might make sense for your company.
For example, whether they're sharing photos "From the Factory Floor" or showcasing "Badass Machines," General Electric does a great job on Pinterest. When it comes to images, Maersk is leading the B2B pack on Instagram.
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.
Content marketing should be an important part of your overall strategy. This includes creating blogs, photos, videos, and other content to promote what you do. In fact, promote might be the wrong word; educate is probably more precise. According to a recent IDG Connect B2B study, 89% of IT buyers want educational content. This same study notes that, "IT buyers will soon look to social media as the single most important content source to inform their buying decisions."
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.
Every business has partners. Whether these are people who work within your company or organizations outside your company, work 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. Your partners can help you to reach new audiences within your own industry. Partner amplification should be an ongoing priority.
While those of us in the social media marketing world might argue over B2C versus B2B needs, there is a new buzzword that is getting some traction online: H2H. Human-to-human marketing is really nothing new, but it does force us to remember that at the core of all social media marketing we are quite simply people talking to people. With a solid plan in place, some creative ideas lined up, and the right team and partners at the helm, every B2B company has the chance to shine bright in this space.