As of December 2011 over 800 million users were active on Facebook, 300 million on Twitter, and 116 million on LinkedIn; not to mention all the other industry specific networks such as econsultancy for digital marketers or ishade for the accounting industry. A 2011 survey from Global Marketing showed that the B2C markets have been very proactive and enthusiastic on social media compared to only 8% of B2B and this is because the rest of B2B sectors didn’t know to engage in it effectively and viewed it as a waste of time.

HubSpots State of Inbound Marketing Report_2011

Firstly let’s look at the advantages that B2B social media marketing has over the B2C markets:

You’re in control – generally B2B have less people talking about their brand, which means less negative attitudes. Therefore B2B companies have more control over their social content, which makes it easier to channel the right message to the correct audience.

It is relationship based – B2B companies will do their research on products and services and prefer referrals and recommendations; from a social media perspective this is ideal because you can give your potential customers a snap shot of how you operate through your platforms. B2B buying decisions are more considered and the sales cycles are over a longer period of time. Therefore the quality of the relationship is very important; the quality ensures a long lasting relationship. Once the sale has been made, it’s now become common practice that social media is used to maintain this relationship by educating and supporting.

Targeted markets and cost effective – Compared to B2C, B2B have a focused and smaller target audience meaning it’s easier to connect and build relationships. B2B products change less frequently than B2C so the social media content that’s produced means it will last longer making it less expensive than B2C.

WHAT TO USE AND WHY


LinkedIn:
• Acts like an online CV and is ideal to showcase company’s history and expertise.
• Easy to use search facilities to find other business, groups and individuals.
• Has an ‘answers’ section where you gain advice and answer questions – useful for presenting yourself as an ‘expert’.
• Provides you with an option to be recommended by those that you’ve worked with before.
• According to a 2011 Lead Formix Report, nearly 45% of the leads generated from LinkedIn were first time visitors.

Tip: Change your professional headline to something that is specific to what you do so that potential clients can find you. Also link your account to Twitter as it’s good for your SEO!

Twitter:
• Content is open to everyone ensuring you reach a wider audience.
• A 140 character limit is designed to get your message straight to the point and encourages a quicker call to action.
• Directories such as Twellow (http://www.twellow.com/) are useful as they narrow down who you should be following.

Tip: Do not spam, join in with the conversation and post up engaging topics to encourage interactions. According to a recent Twitter survey 58% of people said they stopped following someone because their tweets appeared automated.

YouTube:
• Used for webinars and product demonstrations etc.
• It’s ideal because texts can get tiring so it adds variety.
• A chance to promote yourself internationally.
• Videos are easy to share across all platforms and becoming viral is key!
• It can demonstrate how knowledgeable you are in your given area.

Tip: Customize your page with your business logos so that you create an anchor with your viewers.

Facebook:
• It’s another communication channel that will help you with SEO.
• As of May 2011 687 million people are active more than once a month on Facebook.
• A chance to show others your branding, ideas and concepts that you have.
• It helps to demonstrate your customer service and communication skills.
• A 2011 marketing report from Hubspot: State of Inbound reported 41% of B2B companies are acquiring customers through Facebook.

Tip: Always have a customized landing page with a noticeable call to action for example a newsletter facility or your website URL. Make use of customizable tabs, and your unique Facebook ULR.

Blogs:
• Ideal to have one on your website as it keeps traffic on your site as well as directing more traffic to it.
• Helps to present you as an expert in your field.
• It makes your website interactive.
• It’s great for SEO purposes as you can use SEO rich key words.
• It gives you a chance to expand in greater detail on the contents that you’ve posted on other media platforms.

Tip: Engage with your readers, it’s not about selling to them. It’s about giving the customer something back i.e. education and support. It’s a form of indirect selling, showing your customers that you know what you’re talking about.

Things to consider


Learning-When you’re embarking on something new; it takes time to learn it fully so it’s wise to use other examples to aid you. Dell for business (http://www.facebook.com/DellBusiness) and PayPal (http://www.youtube.com/paypal ) are ideal to learn from. These are prime examples of good social branding, engaging content, and both are more than knowledgeable in their industries.

Targets- Set a target of 1 blog per week, 2 Twitter updates a day, 3 posts on Facebook a week and a couple of LinkedIn updates a month. One reached build upon it.

Cost- Most social networks are free, there are options to pay for certain premium services and target add campaigns. However the real cost is the time you put into it. Business networking can easily turn into social networking so you need to think just how much this will cost your business. Like all marketing strategies you must make a detailed plan stating your aims and objectives.

Tip: Use a mixture of videos, blogs and info graphics to give variety!

To conclude then; the more platforms that are used, the bigger your online presence. Taking into consideration of how you present yourself on social media in terms of branding, content and your overall conduct can determine your sales. It’s important to look at social media as a tool to help you reach more people at a quicker rate – although quantity should never compromise quality. It’s not a quick fix; it’s about building up good quality relationships. Social media for SME’s means you are no longer confined to your local geography!

© Cogent Design 2012

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