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Social media tends to get a bad rap in the B2B space. You may have heard from colleagues that Twitter is all about what people had for lunch, and Facebook is the place where you go to make sure your career is better than your high school ex’s career. Thank goodness for LinkedIn; without it B2B folks would be completely left out of social networking, right?
In reality, all social networking sites hold potential for B2B marketers. Each site has its own personality and needs a strategy unique to the audience and community activity on those sites. Consider this: Social media was the leading “emerging channel” for lead generation in 2010, according to Unisfair. The same study found 61 percent of U.S. marketers use social media to increase lead generation.
It’s only gone upwards from there in terms of potential. In March, Salesforce.com acquired Radian6, bringing the potential of the social web into lead generation. Even more recently, Facebook issued its long-awaited IPO, solidifying its place as the globally established social platform.
With 845 million users worldwide, Facebook has grown so large that it’s difficult to think of it as a private community. It’s also not your college kid’s Facebook anymore. More than 35 percent of users are ages 35 and above, according to the site’s spring demographics report. So, chances are your future leads are spending time here.
There are several strategies for networking on Facebook. Your brand might consider creating a page where users can choose to associate themselves with you. This is true for many consumer brands, as well as a growing list of B2B companies who seek out targeted audiences. Also, consider a highly targeted Facebook ad with an evocative headline that drives traffic to your website. Careful keyword selection means the ad will only appear to people with interests aligned with your company.
You may wish to try starting a page on Facebook for professionals in your industry and pointing your ad here. Like a LinkedIn group, this community would be a forum for your potential clients to exchange ideas with limited marketing from you, but, over time it would give you a real-time glimpse into the minds of your clients and industry.
With its heavy emphasis on searchability, Twitter is a great way to keep up with news in your industry and to hear real-time feedback from your customers, especially during events like industry conferences.
But how do you sort the tweets from the chaff? If you are not fortunate enough to have a paid Salesforce and Radian6 tool at your company, use Tweetdeck and set up a search for your company, and particular hashtags such as #HealthIT, that are unique to your industry, competitors, or even influential folks in your industry. Follow people who could be possible leads and tweet or RT good bits of information. Use a tool like Follower Wonk to search for users in your industry.
As an inbound marketing channel, blogs cost far less than outbound, often paid, marketing. Blogs also greatly increase the search engine optimization (SEO) for your site while creating excellent content for your clients. Learn more about SEO from Google’s Search Engine Starter Guide. Consider hiring a copywriter to create blog content if you’re not comfortable doing so. Good content is worth the money paid to a professional writer--your web content is often your potential customer’s first impression of you. Make that impression count, then be sure to measure the increase in inbound links you receive as a result of a successful blogging program.
A dominant social network like Facebook, LinkedIn has dozens of groups for B2B folks to network and exchange information. Consider starting your own group for current customers of your product to exchange ideas or network with each other. This would be a good place to collect testimonials and customer service inquiries. You might consider starting a group for individuals in your specific profession. Like the Facebook page, this would be an excellent place to get into the heads of future leads.
A relative newcomer on the social networking scene, Google+ seeks to bring together popular features like photo sharing and commenting and make them easy to access for Google aficionados and those who prefer Android mobile devices. In addition, Google+ has added a unique feature that is perfect for B2B networking: Circles. Companies who open brand pages on Google+ can invite users to place themselves in Circles defined by their interests. It’s a great way to allow your audience to learn about your company and then self-select what they are most interested in. Then, you can send communications and messages tailored to the needs of individuals in each Circle.
There are many more resources online regarding lead gen and social media. The purpose here is to provide an overview of what’s possible. If you are serious about social networking on behalf of your company, you may want to follow blogs that cover this topic regularly. Please subscribe to our RSS feed for more blog posts on this topic and leave a comment with your social media questions or tips.