Social media for B2B organisations: a topline review

Introduction

How can businesses use social media to promote themselves to other businesses?

Reasons for using social media include: CRM and managing customer complaints; developing insights into target audiences for new product development and communication proposition development; and crisis management.

However, there are lots of marketing benefits to using social media and these include:

  • Developing a thought-leadership position
  • Promoting awareness of new products and services
  • Identifying prospects

The post is deliberately simple. A lot of business leaders are not experts in social media (why should they be?) So, if you are a business leader in the B2B space who is curious about why your company is using social media, or whether it should be, then this post should be useful to you.

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LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a powerful business tool for small and large companies. As well as being a way that individual employees can build up networks, it is also an essential part of any business-to-business social media strategy.

There are three main assets to consider when developing your company LinkedIn strategy:

  1. The company LinkedIn page
  2. The groups that you or your employees become a member of
  3. The LinkedIn pages of your employees, especially senior ones

Using LinkedIn is free, although it is possible to subscribe to the premium service where you will get more information about who is visiting your pages. You can also pay to promote your presence on LinkedIn.

The company LinkedIn page

Your company LinkedIn page can be seen as an extension of your website. But it can reach LinkedIn members more easily than your website.

Your company LinkedIn page should contain basic data about your organisation as well as information about your products and services; you can also use it to display job opportunities.

Where possible, clients should be encouraged to provide endorsements of your products and services that you can post on the site

The intention should be to generate as large a group of “followers” as possible, as you will be able to communicate with these people directly on LinkedIn. You don’t need thousands though: aiming for around 100 is a good start and will generate real returns.

Updates

Once the company page is set up, plan to provide your followers with interesting “status updates” (company news, events etc) as well as attracting people who are searching for particular topics on your page. With a large number of followers you can segment the information you send out.

Linkedin Groups

Joining groups

Encourage employees to join relevant LinkedIn groups and to contribute intelligent and thought-provoking comments to discussions. Simply search for keywords and then click “open groups” under “categories” on the left of the results page to filter out results that are not groups.

Plan to monitor the discussions within a few groups on a daily basis and make intelligent contributions when (and only when) you have something useful to say.

Launching groups

It is possible to launch a new group based around a particular interest area. Finding a niche for a new group can position your company as a thought leader. However there is little point in doing this if there are well established and well used groups that will compete with your new group; so look for niche topics or perhaps set up a group intended to appeal to people in a particular geographical area.

LinkedIn pages

Senior company executives should all have LinkedIn pages. But all staff should be encouraged to sign up and spend a little time each week in developing and managing their LinkedIn profile and activities such as joining groups and contributing to discussions.

Employees, especially senior ones, should be encouraged to link their page to the company website in their profile settings. Ideally their description of their role and their background will contain key words and phrases you wish people to associate with your company.

A good example of a company LinkedIn page is Hewlett –Packard. Here’s an example of an interesting HP post on their LinkedIn page.

Twitter

Twitter is a “microblogging” service which allows you to publish short (140 characters) content, known as “tweets”. These posts can include links to images, videos and other documents.

Twitter is another very powerful tool for businesses. While it is often used as a customer service tool (increasingly consumers use it to complain or ask questions about products) it is also a useful promotional tool. It doesn’t cost anything to set up a Twitter profile and to start tweeting although you can always pay to promote your tweets if you think they are worth it.

Profile

The first thing a company needs to do on Twitter is to set up one (or more) accounts. For each account there is an opportunity to set up a small profile page on which you can share a sentence about your company, an address, and a website, together with your logo or an image you can use as a promotional tool.

Posting

By posting tweets about topics you hope your prospects and customers will be interested in you can generate sustained awareness of your business and create a position of thought-leadership. The idea is that people will come across your tweets and if they find them interesting they will “follow” you on Twitter in the hope of getting more interesting information.

There are a few guidelines to follow if you are going to get the most out of Twitter:

  • It is important not just to blow your own trumpet by telling people about your products and services all the time. Use Twitter to generate kudos for your company by sharing useful information from third parties.
  • Send out tweets several times a week, and ideally several times a day. But don’t overdo it. If you send out dozens of tweets everyday you will simply overwhelm people and they will stop following you.
  • Good tweets will be shared (“re-tweeted”) by people. Observe what sort of content gets shared and create more of it.
  • Include “hashtags” in your tweets. Hashtags are keywords that are preceded by a # sign (e.g. #socialmedia) and they will identify your tweet as being relevant to people looking for information about a particular topic.

Campaigning

You can be quite targeted with Twitter. If you want to identify people with particular interests you can do so. For instance a social media service provider might be interested in people talking about using social media; in contrast a manufacturer of printers might be interested in finding influential bloggers who write about office technology as identifying individual printer customers might not be commercially effective.

Tools like twtrland (which starts at about £150 a year) enable you to identify people who talk about your brand, the most influential people in a topic area, or individuals in particular locations who are tweeting about particular subjects. You can then start conversations with these people.

Blogging sites

Blogging sites are where you will probably do the “heavy lifting” part of your thought leadership activities. Blogs are unrestricted in length (although your readers’ attention span will be!) and can contain imagery and videos to make them more attractive.

Blogging is a fairly simple process: it involves sending out a stream of content on a reasonably regular basis. No need to do it every hour, or even every day. But you should aim to write a blog piece once a week or so. These should be designed to showcase and share research and insights you may have, and should contain those key words and phrases you wish to promote online. It is OK to blog about your products and services as well, but if you just write about them you won’t get many people following you!

Remember to use Twitter to tweet about your posts and mention them in your LinkedIn updates as well.

Sites like wordpress.com make it very easy to set up a new blog and it doesn’t have to cost you anything: you don’t need any design skills as there are lots of template designs you can choose, including plenty of free ones.

Google+

Google+ is a rapidly growing social network (it has several hundred million users worldwide), a little like Facebook. It is important in its own right, but also because the Google search engine will rank content on Google+ more highly than the same content it finds elsewhere. So there are obvious advantages to placing your content there.

Once you have created a company Google account and Google+ page you need to do the following:

Circles

Identify some topic areas and then start following relevant people and pages and add them to the appropriate circle .That way you don’t have to share your posts with everyone you are following.  For instance, you could have different circles for clients, prospects, journalists etc

Posting

Once you build a network of people you can start interacting with them by content. You can do this directly on the page or automatically –  for instance by linking blog posts so that they appear on your Google+ page.

By tagging people or businesses and using relevant hashtags you can make your presence on Google+ stand out more and be more relevant.

Communities

Communities on Google+ are a bit like LinkedIn groups: places where you can have debates, leave questions and post answers. By participating in them you will not only be able to engage with other people, you will have the potential to enhance you thought-leadership.

The best of the rest

If you blog, tweet, network at LinkedIn and join in with Google+ communities you will be doing a great deal of social media marketing. There are dozens of other online communities of course. But you can’t do everything.

So once you have covered the basics you need to decide whether you have the resources to get involved elsewhere:

  • If you feel that images and photographs are particularly relevant to your brand then Pinterest may be something to consider.
  • If your audience is quite specific, for instance accountants, then a specialist community like accountingweb might be what you need.
  • If you are recruiting large numbers of people or are having difficulty recruiting the right calibre of applicant then perhaps a presence on Facebook will enable you to promote the more informal and fun side to working at your company
  • If you have the resources to create videos about your products and services then YouTube will also be a natural home.

All of these and more will be relevant in certain circumstances and for certain organisations. But, as we said above, you can’t do everything so deciding on which ones to focus on will depend on your objectives, your resources, and your business profile.

Want to know more? Get in touch with mosoco: email us at hello@mosoco.co.uk to ask us a question about this post or to see how we can help with your social media marketing.

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