B2B marketers have joined the social media marketing movement in droves. In fact, Forrester Research predicts that B2B firms will spend $54 million on social media marketing in 2014, up from just $11 million in 2009 (eMarketer B2B Social Media Marketing Heats Up).
Unfortunately, many of those efforts are entirely tactical, methodical and without a true understanding of the “social” aspect of social media marketing. B2B marketers that are early in their social media marketing maturity level tend to focus on message distribution such as Tweeting or posting Facebook links mostly to their own content vs. engaging with customers on a human level. That one-way communication profile doesn’t engender discussions and sharing, so social traffic level increases tend to plateau pretty early.
In order to grow and scale the return on social media marketing investments, B2B marketers need to think more about the “social” than the marketing. Here are a few thoughts on that:
Decide What You Stand for Topically
The social SEO benefits of being intentional about language that reflects your key business areas of focus as well as the conversations happening within your target community are essential. Topically fragmented blog and social networking content dilutes a company’s ability to “stand out” to customers amongst the sea of noise in social conversations as well as to search engines.
Practically, that means a strategy that identifies goals, customer personas, content & editorial plans and search/social keyword glossaries. A content marketing strategy is the plan that executes what your company and brand stand for as well as how it will communicate those key messages. A social SEO keyword or topic plan filters into all relevant web and social content creation. It can also flavor social network topic engagement and conversations. That means a guide for which blogs to comment on, which influentials to network with, word choices for Tweets, blog posts and tags.
Do: Create and participate where your customers and influentials spend their time and with a content plan that supports your key topics of focus. Be useful and share social content that’s worth sharing (whether it’s your content or others’).
Don’t: Overly self promote and publish social content that is not directly or indirectly in alignment with your key topics of focus. That doesn’t mean everything you create is keyword optimized. It means everything you create and promote is thoughtful about where it fits in your social & content marketing plan.
The outcome and benefit is that your own content creation and promotion efforts are aligned to inspire discussion, sharing and links according to topics and keywords that are important to brand, business and marketing goals. An ideal manifestation is that your target audience sees your brand in a positive way everywhere they look for topics XYZ and 123 on social channels, when they search and even offline (inspired by online) word of mouth.
Plan to Win
If you enter a competition half-assed, guess what? No matter what your talent is, the chances of a win are pretty slim. Unfortunately a lot of B2B companies approach social media participation with an attitude of using the least amount of resources possible. Oftentimes this means following structured best practices list from some self-professed social media guru. Checklist marketing works to make redundant tasks more efficient, but it’s no way to engage a community.
For example, one of the most common “plan to be mediocre” mistakes I see with B2B marketers is predictable social profile creation and publishing focused solely on LinkedIn, Twitter and a blog without researching those channels. Such a plan also involves a focus on promoting company content and superficial (at best) engagement with the community.
Planning to win means having a plan for networking into influentials’ sphere of influence and knowing what to do once you get on their radar. It means creating social content that will inspire engagement and outcomes to further your business goals. It also means providing training within your organization to distribute and grow the role of social participation within your brand.
Practically, this means forecasting resources (people, process and technology) for social media marketing as significant marketing channel, not just an experiment or a checked box on a list. It means an integrated plan to dominate your category through growing social influence & networking, content, search, word of mouth and media plus the resources to execute and measure.
Do: Hypothesize, forecast and commit resources to test, develop processes and scale social media engagement within your business. What starts as social media marketing can turn into social business as the impact of social media engagement propagates from marketing to other departments and throughout the organization. Winning the social media game for B2B marketing doesn’t just mean increased sales, it means dominating your category.
Don’t: Think that social media content promotion as part of a Search Engine Optimization program is the same thing as social media marketing or social business. It is not.
The outcome and benefit of planning to win in B2B social media is that you have enough resources to provide value to customers throughout the B2B buying and customer lifecycle. Additional benefits include facilitating awareness, trust, confidence, word of mouth, sales and referrals. On top of that you will have built/facilitated a community in alignment with your company’s goals.