Evan Prokop

SES Chicago: Building the B2B Social Media Machine – 6 Steps for Success

B2B Social Media: 6 Steps to SuccessIt’s day 2 of SES Chicago, and the online marketing education is flowing full force.  I saw an excellent presentation about building a killer B2B social media strategy with Adriel Sanchez (@Adriel_S) of SAP.  With the sea of platforms, tactics, and schools of thought around B2B social media, it can be difficult to put together an actionable strategy that gets real results.

Follow the steps below to get your B2B social media strategy working for your business.

1. Forget Social Media, Think Content Marketing

Social media works best as a component of an overall content strategy.  The key is to think like a publisher, not a marketer.  This means avoiding the common pitfalls of being overly self-promotional or too sales oriented.

The key to a successful content strategy is to create a content creation plan.  This will keep your output on track and structure your content around the themes and messages that are relevant and productive for your business.  Aim to maintain a rolling content plan that spans for at least 2 months.

Your content schedule doesn’t have to be overly complex, but it should, at minimum, contain the following elements:

  • Month
  • Week
  • Primary topic
  • Secondary topic
  • Comments / notes

2. Define Objectives

In order to get the most of out of social media, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what success looks like.  If you don’t know where you are going, how can you possibly know if you’re on the right track?

Some factors to consider in defining what success looks like for your business:

  • Reach – Who is your target audience?  How large is it?
  • Engage – What is your desired level of engagement?
  • Take action – How likely are prospects to take action based on engagement with your brand?
  • Share – Is the experience you’re offering to your customers exceptional enough for them to share with their communities?

3. Measurement

After defining success for your organization, the next step is to identify quantifiable metrics that allow you to establish a baseline as well as monitor your ongoing progress.

A few metrics to consider:

  • Reach – Fans, followers, views, etc.
  • Engage – Comments, replies, direct messages, etc.
  • Take action – Form completions, website referrals, subscriptions, etc.
  • Share – Re-tweets, mentions, “talking about this”, etc.

4. Infrastructure

Implementing and managing a successful B2B social media strategy can be lot of work, but taking advantage of available resources will lighten the load and set you up for success from the start.

Coordinate with your team members to determine who will handle the parts of your social media machine.  Don’t make the mistake of limiting your search to the marketing department, as you will miss out on areas of knowledge that can prove instrumental to managing your social media presence.  For example, sales staff should be engaging directly with customers and prospects, and engineers are often the best people to participate in and moderate technical discussions.

The other major piece of the B2B social media infrastructure component is a robust tool set.  Take advantage of some of the useful tools available, such as:

  • HootSuite
  • Social Mention
  • Many more…

5. Governance

To quote Adriel “Social media belongs to everyone, so get them involved, but make sure they know the rules.”

Your social media presence will be more effective when it is a culmination of the efforts of many, and most effective when everybody works towards a common goal.  Get as many of your team members involved in your B2B social media strategy, but set down clear guidelines and rules early so that everybody is on the same page.

These should clearly define:

  • Core objectives
  • How content is be represented
  • Rules for representing and discussing the brand

6. Listen, Learn and Adapt

Social media is constantly evolving, and your strategy should be fluid, adaptable, and constantly optimizing and improving.

Effective monitoring is paramount to success in this area, because you can’t adapt if you don’t know what’s going on.  Keeping track of your brand presence, industry trends, hot topics, and current events takes effort, but is essential to keeping your brand presence relevant and effective.

Make regular reporting and analysis a cornerstone of your social media strategy, and use these insights to inform and improve your content plan, success metrics and objectives.

B2B social media can seem intimidating, but with proper planning and clear goals in mind, you can turn your company into a true B2B social media machine that will pay dividends both now and in the future.

TopRank Online Marketing will be live blogging all week at SES Chicago, so tune in to get the latest news, tips and commentary as it happens.

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Comments

  1. Sarah Bauer says:

    Great article. The function of social media for business owners is definitely evolving from social communication to information communication- a place to share the content, not create the content.

    I’d highlight “ownership” as a feature of content governance, as well. There needs to be a clear understanding of who creates what, and who will be responsible for its maintenance in the future.

    Cheers,
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

    • Excellent point Sarah. It’s important to clearly define content creation and maintenance roles. Too often, if it’s ambiguous, nothing gets done.

  2. It appears I did a pretty good job, because Evan recapped the key points I wanted the audience to leave with pretty much perfectly…!

    I’d only add that when thinking about measurement, what’s important is to have a methodology and discipline in place. No one’s really figured this all out yet, especially in complicated sales process such as B2B. So don’t get frustrated. Different metrics are appropriate at different stages of the purchase funnel and as social media users evolve from passive followers to active advocates. Going through the process and thinking is a valuable exercise in and of itself. Measure what you can, and remember that “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted…” – Albert Einstein.

    I’ve also posted a recap of my presentation here, in case anyone is interested in reading more:
    http://marketingpfft.com/2012/11/16/building-the-b2b-social-media-machine/

    • Thanks Adriel, glad to hear I covered your presentation accurately. I agree that it can be difficult to establish measurements that can represent the full range of benefits from a strong social media presence. As with most top of the funnel tactics, it is often several steps away from the sale.
      What do you think are the right metrics to track?

      • We look at a number of metrics across two dimensions.

        (1) Purchase funnel stage, from Awareness, to Consideration and Purchase

        (2) Social media user evolution, from passive Follower to proactive Advocate.

        Each intersection of these two dimensions have its own relevant metrics. Potential customers in the awareness stage? Things like number of followers, fans and view are important.

        As users move along the purchase funnel and begin to engage more, views, fans, followers on solution-level content, and the number of shares, comments, re-tweets, messages, and other engagement metrics become more important.

        Finally, revenue and sentiment analysis are important as you move toward Purchase and Advocacy. This is the hardest bit. We haven’t figured it out entirely yet, but have done some regression analysis and marketing mix modeling to show that campaigns with a social media component perform up to 3x better in terms of opportunities generated than those that do not.

        Important thing to understand is that social media is not just another channel you can run a simple ROI calculation off of. It’s a fundamental shift in how we communicate as people. If someone tells you they’ve figured it out, they’re likely showing you an incomplete picture at best. Important thing is to come up with a methodology for monitoring how you’re doing across the two dimensions described above, and don’t get hung up on proving that a $xx investment in social media will produce $xx in revenue. More and more, social media is a cost of entry…

  3. Do you think a B2B strategy is different depending on the number of employees, global reach, revenue, etc?

  4. Excellent post. Social media is a vital medium for every business as the customers they have and the ones they are looking for are already using it on a day-to-day-basis. I want to convey that to properly engage in social media, to stay on top of things and to see what people are saying and what is really working, a business needs to employ the use of a social media marketing tool to do the job right. It will save the business time, money and in the end, they have verifiable proof of what is working for them.