Has your social media program been starting conversations and building relationships with your target markets? Um, did we just hear you laugh at the mention of a “social media program”?
For today's B2B marketing world, the reality is that social media is here to stay, and serious businesses are taking note. Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. Reddit. Snapchat. Instagram. Pinterest. YouTube. Phew, where to start?
It’s not as overwhelming as it may seem, really. I'll walk you through how to begin (by making sure your website is in tip-top shape), and how to decide which social media sites to focus on.
In this post you'll learn:
- Why long-tail keywords have fewer searches and less competition
- Where your audience is and what they’re looking for
- How much time to spend on your social marketing
- How to make sure your website is ready to sell once your social media succeeds
The Hard Truth
All types of B2B companies are utilizing social media (and most have already mastered it) because it gives them a voice where their customers, partners, colleagues and prospects already spend most of their time online. That’s what social media boils down to – creating visibility. It sets businesses and brands apart from their competitors. And that goes for small to mediumsized businesses, too. It makes sense for your business.
But it’s true, one size does not fit all when it comes to social media. Let’s look at how B2B firms of any size can leverage social media to meet their goals. In this post, I'll give you seven specific, tangible ways to get your company started and/or more engaged in social media in a way that will help you nurture productive, profitable relationships with customers and prospects, increase brand recognition among your target market, and generate more traffic to your website—and more leads!
1. Do We Really Have to Participate?
That depends... Wait, what? A marketing agency is telling me I don’t have to tweet or post? Yes, that’s a possibility. For a small percentage of B2B organizations, social media marketing simply doesn’t make sense. Here are some scenarios where social media programs may hurt more than help.
- You Participate Inconsistently. The worst thing you can do is create a blog and then not blog. Or build a Facebook Fan Page and never post to it. Or have a Twitter account with no tweets. If you do not have a person or group of people committed to maintaining your social media programs, you may want to wait to launch one. You
- Are Resistant To Criticism. The beauty of social media marketing is the open forum it creates between your organization, its key audiences and the public. The horror of social media is the open forum it creates between your organization, its key audiences and the public. If you’re truly concerned about or are not ready to deal with the negativity that your connections may bring to the table, you should think twice about participating. That said, we rarely find this to be a problem.
- Your Social Communication Goes Through Compliance. If you are in the legal or financial field, in particular, social media marketing can get tricky, as many of the communications requirements will prevent your firm’s personality from shining through in social media. Social media is irreverent by nature, and this will make some organizations uncomfortable with it. Don’t participate if you can’t be yourself.
PMG TIP: Wondering if and how your firm should participate in social media? Our first objective is to figure out if you’re committed to not only setting up a program but also to maintaining it. We then decide together whether you need a Social Media Start-up Plan you can run with, Account Setup Services to get them going, or Monthly Social Media Management (or perhaps some combination).
2. How Do We Want To Represent Ourselves?
Think of your social channels as a brand extension of your website. You want there to be a clear connection when someone travels between your website and those channels. This includes aesthetics, like using your existing colors, logo and banner images to populate your company’s social profile (just make sure that the images are sized properly for each platform’s specifications.
This also includes content. A large part of having traceable, engaging content is doing keyword research. In fact, we believe that before you begin any social marketing program, you should think about the products or services you’ll be focusing on in your social interactions, as well as the keywords people use to find them. If you don’t start by thinking through these aspects, you’ll waste a lot of time building recognition for things that may not matter to you. We suggest looking for long tail keywords—longer phrases that may have fewer searches but will also have less competition—and strategically using them in your content. For example, an interior designer may find that “color consultations” is a very popular, competitive search term while “how to choose interior paint colors” still has a strong number of searches, but far less competition.
This is a great time to re-examine your business description on your website and ensure that it’s current and accurate. And if it isn’t, now is a great time to update it! You can then use this copy to populate your social descriptions. Look around at how your competitors are describing themselves on each channel. Be sure to use the proper formatting and lingo and complete all possible fields. The more complete your description, the better. And don’t forget to include those keywords!
PMG TIP: When we work with a client on their social marketing plan, we encourage them to pick only 2-3 products or services to showcase. Then we do extensive research on all the keywords that users type into search engines to find that product/service. From this data, we identify a few phrases per service with a solid number of monthly searches and low competition. These phrases become the basis for our research, as well as recommendations for the rest of the social media plan. Plus, once you’ve established priority keywords, you can leverage them to find and monitor relevant conversations occurring online and incorporate them into your own social posts. Use them in blog articles, your LinkedIn content and LinkedIn group participation, your tweets and social hashtags, etc.
3. Where Does Our Target Market Hang Out?
For any type of marketing, you need a plan that identifies your target audience and your goals. Start by identifying everything you can about your target audience’s online engagement, including the various places where they’re most actively participating.
Don’t assume that your social marketing plan has to include certain channels because “everyone is talking about them.” You may discover that your audience is more active in chat rooms and online communities. LinkedIn is also a tried-and-true option, as the platform is built primarily for professional, B2B sharing and connections. As for Twitter and Facebook, there could be conversations and hashtags on Twitter that could contribute to your visibility, and while Facebook is known to be focused on B2C, you may find other businesses similar to yours are finding success on that channel. To identify the ideal social platform(s) for your business, it simply requires doing a some real market research.
Once you understand where your audience is and what they’re looking for, you can then build a relevant social media plan.
PMG TIP: You’ll also want to see what your competitors are doing to reach your target audience online. Are they blogging, building a Facebook community or tweeting fun facts? Social media has made competitive research easier than ever, so take advantage of its transparency.
4. What Are the Goals of Our Social Strategy?
It is critical to be clear about your social media goals for 3 reasons:
- It will drive what social media you should participate in – and how you should participate in it.
- You need goals to track success and to know if you’re heading in the right direction.
- They will determine if social marketing is really the right approach. s Our Social Strategy?
Like any marketing plan, set your goals and get your baseline. Is your goal to create an open dialogue with your clients? Perhaps you want to increase the number of links to your site. Maybe you’d like to get market insights to help you develop your next solution. More often than not, a business wants touse social to generate qualified leads. Sit down and outline your overall marketing goals, and then take a hard look at whether or not they are realistic and attainable through social media.
PMG TIP: Goals need to be practical and specific. If you set a goal for gaining 1,000 new Facebook fans in three months, ask yourself the following: Why do I want 1,000 new fans? What will that do for my business? Am I doing the right things to attract them? We often find that people set goals for their social marketing that are unrelated to helping them grow their business and generate leads. Make sure your goals align with your overall strategy, and that the metrics you use to measure them aren’t “vanity” metrics that don’t truly matter.
5. What Do We Have Time For?
Be clear about how much time you will spend on your social marketing. Can you spend 30 minutes a day? Do you only have 2 hours per week? You’ll need to know this information so you can create a realistic social media plan.
Consistency and timeliness are critical to effective social marketing. For example, let’s say you’re following a messaging board, LinkedIn group or blog on which your prospective clients are very active. On Monday, someone posts a question that is right up your alley – about something in which you have plenty of expertise. If you wait until Thursday to respond, you have lost your opportunity. Set up notifications to ensure you are aware of content that is important to your business.
Comments on a blog are listed in the order they were entered. We have seen situations when a comment on Thursday is actually the 102nd comment on a posting. At that level, no one in your target market is likely to see it, and most people have moved on. So commit to participate only if you can be timely with your responses.
Think of it this way... social marketing is about contributing to conversations and creating relationships. If you have a friend that really needs you and sometimes you’re there and sometimes you’re not, how long do you think that person will want to invest in the friendship?
PMG TIP: We ask clients to commit roughly 30 minutes per day to their social marketing activities. Tools like news aggregators can streamline your efforts by keeping everything in one place for you. Other tools, like HootSuite or HubSpot, can help you write and schedule blog posts and social posts well in advance, so that you have a continuous presence online, even when you’re not able to work on social tasks for a brief period of time.
6. Is the Rest of Our Online Presence Strong?
We have seen companies become enamored with social marketing and create a strong presence in different communities. They appropriately respond to questions or postings with thoughtful comments, they do not over-sell, and they genuinely share their expertise.
One day, the time comes when they have a perfect opportunity to post a link to their website. Unfortunately, the website itself isn’t not strong; it has no compelling offers, no clear Calls-to-Action. It does not communicate in the same way that the company has been communicating via social media. This disconnect in messaging is going to be a big problem, and now you’ve likely lost your chance to continue selling.
Before beginning any social media marketing you, need to take care of your core... your website. It needs to represent you well. It needs to follow best practices. If your website is weak, then you should prioritize fixing it ahead of social media. Online Presence Strong?
PMG TIP: Take care of content and optimization on your site first. We have our customers focus on creating a solid message and offers of value to their prospective clients. Your site should represent your brand, and should have the capabilities to convert visitors into leads. Focus on generating valuable content offers (like eGuides, white papers, videos, case studies, etc.), implementing a sound keyword strategy, and developing a clear message. These elements are going to amplify anything you do later in social marketing.
7. How Will We Track Success?
So many people get excited about social marketing because it’s ‘free’. But do not fool yourself; there is a cost. This cost is the time you spend on participation or what you pay someone to ghostwrite and help you participate. There is the lost opportunity cost of focusing on social marketing when perhaps getting out and networking is actually more important for your business.
Even if your participation is on your own time, be sure you know how you’ll measure the results of your participation. Of course, this starts by answering Question 4 and establishing your goals. But you also need to consider which metrics you’ll track, and how you’ll track them. If garnering more inbound links is your goal, how will you measure the inbound links to your website today, the links you have in six months, and where those links go? At the beginning of any marketing program make sure you know exactly how you will measure the results.
PMG TIP: Make a commitment to review your website analytics, blog subscriber numbers, sales inquiries or other metrics on a monthly or quarterly basis. How many visits and leads are you receiving from social media channels? Are those numbers growing as you build your presence on social? Which posts are resonating with your target audience? Consistent review will allow you to track the success of your social media efforts and refine them as you go. Plus, you’ll have insights into what types of content you should post more of over time.
After answering the seven social media questions outlined in this blog post, we hope that you can make an informed decision about the type of social media program that will work best for your B2B organization.