There are many misconceptions regarding social media among B2B marketers. Among the most common is from people who feel that social, while interesting, is best suited for B2C brands.
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Fact is, there are many B2B companies using social media to great effect today- not only for relationship building, but to drive bottom-line sales. The simple question to answer is, how?
After deconstructing dozens of best practices, we identified three recurring strategies that can lead to success for B2B marketers:
- Spark Grassroots Demand
- Create a Branded Community
- Engage via Direct Outreach
We are emerging from an age of marketing where we talked about the product and our own brand (product centric) to where businesses solve problems and add value to the customer (customer centric).
Social media has flipped the model.
1. Spark Grassroots Demand
A powerful use of social media for B2B marketers is to influence the customers of your customers, thus generating grassroots (bottom-up) demand.
An example is when we transformed a client’s conversations about their products (in this case orange beverages) into popular conversations around the customers health and wellness (customer centric).
This bottom-up approach raised awareness of the product, generating more consumer generated retail store purchases, and thus more demand and sales from their direct retail customers.
2. Create a Branded Community
A well-known case study of how this works in practice is how American Express used social media to create connections with their small and medium sized business (SMB) owners. AMEX didn’t talk about the advantages of their product (which is a topic that would likely gain little traction) but rather they created a branded community called AMEX Open around a theme that small business owners are extremely passionate about- making money & growing their small business.
Over the years, this community has gained a large following and increased loyalty among SMB owners to American Express. It works, because it adds value to small business owners about a topic they’re interested in.
For your company, if your budget is much smaller than say an American Express, inexpensive and easy-to-implement technologies exist to help facilitate just such an initiative. This could include using LinkedIn to create and build a community “group” that is targeted at an industry or sector.
Combined with the right customer-centric idea and a smart tactical use of awareness-driving paid media, this type of initiative could help you reap similar dividends.
3. Engage via Direct Outreach:
This strategy is the most straightforward one. Consider that your target audience outside of work are just people- and that their usage of social media typically mirrors the population at large, and then it becomes clear that social can be used as a cost-efficient digital outreach channel to reach your audience on their terms.
With 955 million active members (at the time this is written), a large advantage Facebook offers is their highly precise, long-tail targeting capabilities. In fact, you could target only qualified prospects based on their company or a single keyword. Using a highly targeted Facebook paid media campaign, you can communicate with your audience on a one-to-one, highly personalized basis, which combined with the right message, can lead to high conversion rates, increased awareness, leads, and sales.
Translating Strategy to Action
Certainly these strategies are not the only means to success within social for B2B companies, but they are ideas that have been proven to work. Each of these strategies can be used by themselves, or in combination as part of a more holistic digital marketing solution.
A recommended first step would be to identify and gain support from key stakeholders in your organization. Armed with the right examples and business case for such an initiative, you can set the proper stage for a results-driving social media solution.
What About You?
How do you use social media to market to other businesses. Do you use a blog? Is LinkedIn a professional social network that you are using effectively?
Is YouTube a social media channel that you use to educate and communicate with your customers and prospective clients?
I look forward to hearing your success stories in the comments.
Guest Author: These strategies were created by ZOG Digital – a search and social marketing technology company.
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