In Part 1, I covered the following two methods to leverage social media in B2B:
- Social media is a great way to share valuable content
- Support your brand using social media
Part 2 is about people, network and a summary of the four first methods.
3 – Involve your employees in your social media activities
Social media is about people. In the end, people buy from people! LinkedIn provides a great platform to share articles—LinkedIn Pulse. Company pages cannot contribute to LinkedIn Pulse, but every regular member can. These articles can also be shared via Twitter, Facebook, and the news section on your website as well. If your employees post well-written articles with a value to your customers, it is a cheap and highly effective way to demonstrate the expertise of your business. Your customers and future customers will see that they can expect the best service in your industry.
Some worry that they will just feed their competitors by doing so. Yes, there is an inherent danger, but the decision is all about weighing risks and opportunities. Utilizing LinkedIn Pulse is the art of giving enough information to attract the customer, but not enough to solve the entire problem without you. You will end each article with a clear message: “Get in touch with us. We’ll help you!”
Call: Motivate the best employees in your company (who, of course, should be active on LinkedIn) to write LinkedIn Pulse articles directly related to your industry or business. (Of course, this will have to be done on work time or as a paid service.) If you want additional information on how to use LinkedIn Pulse, read this well-written article called How to Publish on LinkedIn Pulse: A Beginner’s Guide.
4 – Leverage industry-specific communities and professional networks
Getting in touch with people is, of course, the ultimate goal of any social media, networking, or marketing effort. Who is your audience (in B2B, your customers’ employees in the purchasing department, for instance)? LinkedIn has many member-created groups where people with similar interests can discuss topics ranging from industry trends to highly technical issues. People naturally like to help each other, and LinkedIn Groups are a perfect platform to support that instinct.
There are two ways to leverage LinkedIn Groups for your business:
- Join and participate in groups where you might find current and potential customers. You should also ask your employees to join and contribute to these groups. See…this really is all about people, which include those within your company.
- Create a group within your industry that meets a need, and invite your customers to join. This can be done by an employee, as well.
Your LinkedIn Pulse articles can be spread in relevant groups. Start a discussion within a group by sharing a LinkedIn Pulse article, either by yourself, a colleague, or another thought-leader.
The obvious concern at this point is whether these actions will strengthen your competitors, but the answer is no. This will actually strengthen your company’s brand. You are also able to select who’s in and who’s not. You won’t use these groups to disclose any proprietary information, but to add value to others and entice them to contact your company.
Another question I’ve heard is, “What if the person I assigned as a moderator quits?” I’d like to answer with a counter question, “What if you don’t do it and the person stays?” Yes, this is a legitimate risk. You can make a contract with your employee to hand over the group if he or she leaves. Changing ownership of a group can be done easily. It is all about weighing risks and opportunities.
A group in LinkedIn has
- 1 Owner
- Up to 10 Managers
- Up to 50 Moderators
So the risk is even less than you might have expected.
Call: Encourage your employees to join and participate in relevant groups where your customers are. Contribute helpful comments and your LinkedIn Pulse articles within these groups.
Second, create a group for your business. What do you think want your customers want to discuss? Like with LinkedIn Pulse, Groups have to be managed by people. Find someone in your business who is willing to manage a group. This will be a second step, of course, which requires some experience.
Here is a good article on how to start with LinkedIn Groups: Top 10 Reasons To Start A LinkedIn Group. Another very good article on CIO.com that focuses on LinkedIn groups for businesses is 8 Ways to Use LinkedIn Groups to Boost Your Business.
5 – Understand the aspects of social media
I deliberately put this paragraph as the last of my five methods, although it really ought to be the first point. However, I wanted to provide the other foundational information so that this point is easier to understand.
Who truly understands the ins and outs of social media? Honestly, it is such a new field that only started to become known as relevant for business about five years ago. I personally consider myself well read in social media, but certainly not a real expert. Having said that, I would like to point out some points of social media that I believe are crucial for B2B. Remember, there are always outliers to these “rules.”
- Business is all about personal relationships. Without personal connection, you may have the best product, but no one will be interested in it.
- Social media extends your options in engaging with your clients far beyond phone calls, email, trade shows, and professional brochures.
- Your clients, especially Gen Y and younger, use social media and expect you (your business) to keep up with various platforms. By the way, your employees will expect this as well!
- Offering consistent information about your business and products will attract people, i.e. your customers.
- Today, customers desire and expect content that provides added value through multiple channels.
Call: Consider building a social media team made up of some people from your marketing, sales, R&D, and other departments. Hire a consultant, if necessary, and set up your social media strategy and accounts correctly. I’ve already listed many important pillars for your social media strategy within this article, and these should provide a strong foundation for your social media team to begin the process.
Most importantly, start right away!
Social media activity is not only for B2C! It is imperative that B2B leverage social media to attract, commit to, and recover their valued customers. Social media gives you a whole toolbox of actions to share regular and pertinent information, interact in groups, and provide personal, high level content (LinkedIn Pulse) to your customers.
Since this is all about people interacting with people, it is important to not only provide branded content, but also to motivate your employees to use social media activities to support your business. This will result in a win-win situation. Create a set of rules (dos and don’ts) to help your employees in finding the right balance. And most importantly, trust them. Many managers will be surprised by the outcome when they trust their subordinates to create authentic content.
This article is no replacement for a proper social media strategy. It gives you some ideas of where to start and what to do. I have experienced that businesses are reluctant to start the process because they feel insufficiently prepared and are intimidated by the vast landscape of social media.
Essentially, my advice is—stop worrying and start doing. Monitor the process, and alter your approach as you gain experience. You may want to hire an intern who is already experienced, or even better, an experienced social media consultant or agency.
This is not supposed to be a monologue. I’d like to hear about your experiences! Let’s start a discussion.