Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
This post is a primer for the B2B Social Media Workshop I will be presenting in at #VARTECH 2014 in New Orleans.
ome people write social media off as a place “the kids” go to share pictures of what they had for lunch, ignoring the professional and personal benefits of participation. Many more realize there may be something to gain from their involvement, but use the excuse that they’re too busy. To both groups, I pose this question: if social networks are a waste of your time and a place for trivial content, why are Bill Gates, the Pope and Elon Musk1 making time for it?
The top journalist and bloggers in politics, sports, technology and culture as well as founders of some of the world’s most innovative companies are making time for social media.
In many cases, Twitter has become the place to break news before the long form reporting is done on a publisher’s website. The reality is that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram are the new sources for immediate and relevant content. As a business owner, marketing executive or sales professional your business can benefit even by becoming involved in a passive manner (although passivity isn’t what I am here to advocate).
Your customers are there
A conversation is taking place. You should be a part of it, even if that only means taking it in. A common misconception about social media is that you have to participate in the creation of content. You do not. You can simply lurk2, and reap the benefits of the content being shared. You’d be surprised to find the competitive information being sharing under the codename “content marketing.”
Having a presence on the top social networks gives you the opportunity to have your marketing and sales messages amplified. The likelihood that a follower will retweet (re-publish to all of THEIR followers), favorite, like or share your message is increased as the quality and relevance of your content improves.
An additional benefit of having a corporate social presence is a boost in your search engine position. Companies who maintain social media accounts are weighted more heavily in their industries as providers of updated content.
Lead Generation / Customer Acquisition & Service
Well-executed social strategy that integrates with the rest of your marketing touches (email, direct mail or events) can help you acquire new customers, generate sales leads and boost your brand reputation.
Being involved in the conversation means being aware of the good as well as bad customer feedback. Twitter has become, for some companies, a great tool for providing immediate customer service. You have a direct line to your customers and the ability to respond and remedy their problems. Of course, going down this path means committing significant time to social media; a luxury some companies truly do not have the manpower to accommodate. On the flip side, having a presence allows your customers to mention and publicly share their positive interactions with your organization. This is the very best kind of endorsement your company can get in the modern world.
Create a personalized, hyper-relevant feed of information
Twitter and LinkedIn are both filled with information that can be used to improve your business. It’s also filled with relevant information in the entertainment, sports, politics and social realms. In short, it’s the very best way to receive the most recent information, tailored to your interests both personally and professionally.
In my opinion, this is a question that is best left to hands-on research. It’s important to be on the networks that are most effective and appropriate for your industry. Furthermore, don’t spread yourself too thin. Limit your involvement to the number of networks that you can feasibly manage, if your goal is to contribute content. There is no reason not to create accounts at several of these places for research purposes.
Twitter is far-and-away my favorite social network on a personal level for this reason: my network is 100% tailored to my specific interests and preferences. Whereas Facebook is my friends, family and a smattering of co-workers, Twitter is a group of experts, journalists, entertainers and public figures I may have never spoken to. Still, I am able to reap the benefits of their experience, humor and wisdom. When used correctly, Twitter can also be very useful for prospecting and competitive research. However, Twitter isn’t where the conversation stops when it comes to B2B Social Media.
Social Management Tools
The reality of managing several social networks for your company is daunting. Luckily, there are several inexpensive pieces of software available that allow social media managers to make the most of the time they spent sharing content. Tools such as: Hootsuite3, Buffer4 and CoSchedule5 allow a user to publish a single message to multiple networks. These tools also offers analytics on social media campaign performance (shares, favorites, retweets, likes, reach, etc).
BlueStar’s uses CoSchedule, a WordPress plugin, in order to not only multi-publish, but to customize the message we post to each network. That way, we don’t make status updates that include hashtags (meant for Twitter, Facebook or Instagram) on a network like LinkedIn where hashtags have been disabled. The tools I have mentioned are some of the leaders and most well-known, but there are any number of similar tools available and new applications being developed daily.
Hashtags enable users to see all of the tweets (or status updates / instagram photos) shared around a particular topic. Clicking on a hashtag enables you to see content shared by ALL of the users on twitter/facebook/instgram that are contributing to the topic – not just the ones you follow. It makes a conversation much larger in scope than the one taking place on your personal network. Additionally, including hashtags in your posts will expose your content to a larger audience, that is, anyone who happens to be following the hash you’ve included in your post.
You’ve undoubtedly seen not-so-functional and possibly annoying uses of hashtags – don’t let this confuse you. When used properly hashtags serve a real purpose and can help to amplify your message beyond your network. Keep in mind: research a hashtag before using it – the last thing you want is the wrong kind of attention!
I have to leave some topics for #VARTECH – but I’d love to hear your questions, feedback and thoughts on social media. Is your company part of the conversation? Are you seeing results? If you aren’t currently involved – why not? I’d like to get an idea of the type of questions you all have so we can cover these things in New Orleans. See you then!
1 Elon Musk is a co-founder of Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Solar City.
2 Lurking is to browse or observe without contributing content.
3 Hootsuite is a leading social media management and measurement tool
4 Buffer is a social media scheduling application
5 CoSchedule is a wordpress plugin that enables scheduling and multi-posting of SM messages