Social Media and B2B – Let’s Get Started

Nearly all B2B (business to business) companies have websites and marketing materials touting their products and services as an integral part of their sales and marketing strategy. Over the last few years, however, these have become insufficient.

Companies, even B2B companies, need to become actively engaged in social media. That is to say, they need to create, publish and exchange information over the Internet, telling stories, becoming known as ‘thought leaders’ and engaging in conversations with customers and other stakeholders.

Full disclosure: I am by no means a social media expert. Instead, I will try to address the topic of social media from the perspective of a business leader. As such, I hope to provide a practical guide to help get you started in using social media to make your businesses more successful.

  1. Getting started with social media
    1. Why spend time and effort on social media?
    2. The benefits of social media
    3. How to get started
  2. Key social media that B2B companies should be involved with
    1. Blogging
    2. LinkedIn
    3. Facebook
    4. Twitter

This blog will discuss getting started with social media. My next blog will discuss Blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter in more detail.

Why Spend Time and Effort on Social Media?

But, David, we already have all of our marketing material and we have a good website, so why on earth do we need to spend all the time and effort on social media?

Excellent question! To answer that, let’s begin with a 10 minute exercise and a quick quiz.

Exercise: Go to the website of a one of your supplier companies. Browse through and read the website for 10 minutes. Then take the following quiz.

Quiz:

  1. Could you last the whole 10 minutes of reading or did you get bored and move on?
  2. Did you believe what you were reading or was it just marketing fluff?
  3. Do you now understand how this supplier is different from all the others and better able to serve your needs?
  4. What stuck in your mind and made you want to do more business with this supplier?

Unfortunately, most of you would have felt (like I do) that you were just reading advertising copy or marketing materials. Most likely, nothing stuck in your mind, nothing was memorable, and nothing differentiated the supplier company from all the other companies in the same market space.

Today, having a good website is just a cost of doing business. A good website is largely just an electronic form of marketing materials. It gives basic information about your company. But, it rarely tells what is unique about your company and why people should buy from you.

To differentiate your company today, you need to…

  1. Tell stories that show how your company lives its brand promise
  2. Develop relationships and viral marketing so you have others as referrals or (in a perfect world) evangelists for your company and its products and services
  3. Show your customers that you are listening to them and understand their needs and the issues that they face in the marketplace

Done well, social media takes giant steps forward in each of these three ways to differentiate your company and significantly enhance your sales and marketing effort.

The Benefits of Social Media

Three key benefits to social media:

  1. Brand
    1. Increase visibility to build the brand
    2. Tell stories and share information that reinforces your key brand promise
    3. Personalize and humanize your company and brand
  2. Relationships
    1. Through Facebook, LinkedIn and engaging in conversations within social media, expand your network
    2. Facilitate relationships by knowing more about the people you meet and do business with
    3. Gain referrals and access to people you don’t know but may want to know
  3. Information
    1. Share information that shows your customers and potential customers that you know what you are talking about and understand and care about their needs
    2. Listen to what your customers and others are saying about you and your brand
    3. Internally share the collective reading and learning of your management team better informing everyone
    4. Learn from others; post questions on tricky issues and get the help and feedback from others who may have already faced the issue

 

How to Get Started

  1. Write down and communicate limited goals
  2. Monitor to ensure that everything is in alignment with these goals
  3. Commit time and resources to do regularly

Write Down and Communicate Your Goals and Strategy

Social media is vast and can be overwhelming. As such, you will need to keep the goals limited or you will never accomplish them.

First, if you are brand new to social media, it is crucial to get on all the key social media, to try them out, and to understand what each of them is all about. By this, I mean not just the marketing department, but also the business leaders.

Next, it is time to develop the initial goals and strategy for social media. To help get you started, I give a possible example of initial goals and strategies for a B2B company. As you have success pursuing these goals, you will likely develop more complex, even unique strategies that take advantage of all that social media has to offer in making your business more successful.

Goals

  1. Brand
    1. Reinforce and strengthen three key brand attributes (as an example)
      1. Relentless customer service
      2. Technical excellence to come up with innovative solutions
      3. We understand our customers and their needs
    2. Broaden knowledge of company and brand
  2. Relationships
    1. Facilitate relationships so that people buy from our people
    2. Increase the number of relationships and referrals
    3. Really listen to the customers and stakeholders that are communicating with us through social media
  3. Information
    1. Position our company as industry experts
    2. Improve internal information flow and sharing

Strategy

  1. Brand
    1. Blogs, tweets, stories, anecdotes will revolve around and reinforce our three brand attributes
    2. Our Facebook and LinkedIn profiles will represent these brand attributes as well
  2. Relationships
    1. Using LinkedIn, everyone will go into meetings with customers and suppliers informed about the background and interests of the individuals across from the table
    2. Using LinkedIn, we will actively seek to expand our network and to use referrals to get more business
    3. Using Facebook, we will listen to what others are writing about, posting about or like about our company. When appropriate, we will engage with them.
  3. Information
    1. By blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, we will share information with customers and suppliers that position us as the company that understands and can respond to their customer needs. We will become the industry “thought leader”.
    2. By blogging and using the private group feature in Twitter, we will internally share company success stories and disseminate information that all of us come across in our daily work increasing the collective company knowledge.

 

Monitor to Ensure All Efforts are Aligned with These Goals

Once the goals and strategy are written down and communicated, it is vital to monitor the individual and company social media effort. Once something is on the internet, be it a blog, a tweet, a posting on Facebook, etc., consider it there forever. So, to keep to the goals and strategies, strict policies likely need to be in place to ensure that everything is done in accordance with the goals and strategies. This will likely mean that only a few individuals will be allowed to blog, tweet, or post for the company.

The monitoring of the efforts should be done at the top level. Why? First, the leaders are the ones who best understand how they want the company to be portrayed and defined. Second, requiring the top level to monitor social media forces the leaders to be actively involved in social media, be it blogging, tweeting, or… Third, the occasional blog or tweet from the business leader is essential to give credibility to the social media effort, both within the company and with customers.

Commit Time and Resources to Do Regularly

The biggest critique of social media is about the amount of time it takes to do all of this. It can be time-consuming, especially creating insightful and “on message” blogs. But, it does not need to be overwhelming. Less material of a higher quality on a consistent basis is more useful than lots of “junk.”

Some suggestions from my own experiences:

  1. Have one person who has at least 30% of his or her job dedicated to social media. For larger companies, this can be a dedicated person. It is critical that this person can actually write and create content as well as be a “facilitator” for social media. One thing to be aware of: just because someone is in marketing does not mean that that person can actually write well!
  2. Keep the Facebook and LinkedIn profiles up to date and fresh, reviewing at least twice a month adding new information, articles, press releases, photos, etc.
  3. As a company, try to publish a blog once a week. It may not sound like much, but after one year the company would have 50 high quality blogs reinforcing the brand attributes and positioning the company as a thought leader. Note: blogs do not have to be long. A 250 word blog on a successful job for a customer with a photo or two can work wonders.
  4. Try to tweet or re-tweet on a daily basis. If not possible, then do it on a regular schedule, say, twice or three times a week.
  5. Commit key management to spend a small portion of their day – 20 – 30 minutes but no more – on social media. Do it every day.

In short, for the B2B leaders out there, it is time to get started with social media!!

Next time, we will discuss the key social media that B2B companies need to be actively involved with – Blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Until Then.

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About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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6 Responses to Social Media and B2B – Let’s Get Started

  1. Pingback: Social Media and B2B – Let’s Get Started « Customer Service Media

  2. Pingback: Social Media and B2B – Blogging | David Shedd's Blog

  3. Pingback: Social Media and B2B – LinkedIn | David Shedd's Blog

  4. Pingback: Social Media and B2B – Twitter | David Shedd's Blog

  5. Pingback: Social Media and B2B – Facebook and Conclusions | David Shedd's Blog

  6. Pingback: Social Media and B2B – Blogging | Helping Leaders Win

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