The benefits of social networking for B2C businesses have been so extensively documented that by now, participation is no longer just recommended—it’s virtually mandatory. These businesses can use social media to connect with their plugged-in audiences, forming relationships, building authority and becoming interactive fixtures in their lives.
But what about B2B companies? What’s the point of investing in social media for the wide range of businesses that the average consumer has no need for? Can it actually help?
That depends. According to an October 2013 report from CMI and MarketingProfs, 91 percent of B2B marketers are using at least one social media network to distribute content. Out of 10 different networks, though, only one—LinkedIn—is considered effective by the majority of B2B marketers using it.
How do we bridge the gap between using social media for B2B companies and actually using it effectively?
Know every network as well as you know your own business
LinkedIn is the top social network for B2B marketing, but it’s far from the only effective one. Just like it allows you to connect and interact with thought leaders and major influencers in your industry—and to become known as one yourself—other networks have their own advantages and disadvantages wholly unique to them, as well.
With its advanced search options and emphasis on free and open communication, Twitter is a useful tool for client discovery. Google+, which only 21 percent of B2B marketers find effective, is actually a valuable resource for targeting and connecting with specific decision makers. Think of each social network as an employee, with its own voice, strengths and limitations—it’s up to you to know them and work with them accordingly.
Have a personality
Your brand has an established voice for written communication. And just like that voice allows you to articulate your values in print, your voice on social media opens lines of communication—or inadvertently cuts them off.
B2B industries can be dry and technical, but your voice can keep them from becoming boring. Don’t be bland, lifeless or robotic—be engaging. No matter how interesting your content may be, the execution of your delivery can make or break its effectiveness.
Find ways to stand out
The great communication philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message,” positing that the way you share a message is just as critical to its effectiveness as the message itself. Apply this theory to your content marketing strategy, and stretch the limits of what your medium can do.
Take advantage of social media’s unique capabilities to deliver engaging messages, rather than just a linking to your latest blog entry or whitepaper. Use Vine, for example, to broadcast product demos, or Instagram video to shoot and share mini tutorials. The more you focus on content production and not just content sharing, the more your social media can do.
Invest a little, gain a lot
Not sure how to find and connect with a relevant audience on social media? Sponsored updates make your messaging more efficient by putting it in front of the decision makers you want to reach.
LinkedIn sponsored updates, for example, allow you to broadcast updates to users outside of your network, filtering them by criteria like seniority level and job title. This makes it easier to share content like downloads, infographics and videos with the right decision makers and higher ups, establishing your identity and opening up new networking opportunities.
Twitter also offers sponsored updates, which allow you to target users based on keywords they use and geographic location. Experimenting with these tools makes it easier to connect with a highly focused, relevant audience that may have otherwise been lost in a network of hundreds of millions of users.
Pay attention to your analytics
One reason that many B2B companies struggle with social media is that they can’t quantify its usefulness or develop an analytics-based strategy. While it may seem like little more than guesswork, knowing how to monitor your social analytics can make your account management significantly more efficient.
Track your numbers every few weeks to see how users are interacting with your business online. What types of posts get the most shares, or website traffic, or conversions? What time of day gets you the most responses? Which networks deliver a higher concentration of converted leads? You may be surprised by what you find out—and you can save a lot of time by tailoring your approach.
One of the most important things for a B2B company to do on social media is also one of the most important things for any other type of business: remain consistent. Commit to running your social media accounts with the understanding that they may not yield results for weeks, or months. But weeks, months or even years from now, when a prospect visits one of your account pages, they will see the content you’ve produced in as much time—and that gives you a significant amount of authority.
Creating and abandoning a social media strategy reflects poorly on your business, whether you’re B2B or B2C. Sticking with it, on the other hand, gives you the momentum you need—however slowly—to become a highly visible name in your field.
Your first step
By understanding the strategies that make social media marketing as useful for B2B companies as it is for B2C, you can better prepare yourself to experiment on your own. Developing this understanding before you begin to work with social media can give you a significant advantage, and put you in the minority of B2B marketers who recognize and benefit from the potential of these valuable tools at their disposal. credit-n.ru
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