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B-2-B Social Media Marketing to Build Brands and Generate Leads
 Takeaway notes from an AMA webinar. By Aliza Bornstein, copywriter, Melissa Data

The Evolution of B-2-B Marketing
Before search engines, marketing companies would receive information about products or services through their in-house sales team. To build awareness and generate leads, marketing teams would use mass advertising by doing trade shows, print media, and direct mail, while the sales people would do cold calling. And, when leads were captured, there would be no score or system to qualify them as the right type of prospects for sales follow up.

When Google arrived, B-2-B companies started using SEO, PPC, advertising, and email to drive traffic to their Web site. And this is where a lot of content marketing first came into play. (e.g. white papers and webinars used to convert traffic into leads though registration forms.)

Now marketers are becoming more savvy—applying lead nurture programs, scoring, and more exposure on social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube—because there’s a lot of good B-2-B content and your buyers are there.

Why Inbound Leads Matter
The majority of B-2-B leads come from inbound marketing through social media. What’s great about these leads is not only the quantity and how well they turn into opportunity, but the fact that they sought you out after third party validation. An educated buyer leads to a more satisfied buyer down the road.

Is Your Company Ready for Social Media?

1. Clear objectives and goals
You must have a plan! Increase lead conversion rates; Increase the number of qualified leads; Build awareness of yourself through online methods; Decrease the time needed to resolve customer service issues. These are all objectives you’re going to use to help measure success.

2. Available resources and content
Make sure you have the human resources to commit to social media. You want to make sure you have a dedicated number of hours for one person or more to commit to, because it does take time.

3. Target audiences use social media
Find out what’s important to your prospects—the forums they frequent and how they like to communicate. Then make sure you frequent the same places so you can communicate with them.

4. Prepare to handle social media
Even if you’re in social media, it’s easily forgotten about if you don’t update it often and with relevant content. You want to focus on durability—is your Web site ready for this commitment? Do you have a nice Web site that’s going to be attractive to people, and can you capture leads from it? Are there white papers and webinars people can sign up for that are clearly laid out on your site?

5. Ready to incorporate social media throughout the revenue cycle
Social media isn’t just about building brands—it’s about creating new leads and interacting with the leads you already have.

Developing a B-2-B Social Media Plan

Who?
Who are you targeting? Is it the c-level decision-maker—are they using the social media site? Or is it the end user? Make sure that your content is relevant to your audience.

How?
Which social media tactics will you employ and how will you measure success?
Add in other topics that are going to be relevant to your company or industry.

What?
What goals or objectives do you want to accomplish and what are the action items?

Developing a B-2-B Media Policy
Social media policy should not only define what social media means to your company and set some ground rules, but it should also stress the importance of confidentiality and make people want to participate. You want your policy to be friendly and help people share content. Use it as a way to encourage people and remind them of how great it is that they can contribute.

Fundamental Concepts of Social Media Marketing

1. Company identity and brand
Anything you do in social media—especially if it’s coming from your company name—should really represent your brand well. It should use your company colors so people recognize it as you. You want to be proud of what you’re doing so make a strong effort. You should encourage other people at your company to do this with their email accounts, too. Use proper logos and colors, and customize this as well. Aim for consistency!

2. Social media monitoring (“listening”)
This is one of the first things you want to do when you start doing social media. It’s not only going to tell you what people are saying about you, it’s going to let you know where people are saying it. You can use Twitter Search as a third party tracking tool for this. Make use of alerts, such as Google Alerts. Set up a “best practices” for how you plan to monitor.

3. Social sharing: A closer look
The ability to make your own content easy to share with others is one of the main aspects of social media. A lot of companies have put a button or link that makes it easy to share content at the bottom of their landing pages or on their Web site. You can go a step further toward improving this by providing what to say—such as “Play this NOW” or “Download HERE.”

4. Social validation (social proofing)
This is commonly used to help mitigate risks. When people are exploring buying a product for the first time, there’s some risk involved with that. So, they’ll search for third party validation. However, this takes time. What you can do is help bring that conversation to them through Facebook and Twitter. Post messages on new products or special sales. Let others post their before, during, and after experience of buying your product.

Pitfalls to Avoid in Social Media

• Don’t dive in until you’re ready.
• Don’t be a big brag (e.g. Don’t show off about your company. Be there to help people).
• Don’t be afraid to try it because the metrics are new and different.
• Don’t treat social media like advertising.
• Don’t assume every social media tool is right for you.
Social Media Across the Revenue Cycle
• Seed nurturing: Develop relationships with early-stage prospects before they enter your database.
• Lead nurturing: Build and maintain relationships with known prospects as they educate themselves.
• Customer nurturing: Deepen and expand relationships with existing customers.
Make valuable content freely available and create a reputation that builds credibility and trust. Establish a baseline and measure progress before and after the start of your social media strategy.

---Source: American Marketing Association webinar on Feb. 17, 2010. Maria Pergolino is the senior manager of inbound marketing for Marketo. Reach her at maria@marketo.com
 

Melissa Data


 
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