In Part 1 of our social media tutorial, we spoke about how to start building your B2B social media profile. In Part 2, we spoke about how to maintain your profile. Now, in part 3, we’ll talk about how to get value out of your social media profile.
There are many ways to potentially translate social media into additional business value. You can use social media to get in contact with journalists and thought leaders in your space. You can bring users and readers together by hosting social media jams focused on a specific topic. You can identify people with specific questions and help them with their problems. You can build friendships and relationships with the most important people in your field. You can ask users what they want out of a next generation product or service. You can find talented people in specific niche fields. All of these areas can provide value, but it is hard to do all of these at once.
From a difficulty perspective, these use cases basically go from Business Development < PR < Talent Acquisition < Marketing < Sales.
Yes, I said that business development is the easiest of these use cases. In fact, I would argue that any professional who is responsible for alliances, partnerships, channels, and consultant relationships needs to understand how to use social media both because the barrier to entry is so low, the immediate gains are great, and the basic tools are all free. You can meet executives from a wide variety of industries through social media just by having a basic interest in their business and their focus areas. If you truly share a passion and an interest with a well-connected executive, chances are that you should be speaking to each other anyways. Social media just helps to close that gap more quickly.
PR is the next easiest because every good journalist is now on Twitter and pays attention to their feeds. All you need to do is be genuinely newsworthy to get their attention. If you're not genuinely newsworthy, you may need to spend more time developing your core products and services….
Talent Acquisition is a fantastic use case for social media because it is hard to fake being, so interested in your subject matter that you are willing to blog, tweet, and post about your topic. At this point, I check the social media profiles of all of my potential candidates and have done so for years. I don't care if they have drunk pictures of themselves of Facebook or the typical HR concerns. But I do care about if the candidate loves their topic so much that they share their knowledge with others. Social media is a good way to show your personal passion. Even if a candidate hasn't managed to gain a significant audience, sometimes it's more important to simply see their github or LinkedIn profile than to build an audience. Not everyone knows how to build an audience, but everyone has the ability to show the world their interests.
Marketing takes slightly more work, since this involves brand, attracting an audience that is not as directly interested in your company, and a higher level of quality of social media content. To me, it always seemed odd that social media at the B2B level seemed to focus so much on marketing. I studied marketing for my MBA and know about the branding and messaging aspects of social media, but social is fundamentally about creating a personal connection whereas traditional marketing has been more of a mass market and demographic based activity. In fact, marketing has had to fundamentally change its approach to focus on the Power of One partially because of social media. Remember as you look at the marketing aspect of social media that the power of social is in engagement. Social media does not create clicks or views in and of itself. It's only when you actually engage and interest your user into a shared engagement (such as answering a poll, voting on a question, or chatting with an audience) that social becomes useful. Design social marketing to elicit a response that will give you new and interesting data.
And then there is sales. One of my heroes in the social world is Jill Rowley, who bravely took on the world of Oracle as their Social Sales Evangelist and was fired for daring to actually be social. But there is no doubt that social sales is the hardest of the basic business use cases in social to accomplish. You need to find people who are asking the right questions. You need to engage them without being creepy. And then you need to build the relationship to the point where the potential customer wants to set up a real-life email, phone, or personal exchange with you. This is not a Social 101 accomplishment and, to be honest, it takes a pro to teach how to do this correctly. Although I consider myself to be an expert in social media, I would estimate that only 10-15% of my sales pipeline comes directly from social. In other words, it is one of many channels, but it may be the difference between getting your bonus and not. There's a reason that even an inbound marketing monster like Hubspot has a small army of inbound sales people.
So what are some of the next steps that companies can take to start supporting these actual use cases? Let me provide a few examples along with the use cases that are best supported by these initial tips.
1) Create content such as paper.li
2) Hold a Tweetchat on your favorite topic by scheduling a half hour or hour with friends and colleagues.
3) Use aggregations/mashups like Storify to summarize events
4) Start a LinkedIn Group on your topic of interest or join a group.
5) Blog on LinkedIn – I will blog separately on the importance of blogging on LinkedIn, as this is a new opportunity. Any time you see a social platform or interaction that has a built-in audience or represents a new and different form of interaction, you only have a few months to get on board and establish yourself to get first mover status.
6) Master at least one visual social platform: Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine
7) Engage specific individuals for a focus group
8) Identify specific users as potential partners or buyers
There are a lot of different directions to go in building out your social media efforts for B2B success. To get a better idea of how DataHive Consulting supports B2B social efforts, take a look at our Social Jumpstart efforts.