Not since the Internet itself, have we seen a boom like social media.
Even the hype is getting hyped. In fact, in the past week I heard a speaker say if you aren’t masters of social media, then you’ve failed. On the other hand, this week a major publication wrote that social media was dead. Once you get through the hyperbole, The Question persists: does social media have a role in business-to-business marketing?
A quick search of Amazon yielded 15,844 results for a search of “business social media”. It seems like a lot of people have an opinion. I know that while I faced The Question, I read a lot of these books. The overwhelming consensus is that yes, b-to-b should embrace social media. They say we should do it because it will help us brand our business as thought leaders and we’ll dominate our markets. Great. Do you buy it? And if you buy it, how do you do it?
I’ll start by saying I buy it. I faced The Question every day for five years as the marketing manager for a plastic tubing manufacturer. I think as b-to-b marketers, we need to understand some things about social that make it different from other Internet marketing.
First of all, I don’t think anyone is searching Facebook looking for plastic tubing.
It would be great if they were, but they aren’t. What does happen though is that my friends, customers, distributors and suppliers have all Liked my page. The Facebook page created a meeting place and it gave me a tool for sending out useful information to the group. The Facebook page also gave all of my “Likers” an easy way to share my business with the people they do business with. I used LinkedIn the same way, giving employees a place to congregate and create their own networks.
Probably the most important part of an effective social strategy is a blog.
When I started out, I found that there was little information online about plastic tubing. In the blog, I wrote dozens of articles about how to select and use plastic tubing. I interviewed engineers and customers and packed the blog with useful information. I created the only plastic tubing resource online and traffic quickly followed.
Twitter is unlike the other major social media tools. I quickly had far more Followers on Twitter than Facebook Fans or blog readers. Many people use Twitter only as a way to send out links to blog articles. I see a lot of those but I tend to tune them out. I’m all about branding and the way Twitter truncates URLs limits what I can achieve.
Instead, I used my 140 character tweets to write short tips like, “Flexible polyurethane tubing makes installing your refrigerator ice maker easier. Freelin-Wade.com”. I think it made my Twitter feed more readable, increasing readership when I did send out a link for my blog posts.
I’m also a fan of Flickr
I posted most of our tube photography on Flickr and gained a large following. The tubing is pretty and the shots were interesting. One photo got thousands of views and though I have no idea if it generated sales, it was a successful branding mechanism.
The real trick to social media is keeping it going.
The first couple of blog posts are easy, but take it from me, your motivation will wane. My suggestion is that before starting, while you’re feeling really enthusiastic, write out an idea list of 50 blog topics, 50 Facebook posts and 50 tweets. You don’t have to write the whole article or post, just the concept. It’s a lot of work to create this up front, but it’s the best way I know for getting some momentum.
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More of our posts on social media in marketing:
- Social media, technology convergence, the future
- Twitter guidelines for business
- Alaska Airlines crisis handled on Facebook