Tips to Develop a Social Media Plan

B2B Marcom Insider

According to Forrester Research on the impact of Internet marketing, “We have witnessed the most profound evolution the marketing world has seen in fifty years or more. The pace of change is not going to lessen in 2011.” The evolution Forrester cites includes: Internet Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Inbound versus Outbound Communications – and Social Media. According to AMR International, annual growth in US B2B online marketing spending is forecast to be 10% in 2011 and 14% in 2012.

Pretty impressive numbers.

The growth of Internet marketing has transformed the foundations of traditional marketing because of the accessibility of information. Yesterday, marketers pushed information (via ads, direct mail, etc.) to customers to pull sales. Today, customers seek information on the Internet. They are using the Internet to research information and indentify who is qualified to meet their needs. More and more of the sale cycle begins with simple search engine queries (Google, Bing, etc.) and participation in social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.).

Learn how these new paradigms are affecting your marking communications…

The Shift from Outbound Marketing to Inbound Marketing

Adapting to the new marketing communications paradigms requires an attitude adjustment. Previously, you had all the cards: information. Those who had the biggest ads budgets and could yell the loudest, won sales.

Now everyone has access to information – silently – with a mouse click.

One of the fastest growing elements of B2B marketing is social media. Not just for teenagers anymore, companies large and small are embracing social media to connect and influence customers by being a trusted, friendly resource. So, how do participate in B2B social media? Here are some tips.

Getting Started

Appoint a Social Media Czar. The first order of business is to appoint someone to “own” your social media effort. That person should have an understanding of social media and be familiar with your company’s products and services, as well as the markets you serve. That owner will be the funnel that will feed the content to the social media sites. Obviously, that person will be in sync with all marketing communications efforts and messages.

Set The Tone. Social media is based on social interactions: Friendly, helpful and even playful. No corporate-speak, no gobble-gook, no arrogance. Keep the language light, kind of like the tone you use to explain to your mother what it is you do.

Find Your Target Audiences. Since most of you are the business-to-business world, this discussion is limited to LinkedIn and Facebook. There are many other social media sand boxes you can play in such as Twitter and YouTube, and a host of blogs. We will keep this simple by focusing on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Create a Company Page. Your Company Page is the hub of your social media effort. It provides the overview of your company products and services and lists people within you network (LinkedIn) or fans (Facebook).

Invite Initial Participants. Use the tools available to invite others to your social media sites. Participants can be employees, vendors, customers, editors and writers, industry analysts and others within the sphere of your company’s realm. It’s an important step. The initial participants will be important by spreading the word of your company’s site. Ask customers or vendors to “Like” your company (Facebook) or recommend your company (LinkedIn).

Playing in the Social Media Sandbox. There are many ways you can leverage social media:

  • LinkedIn: Search Discussion Groups that have topics and members that are important to your market. Don’t see a group that fills the bill? Create one. Invite your sites’ participants to visit and comment. On a regular basis, comment on a variety of group discussions, or create your own discussions. Either way, you will start awareness of your company and lead to increased credibility. You can post news on LinkedIn in the News page. Ask vendors and customers to recommend you, a powerful credibility tool.
  • Facebook: The Wall feature on Facebook is an ideal way to promote new products or applications. But the real value of the Wall is to create and comment on discussions. To start a discussion, lead off with a common question such as, “What is best way to…” Let your Friends build the discussion. Urge participation to “Like” (recommend) the content similar to LinkedIn, comment on other Wall posts on sites that are important to your market such as allied companies or professional organizations.

Quality Over Quantity. Everyday we are inundated by messages. The ones that we respond to are the ones that fill our needs, the others aren’t read and are quickly dispatched to the trash. To build credibility for your company and make sure your messages are read, messages must have value to the reader. Nobody cares about your politics, vacations, dog, children, blah, blah, blah. What they want is information to help them do their job better. Application tips, new uses, new products, troubleshooting tips and other information will be read and responded to.

This a brief overview, of the tools and resources available from LinkedIn and Facebook. Need to know more? Ask us. The goal here is to create awareness and preference of your company by positioning it as a trusted resource.

Establish Metrics. Metrics will be important to demonstrate to management the value of social media, but equally important to recognize what works and what doesn’t. Here are typical metrics:

  • Number of Facebook fans and LinkedIn connections.
  • Total of “Likes” and recommendations.
  • Number of hits to your website from social media.
  • Amount and length of site visits.
  • Increase of organic SEO rankings.
  • Feedback from sales and customer service.

One rule that’s still holds true from yesterday to today is: Buyers still like to buy based on perceived value and buyers buy from friends. Social media creates friends.

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