Reaching the masses on social media seems like an easy thing to do. Facebook has 1 billion active users, with more than 50 percent of them logging in every day, according to the social network’s own statistics. Twitter claims 300 million.
But, while these vast user populations may represent great opportunity for the consumer-facing side of the business world, their translation into the business-facing community remains a bit unclear.
In judging the value of participation in this forum, business-to-business marketers and decision makers often see two sides to the debate:
1. A complete lack of presence could reflect poorly on a company—especially in a B-to-B world where staying “ahead of the curve” is everything.
2. With indistinct analytics, lead-generation value, and return on investment, how can a budding B-to-B company justify the expenses and time commitments associated with maintaining a social presence?
Furthermore, those businesses that go with door No. 1, often quickly become frustrated with their results, and fall back into door No. 2, unable to justify the investment.
I believe that with social media, you get what you put in. So, I’ll bring this discussion back to the bare bones of PR. Our overarching professional theme—know your audience—doesn’t magically disappear when thrown into the realm of social media.
According to a recent Arketi Web Watch Media Survey (“Inside BtoB media usage of social media,”) in which journalists were asked to reveal where they get their story ideas, traditional bases including PR contacts, industry sources, and press releases were expectedly dominant. But a hefty 44 percent cited micro-blogs (such as Twitter) and 39 percent cited social networking sites (such as Facebook and LinkedIn) as reliable sources for story ideas.
With 85 percent of the surveyed journalists active on Facebook and 84 percent active on Twitter, there is not only an opportunity to reach your customer base through a B-to-B social media account, but also a great opportunity to tell your story without sending a single email.
So, whether you are a B-to-B social media beginner, or a frustrated early adopter, here are a few tips that can help you get more out of your efforts:
1. Act as an industry advocate
Social media presents a great outlet for businesses to provide their audience with the information needed to make well educated and informed decisions. If there is a highly contested area of debate, let’s say DC vs. AC power in the data center, use updates with links to materials that support your stance.
Partaking in industrial thought leadership discussions will not only solidify your stance on important trends, but also give you a chance to vocalize your position directly toward media outlets, which will make your company readily available for comment when analysts or journalists are looking for an opinion for an article.
2. Promote your social channel through traditional outlets
If you have a history in the B-to-B game, it is very likely that you have vast databases of important customers, journalists, stakeholders, or even direct mailing lists. This existing population represents your most important audience, one that is already engaged—a great starting point for your social media expansion.
Tag your social media handle on your traditional marketing methods, such as email blasts, press releases, and advertisements. That way, if someone wants to engage digitally, they know how and where to do so.
3. Analyze and strategically build your follower base
Promoting your social presence through traditional outlets is a great way to build your follower base, but another useful method is to strategically build a following through targeted outreach after completing an analysis of your existing audience.
Take a look from the top at your engaged audience (“likes” or followers), or export them into a spreadsheet using analytical software such as www.simplymeasured.com.
Next, break down your audience into categories (journalists, customers, partners, etc.). Now you can allocate a related percentage of digital content toward each “slice of the pie.” This process will also help you identify audience segments your communications are under-serving, and identify areas for targeted expansion.
This methodology ensures that you’re sharing information that is relevant to who is listening. Be aware that your base may change over time, so it is a good practice to continuously monitor.
Another benefit of analyzing your engaged audience is finding who isn’t listening. Take your list of top target editorial outlets or reporters and compare with your existing audience. If important targets are missing, engage with them through shared content or traditional methods discussed in No. 2.
For example, if you’re targeting a specific journalist, share and attribute one of their recent articles that aligns with your business practices, or include a prompt to “Follow us on Twitter @MyBusiness” in your signature or next press release. These methods may not immediately result in an expanded following or editorial pay-off, but they will attract some attention.
4. Don’t stress the numbers
This goes back to door No. 2 in the BtoB social media debate. C-level decision makers and marketing teams are often enamored with numbers, and for good reason. Quantification is quite easily the most efficient way to convey success through multiple levels of an organization, and can be directly compared to those other important numbers—dollars.
However, if you are a B-to-B company, you will probably never have the following of @LadyGaga, and even if you did, would it really matter? Everyone wants a million followers, but one follower that results in a sale is more valuable than 1,000 bystanders.
So, instead of sweating over making your following bigger, make it matter. Take tip No. 3 and try to judge your social media success by maximizing your percentage of significantly engaged individuals. Everyone wants to be popular, but in B-to-B, it’s better to be relevant.
Anthony Baldinelli is an account executive at Largemouth Communications. This story first appeared on the Largemouth Communications blog, The Megaphone.