B-to-b marketers connect with social media

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Rob Crumpler
President and CEO, BuzzLogic

Social media is revolutionizing the nature of the business-to-business relationship. From searching for software to sharing success stories, decision makers are increasingly leveraging the Web, and nearly all of their activity has social underpinnings. However, the rapid growth of conversational media has created a fragmented marketplace for advertisers at the same time that economic conditions continue to bear down on budgets, requiring even better ROI. In that environment, how do you execute an effective b-to-b campaign within social media?

First, take time to understand social media, map the campaign to business goals and measure the results. Know your audience and then determine where the most relevant conversations are happening. Some networks and tools in the market can help you do this. Use that information to deliver targeted messages to those audiences. Targeting decision makers when they are engaged in content impacts message recall and click-through rates. The conversations you are targeting with messages don't need to be about your brand or product. In fact, campaigns that focus on topics complementary to the business often outperform those that are product or company-specific.

Marketers responsible for social media need to collaborate with the rest of the marketing team, especially those responsible for search engine optimization. Often, the keywords used in a SEO campaign can help marketers identify relevant online conversations. Just like search provides a view of customer intent, the connections within social media provide a view of the customer's journey from one hyperlink to another across the Web. Once the path and intent is understood, marketers can create messages for sites that become stops along the path to purchasing a b-to-b product.

It is important to remember that within social media it is about the conversation and how your customers participate, not just impressions or clicks. When you can uncover online conversations specific to your campaign focus and target the appropriate sites along the purchase path with relevant messages, your social media campaign will be much more successful. l

THE TAKEAWAY
Find and target online conversations that are complementary to your business


Steve Nielsen

President and CEO, PartnerUp

By now, most b-to-b marketers have grown wise to the escalating popularity of social media, and Facebook and Twitter are increasingly viewed as another delivery vehicle for promotional messages. Unfortunately, this approach overlooks the true value of social media — creating a two-way dialogue with current and potential customers. Unlike traditional tools, social media affords b-to-b marketers the opportunity to build relationships with customers and prospects in meaningful ways.

One way to make the most of social media is to use it as a research tool to determine customers' and prospects' interests. By following their online discussions, seeing what kinds of questions they post, what they are Tweeting about, and what's on their minds, you'll keep your finger on the pulse of what's important to your market. Some social networks offer the capability of surveying specific audience segments and demographics to collect primary market research.

Most social networks capture a great deal of profile information and behavioral data that can be used for highly-targeted advertising and follow-up. You can also use this information to pre-qualify leads and research prospects before contacting them, so that you can tailor the offering to suit their needs and create a truly personalized experience.

Consider creating your own online community so that your customers can communicate directly with you and with one another. An online community can provide your customers and prospects with tools, forums and directories to encourage dialogue and interaction. Enabling your customer base to post recommendations, exchange ideas or share success stories with you can turn customers into advocates.

With social networks, marketers have access to a vast market that transcends geographical boundaries. You can now expand your reach in a way that was previously impossible without an enormous sales force, and conduct highly targeted follow-up in a cost-effective way.l

THE TAKEAWAY
Use social media for a two-way dialogue with current and future customers


Ted Kohnen

VP of interactive marketing, Stein Rogan & Partners

The social media space represents an enormous opportunity for b-to-b marketers when approached correctly. A smart, strategic approach can protect and accelerate your brand, position your company and people as thought leaders, improve natural search engine rankings and serve as a quality lead generation channel.

The foundation of a successful social media engagement is content: authoritative, comprehensive, relevant content that is devoid of sales blandishments. Content such as whitepapers, research studies and webcasts are a brand's most important social engagement agent and represent a brand's information currency.

In addition to networking, participants largely use social media to expand their knowledge base by interacting with and learning from peers through information exchange. The first step to realizing the social media opportunity is determining which properties are aligned with your brand. Sites such as LinkedIn have many communities within its larger network. Social media are also becoming increasingly industry-specific. For example, sites such as TeachAde and Schoolnet cater to education, while LawLink caters to the legal community. With these niche properties, be sure to view current conversations to see how they align with your objectives.

Given the role of social media as a source for high-quality, inbound leads, measurement is critically important. Determine what your objectives are and align metrics accordingly. Consider non-traditional metrics that can be powerful sources of insight, such as content pass-along rate and conversation pick-up/velocity. Then, make sure key performance indicators are captured in your CRM and are accessible by both marketing and sales teams.

Finally, determine the level of resources — particularly people and organizational bandwidth — that you are able to invest and let that guide your commitment. With the array of social media opportunities that exist, it is easy to overwhelm available resources. Start selectively, test and measure success, and expand your efforts as the business impact warrants. l

THE TAKEAWAY
Authoritative content is the foundation of a successful social media strategy


Kathy Rizzo

VP of marketing, TeleNet Marketing Solutions

B-to-b marketers can enhance marketing campaigns, expand their reach and enrich lead generation by using social media tactics, but it should not replace traditional marketing. Instead, social media should be viewed as one more avenue to reach and communicate with prospects.

In fact, traditional marketing can actually help jumpstart a social networking strategy. If you are actively using "human-touch" telemarketing to generate and nurture leads for your sales organization, consider using that contact to accurately pinpoint which blogs and social networking sites your prospects find most useful and pertinent to their job. You can do this easily during your telemarketing conversations by asking one or two brief questions centered on their participation and opinion of social sites, blogs and communities. Many marketers are hesitant to start a social strategy simply because they are unsure of where to start, so the information obtained through prospect conversations can be valuable to establishing your social presence.

Additionally, combining social media and telemarketing can have a positive impact on lead generation and nurturing. When contacting prospects via traditional b-to-b telemarketing, one of the most important components for success is ensuring you provide valuable and relevant information that piques interest. Therefore, components of your social media mix can be used during your telemarketing calls to provide prospects who are not yet sales-ready with useful information as a logical next step.

Alternatively, your social media components can be used as a reason to reach out to your prospects in the first place — for example, "based on our previous conversation, I thought you would be interested in our newly launched blog..." By suggesting relevant information based on your prospect's profile and previous conversations, you will begin to move your prospects to the top of the sales funnel. l

THE TAKEAWAY
Jump-start social media by integrating it with traditional media like telemarketing

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