Choice is good. However, choice can also be overwhelming and according to Hicks Law it takes considerably longer to make a decision when more options are introduced. At some point too many options are detrimental to the decision making process and this can lead to paralysis by analysis. If you’re a business-to-business marketer, I hope to save you the brain pain and anxiety of evaluating the plethora of social media marketing tools out there by suggesting the best three you should start with: LinkedIn, Blogging, and Twitter. The one caveat is that if you start using these tools you need to keep up with it or your efforts will be wasted.
If you’re in B2B marketing then you need to be on LinkedIn. It’s basically facebook for business professionals but with far more purpose. When it comes to B2B marketing, people buy from people and seek expertise over brands or fancy advertising. Having a professional profile on LinkedIn is a key component of establishing your credibility. From a personal standpoint it is also a great way to elevate you own employment prospects since it allows you to easily network with others in your industry and is often visited by recruiters. I want to emphasize the need to have a well put together profile – LinkedIn profiles show up in search engine results so it’s like having an online resume. Make sure to include a good picture, have a link to your website(s), and compose a succinct bio regarding your capabilities and achievements. You can also set-up a profile for your company. I would also advocate getting some “Recommendations” to add to your profile since these are one of the most looked at features. The best way to get recommendations is to give some first. The person who you recommend on LinkedIn will be prompted to return the favour.
The main thing about LinkedIn is the same thing as with any business networking association – It’s about developing relationships and sharing information. The great part is that it’s a business network association with members from around the world and millions of them. Regardless if you’re an engineer, software developer, advertising director, insurance provider, or heavy equipment manufacturer there will be tons of people in your related industry to connect with. A great way to connect with other like minded folks is to join or create a “Group”. Once you find a group you will be able to introduce yourself, post news items, create discussions, and have a mutual link with others that will allow you to add them to your network. There is also an “Answers” tool on LinkedIn where people post questions and others are invited to provide advice; this can be a great way to share your expertise and build up your profile. Depending on the popularity of the question, your expertise may be seen by hundreds of others. Besides making organic connections you can also advertise on LinkedIn and get very targeted regarding who sees your ad.
As I mentioned previously, in B2B marketing people buy expertise and place more emphasis on the perceived credibility of the people they’re buying from than the brand or advertising behind it. In a recent 2009 survey 80% of Corporate Marketing Officers found their vendors as opposed to the other way around and it was primarily because of online research (Fuel Lines. The best way to communicate your expertise is to share it! Blogging is a great way to accomplish this and it also has terrific benefits for search engine optimization since blogging produces fresh content that search engines are hungry to find. Search engines end up ignoring static websites, so if you keep producing new content the search engines have a reason to index your website and give you more search results. More importantly, sharing your expertise provides value to your target audience and when the time comes to make a purchase they will hopefully already trust your capabilities.
It’s a balance to decide how much information you want to give away, but I’m an advocate of sharing as much as you can because if people are looking for the information it’s likely because they want somebody to execute a solution for them. If they decide to do it themselves based on what they learned from you then they probably don’t have the budget for your product/service anyway. If you do decide to start blogging, enlist the brightest people in your organization to contribute articles or hire a writer to help out on a contract basis. The most important thing is to make your blog a resource and not just a place to talk about how great you are or what the new promotions are. Encourage people to sign up for your blog through email or RSS subscriptions and track how many leads result from them. In addition, share your blog posts in appropriate LinkedIn groups if you feel they will provide value and also promote them through Twitter updates.
Everybody new to Twitter has the same reaction – “I don’t get it? I don’t really care what people are doing at any moment in time”. Agreeably, there are lots of people who use Twitter just to provide updates regarding the mundane details of their life or just blab for the sake of blabbing. These aren’t the people you should use as examples regarding the purpose of Twitter. Twitter is actually much more popular with 25 – 35 year olds then it is with 15 – 24 year olds. Despite the toy like name, it is anything but. It is, in fact, a terrific source of news, industry information, contacts, and micro-conversations. Similar to LinkedIn, it is important to have a complete profile so people can quickly determine if your legitimate or a spammer. Use your real name as your username and provide a profile picture (which should be the same across all your social media spaces).
Twitter is a very simple way to provide updates or share information regarding your company or industry and can also be used as a customer service channel. Since it only allows messages of 140 characters, it is also extremely efficient. I develop followers by following others and if you tweet about popular topics you will quickly find yourself being followed by others with similar interests. If you want to find people with similar interests use http://search.twitter.com to search topics relating to things you’re interested in or try http://wefollow.com to find the most popular twitter users by topic. It may take a while to gather a significant number of followers but in the meantime you will have the opportunity to be exposed to a lot of interesting information and find interesting people who might end up becoming customers. The key things to remember are that you want to focus on developing relationships, engage people in small conversations by replying to their tweets, and provide value by sharing useful information.
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