Over the years social media has transitioned from playground for teens to a multibillion dollar industry challenging traditional advertising and completely revolutionising how we communicate.
However, small businesses that are strapped for resources are often still sitting on the fence as to whether they should commit company time and personnel to develop and manage their social media strategy. But social media, if done right, can work wonders for a company’s bottom line. It offers a level playing field for small players that don’t have deep pockets for expensive TV spots or print ads. All you need is a strategy, determination and a little creativity.
1. Choose the Right Platform
Not all social media platforms are created equal – especially when it comes to B2B marketing. Marketers often fall into the trap of promoting the same content across all social media platforms. But, like any good marketing strategy, you first need to understand your target audience and determine whether you will find them on each platform. Additionally, you evaluate each platform for the unique features and benefits it provides. It is not enough to simply have presence in all the popular social networking sites, one must approach each one with a strategy and goal in mind.
Facebook is great for brand awareness and building a community of fans, but B2B marketers need to consider whether it’s the right platform to engage with customers or partners. Twitter is a good gauge for trends. Look for popular hashtags that are relevant to your industry or company and join in on the conversation by sharing timely content from your own website. Twitter is also effective for engaging industry influencers. For example, you can generate great brand awareness if an industry expert with lots of Twitter followers tweets about your products or services.
If you have products that are visually interesting, you can take advantage of platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. These platforms allow you to showcase product photos that can easily be shared with avid users. LinkedIn allows you to hone in on professional network communities. If your company targets a small niche of technical professionals, you can benefit from LinkedIn by joining special interest groups. Being active in these groups can help your brand establish itself as a trusted supplier or service provider.
Alibaba provides an infrastructure of B2C and B2B eCommerce platform for MNC and small businesses, mainly for the China market. It is relatively affordable to set up an eCommerce platform in Alibaba. However, the cost of advertising in this platform to potential clients can be costly. ComLinked is new to game, but it’s the only social platform that focuses on B2B connections. ComLinked provides B2B matchmaking that uses matching algorithms to connect companies to their ideal customer and partners.
Keep in mind that not all platforms will be right for your company. It’s better to focus on one or two and spend the time to tailor your content and message to the target audience the specific social media site.
2. Use Social Media as Listening Tool
You don’t have to be an avid Tweeter to take advantage of social media. By following key customers, partners, industry experts and even your competition, you can keep your finger on the pulse for what is relevant to your business. Social media provides a good situational analysis of the market, offering insights on trends, consumer needs and new ideas. It also allows companies to learn more about the competition and find ways to edge-out the competition. Dissatisfied customers will talk about how your competitors failed to meet expectations. This can be an opportunity for your company to step up and service their needs.
Launching a new product? Who better to provide feedback than your customers and engaged fans. You can avoid costly mistakes and wrong assumptions by letting your customers participate in product development.
Most companies are concerned that complaints about them can go viral and out of control. The solution is not to stay out of social media all together but to have a competent customer service team in place to address issues. Let social media be a gauge of how customers feel about your brand and products and identify areas for improvement. Like it or not, somebody armed with a computer or mobile phone can easily write a scathing review of your brand at any given time. But it is up to you to be proactive in finding solutions to their problems. They can even become unofficial brand ambassadors. A social media presence helps you influence what is being said about your company. It gives you the ability to quickly react and catch negative messages before they spread.
3. Be a Fan Yourself
Staying on top of what your partners and customers are saying on social media can open up opportunities for collaboration. Follow or become fans of brands that you think can be potential customers. Their status updates or blog posts may reveal key insights that can lead to actionable business opportunities. Keep up-to-date with companies that are complimentary to your business. They may present new business ventures and profitable partnerships.
4. Be Accessible
As more and more millennials are moving up the corporate ladder, they are increasingly becoming responsible for purchasing decisions - from raw materials, to services. Millennials are less likely to make these decisions through traditional channels, like attending trade shows. Instead, they will spend hours looking at websites, social media pages, review sites and forums to find the best suppliers and service providers. If you cannot be found in these new media platforms, your company may be losing out to the competition. Be sure to include social media as an important component of your company’s multi-channel marketing strategy.
5. Be Relevant
Social media engagement is a chance for a company to showcase its expertise and deep knowledge of the industry. You become top of mind when the need for your products and services arises.
Create compelling content that your customers find useful in their business operations. Show them innovative ways to increase market share or overcome challenges. Sharing your expertise on social media helps build your follower base and also increases traffic to your website.
6. Segment your Target Market
Rather than waste time and resources on the wrong target market, social media can help you identify the most profitable market segment. It lets you focus on customers that are ready to move along the sales funnel. Social media can also be a great tool to serve targeted ads. Many sites offer sophisticated algorithms that allow you to choose your audience according to demographics, location, purchasing power and personal preferences. You can create customised ads for different target segments with relative ease and without busting your budget.
Take advantage of the free data analytics provided by most social media sites to guide business decisions. You might discover that your product appeals to a certain target group. You can focus your marketing efforts to reach that community and significantly increase your sales.
There is no doubt that B2B companies can greatly benefit from social media platforms. However, it is important to engage with clear objectives, strategies and metrics in mind. There are no hard and fast rules. You may need continuous testing and experimentation to find out which tactics work best for your company. Social media engagement takes consistency and hard work. But it is one channel you cannot afford to ignore.
- Comlinked -