You’re probably either running a b2b social media marketing campaign already, or are wondering how to do so. Certainly the Inc 500 are, as this research indicates. I thought I’d share my approach to b2b social media marketing with you, in the hope it may prove useful. Being a Process bigot, I run my campaigns according to the mantra: Think, Plan, Do, Measure, and Repeat.
But before we get to the meat of it, let’s pause and reflect on the why of it all. Why is it important for companies to participate in the b2b social media whirl? I think there are 4 reasons:
- It’s a legal, fun and rewarding way to build external links to your site. And we all know the SEO importance of good external links, right?
- It’s a great way to raise your b2b company’s (and your own) online visibility. More visible companies generate more sales leads.
- It’s a reliable way to take the pulse of your b2b industry – to find out who and what is hot, what’s not, and to help shape those impressions.
- And it’s a direct connection between your company and your prospects and clients. Twitter and Facebook, as just 2 examples, offer great ways to engage your clients and find our what they like and don’t like. See our previous post for more on this.
Admittedly, the hype surrounding b2b social media marketing is excessive and you would be excused for watching from the sidelines in disbelief and cynical amusement. But to watch and not leap in is a mistake – your competition is already forming online relationships with people at a rapid rate. If you doubt this, check out this article on how Comcast uses Twitter for customer support.
So, to help you achieve these 4 objectives, especially the first 2, here are my suggestions.
You can’t sell your service to Facebook’s 300 million users. So you segment it into slices you can reach, and to do this properly you identify your Ideal Prospect. And then you go looking for these Prospects, online, searching for their hang-outs. According to some stats, about 1.5 million blog pages are published every week; literally billions a year. Obviously you can’t read them all, but relax – there’s no need to. You want to find the ones which are important to your industry and your products and services. And the best way to do that, is to use a tool like Sysomos.
Sysomos is our Reputation Analytics software, which trawls the social media space and finds the centres of influence for our world of Inbound Marketing Automation: The blogs, forums, news articles with the largest readership (sometimes called Authority – that digital trust factor again – see my previous post for more). Of course, relevancy to your topic is imperative, and the frequency of posts helps to decide whether the blogger is active and knowledgeable enough to not be a one post wonder, but the beauty of Sysomos is that you can slice the data many ways: The screenshot above is Sysomos’ Buzz Graph which shows which words are being used where. The scheenshot below is the dashboard Summary View after performing a search for the phrase, “Inbound Marketing”.
And then, for this specific issue, the heart of the answer I’m looking for is a screenshot showing the list of blogs of interest, ranked according to the filter chosen in the top LHS corner. I used most authoritative, and most recent. In other words, these are the blogs which influence the largest number of people in my target segment.
I follow each link and read the post to form an impression of how good the blogger is and who is reading her work. The comments are a good place to gauge who reads the blog as people usually leave some information about themselves behind.
Okay, with your Ideal Prospect identified clearly, and now that you know where to reach out and touch him or her, its time to plan how to do that.
B2B Social Media marketing campaigns are time-consuming, and so your first planning function is to take a serious look at your calendar. Yes, you can do your B2B social media marketing stint in the evenings, but at its best this Process is a conversation so set aside some business hours to make sure you can respond to comments quickly and keep the flow going.
How many hours? How good are your writing skills? How many spheres of influence can you join (depends on your product, service, and other demographic data) and on the time you have available. I scan a minimum of a 100 posts a day and the list is growing. And whenever I find one where I can answer a question or throw out a suggestion, I do so. A slow-news day takes me an hour, two hours a day is average. Don’t be tempted to delegate this to a junior – this is your company on the line – every tweet, every post. And every one is a chance to grab someone’s attention, so who better than you to do it?
Next you must set aside time to master the software tools for each platform. This is becoming easier as there are tools which allow you to update many of the platforms simultaneously by sharing your posts and tweets across platforms. For example, plug-ins now allow your latest posts to appear on your LinkedIn profile, tweets, too. Facebook and Yahoo just announced ways to share information across multiple social media sites. Socialite on the Mac combines Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Digg, Google Reader and its own RSS reader to provide convenient access to all of them from one place. This link describes 35 tools which make life easier – check them out, some of them are awesome!
And now – most importantly, before you leap in and start a conversation, take the time to listen. Read the post, the archives, read the comments, think about what people are saying, when they do and don’t leave a link, how aggressive the comments are, how keen readers are on facts versus speculation. Just as you wouldn’t wade into a group at a party and launch yourself into their conversation, you should wait till you have a feel for what the rules of etiquette are.
Religiously, come Hell or high water, every day you must scan the blog-roll (the list of all those blogs you feel are centres of influence for your topic), comment freely, and where it fits within the do’s and don’ts, leave a link. Easy to say: the pressures of the job, family, dogs, all conspire to make it difficult. But here’s a thought. By posting a good comment on a popular site which ties well into a link to a post of my own, I sometimes get 30 visitors from that comment. And because the site is a marketing site with a great reputation, usually 2 of them register on our site to download some content. Wow – 1 great comment and link and bingo – 2 people sign up. And that’s one blog, on one day.
So keep on doing. The more you comment on one blog, the more the blogger gets to know you, the more trusted your relationship becomes and the more he or she will tolerate your presence on their site. And eventually, they may even add your site to their blog-roll. It’s a bit like Barbara Bush said: “Just do it”. Social Media relationships are indeed formed one comment at a time.
Marketers should of course be used to measuring things by now. Google Analytics have brought us a long way from basing our decisions on pure gut feel or intuition. And adding Inbound Marketing Automation makes it possible to calculate the ROI of every campaign, including your b2b social media efforts. Whoa! Did he just say calculate the ROI of a b2b social media campaign? Yup – here’s how.
Your combined marketing analytics (Google and your Inbound Marketing Automation toolset’s) track every sales lead who arrives on your site, showing you where she or he came from. Comment on a blog, leave a link, and when someone clicks it, you know precisely which effort of yours resulted in this sales lead’s arrival. Again using the standard automation rules built in to the tools, every activity of every sales lead is tracked, especially each Conversion they undertake along the way from cold sales lead through hot sales prospect to client. And when you log the resulting Opportunity value realized for this sales lead, when you turn him or her into a client, you can match the time and effort of blogging and commenting against a sales dollar value. Add them all together (all the sales leads from blogs you comment on), and you can easily calculate your Return on Marketing Investment, or ROMI. You will of course have to be patient and diligent enough to wait for the answer till your sales cycle completes so that have the opportunity values to work with. When you’re ready to calculate the numbers, our trio of posts on ROMI calculators tells you how to find the ROMI of your website, the 10 best free ROI Calculators, and even how to build your own!
And given that one of the main objectives here is to build quality external links to your site, measure the number of these too. Use the “link:www.yoursite.com” as a Google Search, or try any of the 3rd party tools which trace your link profile.
Your goal at the end of this stage is to answer the question: did I “do” better this time than the time before? Worse? We’ll find out what to do about either answer in a moment. But do try to find the answer as accurately as possible.
If your performance improved, think of how to do more of what you did. The “doing” is a process, right? So think of how to do it more efficiently, use software tools to tame the Internet Size problem. If it’s worse, find out why and change what you need to try again.
Don’t be afraid to revisit your definition of your Ideal Prospect or market segment at any stage of your thinking process. It’s all about getting it right over time: more and more right in a series of continuous process improvements.
And then try again. Each time you measure, you will be rewarded with seeing more visitors, more links, and more leads turning into sales prospects. Now that’s effective marketing.