When discussing B2B social media marketing with business owners, I normally get two scenarios. Either they believe they need to have a presence on every social network in order for it to work, OR they haven’t really bought into the whole social media thing, and think that Facebook is social media. They both are wrong.

If you’re going to build your brand’s presence on a social network, it’s important to do it well; you’ll need a solid strategy behind it and no, having a business page on Facebook is not ‘doing’ social media. In fact, there are cases when I don’t even recommend a Facebook presence. So as a business owner, you want to know what platforms you should be on. Here are some steps to take in order to direct you in the right direction.

Step 1: Set Your Goals

As a business owner, you are constantly setting goals. With social media, I stress, it should not be used to drive sales and leads. These can happen as an indirect result but think about it like sales person. The good ones work to develop a relationship with you and take interest in you as the customer. A poor sales person is pushy, leads the conversation with the sale and usually is not as successful. Social media takes the relationship building approach. It is recommended to tie your business goals with the engagement capabilities social media provides.

You may look at key performance indicators (KPIs) to track your social media efforts. Some examples are:

  • Increased website traffic from social media sites
  • Customer retention
  • Increased online engagement
  • Greater foot traffic
  • Broader online reach
  • Better online reputation / brand loyalty

Typically with social media we look at web traffic, engagement, reach, impressions and share of voice. Consider setting goals based on our baseline analytics.

Step 2: Balance Your Resources

B2B social media takes time, knowledge and while many platforms may be free, they still cost money to manage in terms of time, advertising, software and even some paid platforms. Consider the following (and be honest with yourself):

  • Your time available for social media
  • Your knowledge & comfort level with the different platforms
  • Consider hiring, utilizing internal staff or outsourcing
  • Your ability to track your initiatives
  • Promotional budget for campaigns
  • Social advertising costs

Keep in mind that it is worse to be on a social network and do it poorly than to not have joined at all. If you only have 1-2 hours a week, commit to one social network and build up your presence as time goes on.

Step 3: Research & Analyze

Two-thirds of Americans are on a social network, but which ones? Obviously, Facebook has the largest user base. The target market of your business should align with the platforms you create a presence for your brand. Sites like Pinterest have 83% female users and Google+ is 70% male with 50% of users age 24 and under. You should engage, interact and create messages that appeal to your target market on these networks. For example, if you’re a teen clothing brand, why would you communicate or advertise to 45+?

View the demographic and geographic research out there on social platforms. OnlineMBA.com, Mashable.com and Nielsen.com have some good metrics and reports.

Watch what your competitors and industry leaders are doing on social media. Look at what platforms they’re established on, how often do they update it, what content are they sharing and are they getting good engagement? Find ways to improve upon the competitor strategy for your own brand.

Step 4: Create a Strategy

Before jumping on a social network, build your strategy. Consider frequency of posts, time of day to post, best practices of the platform functionality, content resources, how to create your own content, engagement and ways to encourage new followers.

Understanding the functionality and features of a platform is one thing, but to find ways for them to work to your advantage and enhance your overall presence is another. For instance, using Twitter’s advanced search function can help you find the conversations and the users you want to engage with, even geographically.

It’s important to experiment to see what works and what doesn’t. Remember it’s a ‘social’ network. You don’t go to a cocktail party, introduce yourself and then say, “Buy my product.” You have to find unique and interesting ways to get online users to interact with your brand.

Step 5: Choose Your Platform(s)

Finally, after all that, you can look at taking your goals, research, strategy and matching it to the social networks that will be most beneficial. Start with those networks then expand your strategy to further enhance your presence. If you chose Facebook, how will you leverage Facebook’s platform to increase fans and hopefully customers? If you’re using Pinterest, how will you interact with other users on Pinterest? If you’re blogging, what will you blog about and what keywords will you target?

You can always add on, build and improve your B2B social media presence. I suggest you start with what’s manageable, what you’re comfortable and what aligns with your brand in order to be successful online. Just remember to think ‘social’!

About the Author

Patricia Hursh

Patricia Hursh is the president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing. Today she leads the Client Services division of the agency. She specializes developing digital strategies and full-funnel marketing solutions for B2B companies. Patricia leads multi-functional teams to ensure bottom-line business results for SmartSearch Marketing’s clients.

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