1. Set Clear Goals
Many of us name the activity we pursue as “B2B Social Media Engagement” or “Social Media Marketing.” While this is often accurate, what we want to achieve with social media can turn out to be something more specific than these general descriptions (i.e. branding, recruiting, lead generation creation, exposure for new products, building a reputation, finding new business partners/customers, gathering information).
When done right, social media will influence more than one aspect of a business. Succeeding in one area of social media will help other elements of your business strategy. (Once you have built an active community and engaged within it – you will propel your marketing efforts.) To achieve what you are aiming for, be clear in what you expect and what you wish to gain from your activities.
You should also be clear about what kind of results you want in terms of timeframe and actual numbers. Unrealistic expectations will result in frustration, but having specific goals is essential for measuring success. (The answer to your goals and expectations can even be that social media is not the best solution for you and a different marketing investment is better suited for your professional needs.)
Remember to be patient; social media is a long-term relationship.
2. Hone in on Your Target Group
There is virtually no group of people that you cannot find in social media. Therefore, knowing whom you wish to speak with is essential to reach your desired results. It is building these relevant and active relationships that breeds lasting social media and business success.
Once you have determined your target group, the next step is to know where to find them — and how communicate with these people. Choosing the right outlets and content for your target group is crucial to social media success.
3. Know Where You Stand (What does your current online audience look like?)
There is a vast difference in social media between starting at zero and building on an already established audience. (This applies to whatever networks/outlets you decide to pursue.)
It is also important to understand the existing knowledge of your employees. Do they already have experience, content and real life contacts that will influence your strategy and the time you need before seeing results?
Keep in mind that you need people to want to listen to you before you can tell them what you want them to know. Once you have them listening, you need people willing to share your content before it can make a true impact. If you have already built an interested audience willing to share – connect and give them good content they are likely to share.
If you do not (yet) have a following, start with outlets that make it easy to build a community. Twitter, Pinterest, publishing platforms and news aggregates are good places to access already-existing communities.
Note: Do not make the mistake to measure the entirety of your social media influence by the outcome of your first feeble attempts at social media. The “gurus” with whom who may want to compare yourself have been doing this for years. It takes time, diligence, measured campaigns/calculations, and a series of trial and error to find what works for you.
4. Utilize Your Budget and Resources
It will always take time to build an influence within social media. However, there are ways to speed the process. Hiring a strong team of people with familiarity within social media channels and a willingness to learn and experience is one way to combat the enemy that is time in social media. Investing in ad campaigns and optimization tools is another. While money is not the only answer, it is essential to utilize the means you have available.
Warning: Do not fall victim to the myth that social media is free.
5. Allow Your Time Frame to Be Flexible
If you expect “Big Time” results tomorrow – buy them. If you want to achieve success by connecting with people, building a reputation, branding your business and establishing trust – understand that this process takes time.
Being clear from the beginning about what you want to achieve – and in what amount of time – helps you to decide on your optimal strategy and the means by which you can achieve set goals.
6. Rely on Your Employees
For each company, there are different ways to pursue a social media employee strategy. You can outsource all of your activity, hire a complete internal team, or find a blend between the two. The decision to involve people in different parts of your strategy will involve consideration about content creation, which networks to target, how much activity and branding you can do with given resources (and employees).
The experience, the communicative skills and the personality of your employees will help to establish network influence. Hire specialists when necessary, but don’t miss out on utilizing the talents and communities of your existing employee network.
7. Utilize Various Outlets
Social media is not all about Facebook. Especially in B2B, Facebook might not be the right outlet for your activity (even though you can, theoretically, reach almost anyone, worldwide). There are countless other networks that are interesting for your business and may be better suited to reach your target group.
If you are starting out with limited resources in time and money, select channels for publishing and spreading your content; figure out how they work and get them started. There are social media outlets where it is easy to start and utilize a given audience and others where you have to work hard to build a following.
For an easy start, consider including some of the easy to use networks providing you with an already established audience. For publishing you can reuse your content on news aggregate sites like Business2Communityor directly tap into the community on exploreB2B. For spreading an easy start are matching LinkedIn groups and build a following on Twitter.
Once you have the accounts running, keep managing these communities while looking for other outlets that fit into your strategy.
8. Understand the Important Process of Content Creation
The kind of content best suited for you depends on many of the already mentioned aspects of your marketing strategy: What you want to achieve? Whom do you want to reach? Which networks best achieve these goals? Once these questions have been answered, the content itself can take on many forms: videos, articles, pictures, graphics, and more.
For many people, the question about what content to use is the most difficult to answer. Maybe this is due to the fact that the possibilities are so vast that there is no short answer to this question.
There are some basics you should keep in mind when deciding on what type of content to produce. Think about what your target group wants to know instead of what you would like them to know about your business.
Look around and find out what you like to read or watch – this is often the best hint on what your audience will also want to read and watch. There are numerous lists on content ideas to help you get inspired and start being creative. Include your employees into your content creation process and give a voice to your happy customers. These are often the most under-utilized voices that can help create trust and formulate a reputation for your outstanding business.
There are numerous decisions to make before you start. Some decisions will certainly turn out to be “wrong” and you will have to adjust your strategy. But if you start with a clear idea, you will be able to identify where you went astray, and can get back right on track.
In the end, you just have to get started and find your own way. All of those experts you look up to right now have once been in your position, too. They have made some mistakes, learned, (re-learned) and kept going.