B2B Social Media – Answers to 10 Most Fundamental Questions

B2B Social Media - Answers to 10 Most Fundamental Questions

Midas Touch, the company I run, is a B2B Specialist, digital and social media marketing agency. Through that, over the past few years, we have got an opportunity to interact with hundreds of businesses offering products and services to other businesses – also called as B2B services. A few years ago, businesses were almost convinced that social media does not work for B2B. However, things have radically changed now. Several studies, stats, research, and experiences have convinced organizations that if they have to survive in today’s competitive marketplace, they have no option but to adopt social media optimally.

The challenge, however, occurs when the team handling their social media does not understand the intricacies of B2B social media – one needs to understand that it is very different than B2C social media and needs some special expertise.

As a starting point, I am sharing answers to some of the most fundamental questions about B2B Social media –

What is the importance of a blog for a B2B business?

In our experience, we have seen that the blog section is typically one of the top three most viewed sections on the website. The blog offers you a great opportunity to create fresh content for your website (Google loves fresh content), it allows you to answer the latest questions of your target audience, it helps you establish your thought leadership, and it helps you appear as a knowledge expert in your industry. I would highly recommend having an active blog section on your website.

Can the in-house subject matter experts write the blogs?

Before I answer this question, let us first understand what is a relevant and appropriate blog article. A relevant blog article should answer the questions of your target audience, it should educate your audience (and not sell), it should talk about the solutions to the buyer’s problems (and not the features of your product/ service), and it should make the reader the hero (your product should not take the center stage). B2B content writing is a specific skill. I have earlier written about the traits of successful B2B content writers. If you have subject matter experts who are skillful writers and understand all these aspects, they can absolutely write the blogs for your business.

What all types of content can I create?

B2B businesses think that blog posts are the only form of content which they can create. However, that’s not true. There are multiple other options such as infographics, eBooks or whitepapers. Infographics are highly visual and extremely useful for establishing thought leadership. You can use these to create awareness and start conversations with your target audience. Whitepapers and eBooks are very good authoritative reports and more in-depth than a blog. They can be used to address specific business issues in detail with in-depth research and original point of view. These are excellent sources to demonstrate technical knowledge or business information. These can be your very good weapons for specific targeted campaigns and lead generation. You can also use other forms of content such as webinars or podcasts.

What is the role of webinars and podcasts?

Webinars and podcasts are great mediums to generate awareness about your brand and also to get qualified leads. These are brilliant tools to move the prospects up in the interest ladder. You can conduct webinars with your customers or industry experts. Product webinars are also very effective for keeping the prospects engaged.

Which are the most relevant social channels for B2B content promotion?

LinkedIn is the most active and vibrant social channel for professionals. People use LinkedIn not only for job search but also for professional connections, social selling, thought leadership (through LinkedIn Pulse) and group participation. So you definitely have to consider LinkedIn, LinkedIn Company Page, and LinkedIn Groups as your prominent social channels. Next, I would recommend Twitter. Twitter is extremely effective for sharing your content, easily connecting with industry experts and influencers, and joining the ongoing conversations. SlideShare is an another good channel for lead capture if you have very high quality, educational presentations. The tight integration of SlideShare with LinkedIn makes the promotion of those presentations easy. If you have very good quality videos, you should consider using YouTube because that’s the second most used search engine. In the B2B context, you can upload your conference speaker videos or product videos on YouTube. There are many other channels as well and the choice depends on where your target audience is. However, these four would top my list in most of the scenarios.

Is Facebook relevant for B2B?

It’s very tempting to say “It depends”. But let me elaborate more on this. Facebook is a great channel to reach out to the audience outside your sphere of influence. However, remember that people are on Facebook to connect with their families and friends. When they are on Facebook, they usually have no intent of doing any research or study for their business needs. Therefore, while Facebook makes it a great channel if you are running a restaurant, eCommerce site, or a salon, it is not a great medium if you want to reach out to serious buyers when they are looking for solutions to their problems. Having said that, Facebook is a great platform for talent acquisition and talent branding for B2B businesses.

Within how much time can I start getting leads from social media?

Let’s understand this – Social media and content marketing are (crucial) parts of your overall sales funnel. These are not the ONLY channels for your sales. B2B sale is a complex process where multiple stakeholders are involved and they are evaluating the vendors at multiple stages for various things. You, as the vendor, need to ensure that you are in front of the buyer when she is doing her research, you are helping her in her decision making, appearing as a knowledge partner, and creating a positive impression about your company. Let’s be honest here – It is quite unlikely that someone will read a piece of content written by you and immediately fill out the contact form on your site (aka convert into a lead).

How should I measure the RoI?

Almost everything about social media is highly trackable and measurable – which, of course, is good. I would highly recommend you measure both the qualitative as well as quantitative RoI. By qualitative RoI, I mean things like who is engaging with you, what are the questions people are asking you, which hashtags are working for you etc. By quantitative RoI, I mean you can track things like impressions (which is a great measure of visibility), overall engagement with your content, visits to your site, time spent on your site by the people who are coming from social channels, downloads for specific items like eBook and whitepaper etc.

What is the best way to integrate the offline events with social media?

Social is a great way to leverage the offline events like conferences and events. For starters, you can always create online buzz about your event through social platforms by creating specific event hashtags. If you are attending a conference, you can engage with other people who are talking about the conference. You can also engage with specific speakers or exhibitors since almost everyone is on social these days. Twitter works very well for all such things. The other way is to do live promotion of the event – as the easiest option, you can do the live tweeting. Post the conference, you can share your experience and learnings through blog posts.

What is the role of personal branding of the founder?

People connect with people and not with companies. In the B2B context, therefore, it is very important to remember that your company brand also needs a face. People want to know who are the people behind the company, their backgrounds, and their expertise. Having a well-developed LinkedIn profile is just the starting point. The founders of the companies should focus on building their personal brand through blog articles, active online presence through LinkedIn and Twitter. I have shared more detailed views on the importance and how to of personal branding, here.

I hope this article helped you in getting answers to your common questions. If you have any more questions, I will be happy to answer those. Just post those in the comments below!

B2B Sales In The Time Of B2B Social Media

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away I used to sell computer networking equipment to large enterprises. The pressure cooker sales environment was replete with war stories of every hue. Perhaps the one that used to inspire us more than most was the “Legend of the CEO Meeting”. The story goes that each time a specific senior officer used to visit our office he would ask for a meeting to be fixed with the CEO of a specific large corporation. The guy on that account, like most sales people, would put it off thinking there was no real opportunity there. Eventually he caved and set the meeting up – what followed was a sales masterclass by the senior officer. Legend has it that over the course of a single, repeatedly-extended meeting he got the CEO to identify his key business pain points, worked out a monetary amount that was acknowledged to be the business impact of not addressing those problems, proposed a networking based solution to those problems and walked out with a purchase order for a value of Rs.xxx (insert absurdly large amount here).

These days I look around for the pinch of salt the story obviously needs to be garnished with but there is great instructional value there too. Here are the steps the super salesman followed:

  • Identifying and getting in front of the key decision maker
  • Helping him (or her) define the business problems and
  • Making a clear assessment of the impact in terms of cash (or time or effort) being wasted
  • Proposing his organization as possessing an appropriate solution that specifically addresses the business problem and
  • Then closing the deal by handling all objections

This is a great process to follow in complex sales. In these days of the ubiquitous reach of social media would this process change at all? Is the impact positive or negative?

Prospecting

For starters finding or getting into the eye line of the decision maker can be less of a hit-or-miss effort through #socialselling. Examples abound of companies mapping the social media habits of key influencers or decision makers and then engaging with them in a subtle but sustained manner. The approach is to follow them on Twitter, show genuine interest in what they care about, read and comment on their blog and build a relationship with them by interacting with them on their terms.

Engagement

Customers today are uber informed – research shows that anything from 55-60% of the buying process is done by the time they start engaging with individual vendors. Customers turn to the web to help them define their problem areas and find potential solutions and vendors with the capability to offer those solutions. The B2B sales guy used to heavily leverage this stage of the sales process to establish credentials as a “trusted expert” – no longer as easy when the customer knows as much as you. The emphasis has shifted to #contentmarketing – creating content likely to prove useful to customers seeking information and making sure it is found by them when they need it. The most useful content is likely to position the vendor providing it as the “trusted expert”.

The role of content

Lastly Since the content in the online world will speak for an organization chances are even at the very first interaction with the customer they will have a reasonably well-formed opinion of the vendor they are talking to. The opportunity to tweak the positioning to fit the possible opportunity is perhaps less than was available in the story above. The onus on the B2B vendor is to ensure that the content they create talks very specifically to the target customers and addresses their specific concerns even before an opportunity arises for these to be stated.

The changed B2B sales cycle

There is a legitimate expectation that the duration of the sales cycle can be shortened as customers run the initial part of the pipeline themselves – this is partially true or at-least the visible portion of the cycle can be reduced. Key will become the ability of the B2B sales organization and more critically the B2B sales professionals to adapt their time tested ways to the demands of the digital marketing and #B2BSocialMedia world. Sales guys are nothing if not instinctively attuned to identifying shifting tides and correcting course to sail though – my own expectation is the best sales guys will still come out smiling at the end.

 

Add Content & Social Media – An Integrated Approach To B2B Lead Generation

No one claimed Lead Generation was easy – especially when you are in the B2B space. There are so many moving parts that a key problem becomes how to get them all pulling in the same direction. You may have one or more of the following teams contributing to demand generation:

  1. Research team keeping track of market developments
  2. Contact discovery or database research team building the lists
  3. Content creation team responsible for collateral, campaign drafts etc.
  4. Social Media team
  5. Inside Sales and / or Telemarketing team
  6. Pre-Sales and / or Sales team

You may be getting a sense of the possible complexities just looking at this list. Pretty much every organisation I have spoken to over the last 3 – 4 years has people doing some of these activities. The problem I have usually found is that they all work within their own individual silos. The activity levels are always high and each individual team is usually capable but the result when they come together is generally somewhat underwhelming. My own view is this happens because there is usually no “big picture” view being taken. If you get all these groups working towards a common goal chances are the synergies will lead to much better results.

Let’s consider the example of an organisation that has services to offer to companies in the Cloud space and how an integrated approach would work for them.

  1. The team keeping an eye on the market could come up with a finding that of late cloud file storage companies seem to be attracting funding.
  2. This could be the trigger for the content generation team to start putting together collateral that would be of relevance to this sector – say a white paper about a technology trend and it’s applicability or a user case study of a success story in the same or a comparable space
  3. The next step for the content team would be to start working on reasonably customized crafted emails targeted to sub-segments within the larger Cloud File Storage segment.
  4. While this is going on the Contact Discovery team could be hard at work building a database of companies and individual decision makers within those organisations who could be receptive to the message.
  5. On getting sufficient content ready the next step is to make it available on the specific social media platforms the target customers are likely to gather on to inform themselves. In the context of the example this may be Cloud focused LinkedIn groups as an illustration.
  6. There is also a case for tracking specific influencers in the Cloud Storage space – say the CTOs of the target Cloud Storage organisations. The objective would be to build a map of their social media life – their Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, their blog and so on. Sharing what they have to say in a great way to learn from their experience as also to get on their radar. This is a longer term strategic activity – the objective is to connect with them and engage with them at their own terms on ground they feel comfortable on.
  7. Now it’s time to launch the outreach campaigns – first email and then telemarketing, assuming that is right for the business. The chance that someone will respond to the outreach is proportionately greater if they have encountered the company or some useful content in the digital or social world previously.
  8. Key is integrating the outreach program into the sales process – not only to ensure that any leads that get generated receive the prompt attention they demand but also to be able to build any feedback received at any stage back into the appropriate point of the process.
  9. Rinse and Repeat!

My personal view is that if the end objective is that more people should respond positively to your outreach efforts then it’s pretty much mandatory that an integrated approach be followed. Chances are otherwise the results will more often than not be lower than the quality of the team and the visible activity level would suggest.

10 Mind-blowing B2B Social Media Stats and What Those Mean for B2B Companies

10 Mind-blowing B2B Social Media Stats and What Those Mean for B2B Companies

A few years ago, when I started Midas Touch, I found myself explaining to companies and business leaders what social media is and what is its relevance for businesses. Fast forward a few years, today, businesses come to us saying that they want to do social media but not really sure how to do it and what exactly to expectfrom it.

I know that all of us keep on reading a lot of stats and quotes around social media and get impressed, confused, overwhelmed, or worried by those – because sometimes, we don’t understand what those mean to us or to our business.

At Midas Touch, we specialize in B2B social media. We work with B2B companies to help them with their social media, digital and content marketing strategy and execution. I, therefore, very curiously and enthusiastically read various stats and quotes around #B2BSocialMedia.

Here I have picked up 10 such stats and let me take this opportunity to talk through each of these and what these mean for B2B businesses.

  1. 80% of all B2B social media leads come from LinkedIn (Source)

Well, this does not surprise me. LinkedIn is one of the largest professional social media networks. Most of the business decision makers at least have a presence on LinkedIn and they use it for professional networking. LinkedIn offers interesting options in the form on LinkedIn Pulse and LinkedIn Groups, which, when used properly, can immensely help in building thought leadership, connecting with the relevant audience, forming a positive impression about you/ your company in front of your target audience, and also driving traffic to your website. We have ourselves seen some phenomenal results through interactions in LinkedIn groups for our clients. As a B2B company, LinkedIn is a must-have for your B2B social media strategy – and mind you, it is not limited to creating a LinkedIn company page.

  1. 94 percent of B2B buyers conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product (Source)

Surprised? Don’t be. Think about it. As B2C buyers, we all do a lot of online research before any product purchase. Why should it be any different for B2B? Today, the B2B buyers are very clear about their requirements and what they are looking for. They are doing research online to find answers to their questions. If during their research, you appear in front of them and are able to create a positive impression, then your chances of appearing in their shortlist are much higher. This can very well be achieved through a strong content strategy and social media marketing on the platforms which are relevant for B2B companies.

  1. Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. (Source)

A lot has been written about why and how of content marketing. Adopting content marketing is no more optional. It has become almost mandatory for B2B businesses to have a strong content marketing strategy and a solid execution in place. You need to, however, remember that B2B content writing is fundamentally different that B2C content writing. Therefore, look for B2B content writer specific traits in the writers whom you hire for writing the content. More about the traits, here.

  1. 55% of B2B buyers say they search for product/vendor information on social media (Source)

Yes, social media is no more a channel just for networking or fun. People are doing some serious research and connections on social media. As a B2B business, therefore, it is not only important for you to have an active presence on social media (on channels like Twitter, LinkedIn or SlideShare) but it is also important that you create the right impression and connect with the right people through the social channels. The theme, tone, quality and quantity of social updates need to be carefully defined and executed.

  1. 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Source)

As the old saying goes “No one likes to be sold; everyone likes to buy.” Today, B2B buyers want to make an informed decision. So rather than going by what is simply “told” to them, they like to read up and get “convinced” before making the decision. This further reinforces the need for content marketing for B2B enterprises. A note of caution here, though – writing a blog about your product features and benefits is also a form of advertising J You need to focus on answering the questions of your buyers rather than focusing on selling your products and services.

  1. 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level or vice-president level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions (Source)

Another myth is busted! If you thought that the top level executives are not on social media, you are wrong. They are extremely active on social platforms, seeking information, connecting with the relevant people and engaging in interesting conversations. You just need to find them and engage with them in a right way.

  1. 57% of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier, and (Source)

Yes, gone are the days when the sales person could drive the conversation and the decision making. Today, the B2B buyers want to be well-informed even before they contact the vendor. As a B2B vendor, it is, therefore, your responsibility to appear as a knowledge partner to the buyer, be available and active on social platforms, listen to the needs and problems of the potential buyers, and connect with them in a non-intrusive way.

  1. By 2020, 80% of the buying process is expected to occur without any direct human-to-human interaction. (Source)

This means that the buyer is going to expect all the touch-points to be online. In a way, it is a good news and challenging as well. Good news because you get a level playing field. Your chances of being in front of the buyer are as good as any other vendor. Challenging because the onus lies completely on you to create the right online impression in front of the buyers and be able to connect with them through online medium.

  1. 90% of B2B buyers say when they are ready they will find you. (Source

It has become extremely important for B2B companies to understand the buyers’ journey and align their marketing and sales efforts on those lines. Today, the buyers’ journey is digital. They are already aware and in some cases, they are already in the consideration phase and ready to make the purchase decision. They are developing their vendor list, doing a social media analysis, engaging with possible vendors, and exactly know what questions to ask. Are you ready to be found?

  1. There may be 7-20 people involved in any given B2B purchasing decision. (Source

Not surprising, right? B2B purchase decisions are more complex, affect a larger set of individuals, and have a bigger business impact. It is obvious that multiple people will be involved in the overall decision-making. What the vendors need to know is that they should be able to talk to all these people – of course, online. They should be able to provide answers to the questions of all the decision makers and should be able to connect and engage with all of them. This means that you will need to rely on a variety of content types such as blog articles, whitepapers, case studies and also depend on a wider variety of channels such as social media, emails for connection and engagement.

 

Have you come across any such compelling stats? Do share as comments and I will include all the relevant ones in the article – of course, with due credits to you!

B2B Social Media Marketing 101

B2B Social Media Marketing 101

Of course branding and awareness are also roles that can be played effectively by B2B marketing, but from my point of view these are only supporting roles—secondary to the primary objective of helping drive sales.” — Mac Macintosh

If you ask how is B2B social media different from B2C social media, I believe this quote summarizes it all. In B2B social media, influence matters over popularity. Relevance matters over numbers. More than the features and functions of the products, businesses want to do business with trusted advisors.

Gone are the days when the sales person of the vendor could dictate and decide the flow of information for the potential buyer. Today, buyers have become much more informed and aware of what they want. They are doing their own research online, searching for the answers to their questions – it is important for you, as the vendor, to ensure that through your content marketing and social media, you are found and are in front of them when they are looking for the information. As per SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete before the prospects even engage with a salesperson.

Let’s understand the various aspects of B2B social media – any B2B business wanting to start with their social media initiatives should consider all these factors

Objectives

The first and foremost thing, like all strategic initiatives, is to identify and finalize the goals and objectives. “Getting more leads” is a good and obvious objective but remember that it is a long-term objective. Do note that social media offers many great opportunities and you should not miss on those – aim for things like “establishing thought leadership”, “getting in front of more audience”, “engaging with prospects and customers”, “driving more traffic to the website”. As Chris Brogan has very aptly said: “Marketers need to build digital relationships and REPUTATION before closing a sale.”

Content Marketing

Yes, any conversation about B2B social media is incomplete with the mention of content marketing. You have heard stats like “88% of B2B marketers currently use content marketing as part of their marketing strategy”. But content marketing is a lethal weapon and needs to be used accurately. B2B content marketing is a different ball game altogether. It is about telling stories. It is about not about you or your products. It is about your buyers, their problems, and solutions to their problems. It is about telling stories where the potential buyer is the hero. B2B content marketers need to have specific traits. Apart from being skillful writers, they are process oriented, they are storytellers, they understand social media, and much more. (You can read more on this here).

The importance of choosing a right channel

You might be very comfortable using Facebook, but does it make it the best social channel for your business? You don’t know of many success stories with Twitter, does it make it an irrelevant channel? How can you leverage LinkedIn? There are 700+ social channels and putting your energy in leveraging the right channel is very important. Our experience at Midas Touch has been that Twitter and LinkedIn are very effective channels for B2B social media. Twitter is a great medium to connect with prospects, customers, and influencers. It is a wonderful medium to share the content which is relevant to your industry, show your interest areas and also share your own content. LinkedIn, of course, is undoubtedly the number one professional network and, therefore, very relevant when it comes to B2B social media. LinkedIn company page and LinkedIn groups can be very well leveraged for engaging with the prospects and opinion makers in the industry.

What to expect?

Of course, the end objective is to get more leads to the business and that’s where social media is going to help. But if you expect that people are going to read your content and are going to fill out the contact form on your website immediately, then, that’s not how it works in the B2B space. Social media and quality content will help you establish your thought leadership, be in front of the right audience when they are looking for answers to their questions, and help the vendors form a positive opinion about you. The key is being patient with the efforts. At the same time, constantly measure and monitor the results and the impact in terms of visits to your website, engagement with your content, social connection etc. Remember, social media is a strategy and not a campaign.

Keep your customer at the center of the social media strategy is – leverage the best channels, have a strong content strategy and use an integrated approach. You are sure to benefit from it!

40 Ideas To Make your Business Twitter Handle Active

40 Ideas To Make your Business Twitter Handle Active

Twitter website mentions that Twitter has 302 million monthly active users and 500 million Tweets are sent per day! But even today, I very frequently answer questions like “Does Twitter work for businesses?” or “What can a business tweet about?” or “I don’t have time to be on Twitter – it’s for people who have no work”…arghhh…

Anyway, I have made peace with such questions – because I think these are simply because of the unawareness about the platform or the genuine lack of knowledge as to how powerfully businesses can leverage Twitter to connect and engage with prospects and customers.

In this post, I am going to share few ideas which you can use on the Twitter handle for your business –

  1. Link to a YouTube or Vimeo video relevant to your niche
  2. Link to a list of blogs which could be useful for your target audience
  3. A special offer – just for Twitter followers
  4. If there is a glitch in some platform, share it along with the resolution (if you know it)
  5. Connect two people, who you think will value the introductions
  6. Ask a simple question which your followers will like to answer
  7. A link to a new app/ tool you discovered
  8. Review of a new app/ tool – tag the people who you think will especially benefit from it
  9. Inspiring, motivational and relevant quotes –humor works well too!
  10. Link to an interesting presentation on SlideShare
  11. A collation of interesting industry stats
  12. Link to an interesting poll
  13. An infographic (there are tons of ready infographics at Daily Infographic if you don’t have time to create your own infographic)
  14. Behind the scene photos
  15. Access to beta of a new product
  16. Join the ongoing conversations with trending hashtags
  17. Ask feedback on new product
  18. Office photos – don’t forget to tag the employees
  19. A happy customer photo
  20. Recommend a tool which you have found useful for something specific
  21. Share a book if you thought you have benefitted from it
  22. Randomly thank followers for their RTs or Favorites
  23. Exclusive photos of your products
  24. An event you plan to attend
  25. Be part of a Twitter chat
  26. Opinions about current events
  27. If you’re planning to attend a conference, join the conversations through event #hashtag before / during / after event
  28. Logo or website design of the early versions of your product!
  29. Link to a relevant podcast or webinar recording
  30. Random posts like dinner plans or weekend plans – Yes, it’s okay to share it from business handle because it will show that you are a real person
  31. Share popular, trending Reddit topic
  32. Share video testimonial
  33. Post a picture and ask followers to come up with interesting captions for the image
  34. Breaking industry news
  35. Wish your followers on holidays
  36. Offer free eBook
  37. Feature a star employee
  38. Share industry research with your point of view
  39. Humor – cartoons work the best at the start of the day!
  40. Finally, don’t forget to respond to a tag

Got any more to add? Share your ideas through comments.