In a previous post, Billy covered the first step in five-step plan for B2B social media marketing success: listen and learn from experts in your industry. Here he explains the second step: research and prepare.
Many B2B marketers have fallen behind at using social media, but I say it’s never too late to make it a viable part of your marketing mix. Here’s what it takes to research and prepare for your foray into social media marketing.
To be successful at B2B social media marketing, it’s critical to maintain awareness of the latest developments in both your industry and social media tools. Also, you should treat social media like the other marketing channels in which your business operates. This channel should be supported by research, understanding of customer’s needs, motivating factors, etc. Research will lay the foundation for intelligent responses to observations from social media marketing.
Initiate social media research with these questions:
Where are your prospects and customers?
- Set up Google Alerts for your customers’ industries, as well as their products, services and competitors. Also, start Alerts for solution names and primary industry keywords.
- Use Google’s news and blog search to find and subscribe to industry publications and the top industry blogs. , Attend professional association meetings frequented by your prospects and customers. Meet the speakers and leaders of the group.
- When networking with customers or prospects, always invite them into your LinkedIn network and monitor their discussion group involvement. Join and engage in applicable discussions. Mashable, listorious and twitter lists
What are they searching for?
- Use Google Insight for Search and Google Trends to compare keyword search volume over a period of time or by geographical region.
- Use the Google Adwords keyword tool to give you more ideas about the search volume of keywords.
- Note the terms used in industry articles and blog posts.
- Record the terms your prospects and customers use in online conversations, and offline meetings. The questions they ask often relate to their search terms.
Prepare for the Long Haul
Social media marketing takes human engagement, which requires a time commitment. Because it will be an ongoing, living, breathing integrated segment of your overall marketing plan, it’s important to prepare the resources required for success. You must also plan for monitoring and assessing the results to address new trends and observations.
Consider these questions during the preparation stage:
Who will be helping you?
- Develop a social media topic calendar using the keyword terms researched. and time requirements for staff to engage. Start small, with maybe 20 minutes per day with three or four intervals throughout the day.
- Integrate part-time social media tasks into the job descriptions of your marketing staff.
- Assign duties or coverage beats to cover so that no one is overwhelmed.
- Consider hiring part-time staffer to monitor and respond to tweets and comments.
- Use technology – like smart phones or tablets – to allow current staff to engage during off hours.
How will you measure success?
Social media marketing, like word-of-mouth marketing and public relations, may not have an immediate or precise return on investment.
- It takes time to see results. Set realistic expectations. Commit to one year of social media.
- Take a snapshot of where you are before beginning social media.
- Benchmark your progress at progressive intervals, quarterly is a good start. Be prepared to track these key indicators:
o Website traffic, SEO rankings and inbound links
o Interactions: retweets, conversations begun, group discussions, comments to blog posts, increase in company and personal followers on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
o Leads: how many leads are captured from campaigns or from the contact us form
o Sales directly sourced from social media
To be successful at B2B social media marketing, you must do research within and beyond your industry while maintaining a “never quit learning” mindset. If social media, blogging and other forms of inbound marketing are going to attract prospects to your website and convert them into customers, your content has to be human, helpful, honest and fresh. Even if you’re off to a slow start in social media, you can be like a rabbit at research – because it’s easy to learn fast. The information and inspiration is readily available if you look for it. So what are you waiting for? Get in the race and use research to pick up your pace.
About the author: Billy Mitchell is a partner and senior creative director at MLT Creative, an Atlanta-based B2B marketing agency with a Northeast office in Rhode Island. As a B2B marketing specialist for more than two decades, Billy brings creativity and leadership to his team while serving national clients. He contributes regularly to the B2B Ideas@Work blog for MLT Creative.
Photo image sourced from istockphoto.com.