This is the third post in a five-part series by Billy Mitchell on social media marketing in the B2B world. In this post, Billy Mitchell discusses what’s needed to succeed in the long haul.
Some B2B marketers are moving a little slowly when it comes to social media – or are completely standing still. There’s so much noise about social media out there that it’s easy to feel lost or left behind; but I encourage you to change your outlook. Realize that no matter what, there’s an opportunity to gain back the ground you’ve lost. And if you’re one of those companies that started out with grand plans but abandoned your efforts due to lack of resources or a measurable return on your investment, it’s time to get back at it – but with a sustainable plan this time. With realistic goals and a long-term commitment, you will recognize rewards along the way that will keep you motivated to continuously improve your content – and your results.
From my perspective, there are four approaches to social media marketing engagement:
1. The Skeptic: A passive spectator – or worse, a naysayer – who doesn’t buy into anything new, unproven or overhyped. Surprisingly, this is still the mindset of many leading B2B companies and one of the reasons for this series.
To the Skeptic, I suggest you open your mind immediately to the idea that your website should be the center of your marketing program. If it isn’t a lead-generating engine, you probably have an outdated and obsolete model. Think of social media as fuel for an inbound marketing program integrated with conventional outbound tactics that attracts interested visitors to your site and converts them to leads.
Social media is just part of the mix but, without it, your website won’t show up where and when many of your prospects and customers are searching for solutions.
2. The Tortoise: This is someone who is tentative about social media and may be just plodding along but is at least progressing steadily. This can be a good thing because the Tortoise’s expectations aren’t unrealistic.
Social media engagement is as much about research and learning as it is thought leadership and lead generation. In other words, to generate new content that is relevant to your customers and prospects, use social media platforms like search engines to do aggressive research. Share helpful information you discover and don’t just talk about yourself and your company.
It’s fine to pace yourself, but don’t be erratic with your engagement on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Same with your blog, if you have one (and you should). You should also find others in your industry who are active in social media and take the time to follow them, comment on their blogs and retweet good ideas or information they share (but be sure to properly credit them). Demonstrate that you’re a good listener and know how to share. An editorial calendar is a terrific way to make sure you create a continuous stream of content so you don’t fall far behind. Here are two great posts about creating a schedule or calendar:
3. The Hare: Anyone familiar with the Aesop fable of the Tortoise and the Hare knows the lesson here: Starting fast out of the gate and then slowing down can come back to bite you. Too many marketing or company communication initiatives on social media start out with a flash but soon run into a ditch due to burnout, lack of resources/commitment or unrealistic expectations.
It is obvious that a company has given up on their efforts when you can see the date of their last blog post or last tweet was months ago. You can also tell when a company is on “autopilot” and simply repeating promotional messages that are all about selling something. There are tools that enable you to gain frequency through automation but without being human, helpful, honest and not hard-sell, you will only come off as social media spam. It would be better to slow down and be relevant less often, to fewer people, than blasting away until you burn out.
4. The Hybrid: Hopefully your interest in B2B social media marketing is shared by others within your company – especially top management. I believe any company that sustains its investment in social media for the long term will see the rewards multiply. To be truly effective with your efforts, you must have what is sometimes referred to as a “content factory.” Content is like life: Variety is the spice, and multiple sources and fellow contributors can help increase your engagement – and your results.
With a blend of the caution of the Skeptic, the considered steps of the Tortoise and the enthusiasm of the Hare, the Hybrid can progress and maintain a steadily focused output of engagement in B2B social media. By corralling all available resources, including outsourcing for content development and planning, the Hybrid can effectively maintain the stamina necessary for ongoing social media marketing.
Check out these posts from within the Savvy B2B archive that touch upon a hybrid approach to content marketing, from thinking like a publisher to taking a group approach to your blog:
No one knows your company’s story better than those within the company. And it’s your company’s story and what you offer that’s different or special that sets you apart from your competition, attracts prospects and ultimately converts them to leads. But you may need the added resources of professional creative marketing services, technical writers, social media freelancers and a good editor to help you either get started on the right foot or take your pace to the next level.
No matter at what pace you start, stick with your commitment to social media marketing. Take time to write a plan, set some clear goals and get top management to understand this is a long-term investment. And it’s okay to let your competitive spirit kick in. Don’t just keep up with your competition – make it a goal to take the lead. Never quit and, at some point, you’ll catch them napping and pass them by!
Personally, I am more of a Turtle than anything else because I can only contribute occasionally to our company’s social media efforts. But collectively our team is a hybrid – a content marketing factory that practices what we preach about social media and inbound marketing.
How would you categorize yourself and/or your company? What approach is working for you? Is it sustainable?
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.