We are pleased to present this guest post by John Walker of JPL Integrated Communications, an agency that works with B2B brands including Medtronic, Modjeski and Masters, and New Holland. Read on for John's formula for success with social media.
“So, how do we get started with social media?” It’s a question our agency has been asked countless times, but not many companies know it’s the wrong question to be asking. The right question sounds more like “What information can I provide to potential customers that is valuable to them as they are making purchasing decisions?”
54% of respondents recently surveyed by DemandGen Report* said they “followed group discussions, conversations or threads to learn more” about their purchase. Respondents also indicated that they avoid direct contact with vendors over social media. This makes sense, because the messages that typically resonate better are objectively credible information versus a sales pitch.
So the challenge becomes: “How do we create content that is genuinely helpful and credible to buyers?”
Following are three tips on how to impact purchasing decisions through social media.
- Content should help, not sell
Most marketers are used to talking about their own products or services, but remember that buying decisions usually start with a customer pain point or a specific need. Take the business software industry for example. The selection process might start with your potential customer conducting a web search on the problem she seeks to solve, such as “managing online marketing.” The prospect might be interested in not only what software can help, but in what strategies her organization can employ. This presents an opportunity to connect with potential buyers at the earliest stage of the selection process, by providing content that educates and solves the greater problem.
Examples of helpful content that can engage buyers in the early selection process might include: buying guides with product comparisons, white papers explaining strategies, case studies by other practitioners, video interviews with industry experts and blog posts explaining best practices.
- Make content highly visible online to improve search
The same DemandGen Report research referenced above found that web searches are the primary way that buyers start researching B2B companies. While making your content highly visible on search engines may seem like an obvious step to take, when it’s best to optimize your content might surprise you. For many, search engine optimization is an afterthought, with optimization taking place after content is created. For best results, content should be search engine optimized before the content is in even its earliest stages. In fact, search visibility needs to be a primary determinant in what content is created in the first place. Use tools like the Google Adwords Keyword Research tool to see what search terms people are entering, then build helpful content for them to find.
- Use social media to amplify impact
Once you’ve created relevant, engaging content, use social media to amplify impact. Use your social media platforms to establish meaningful connections with customers and followers, and create messages that are consistent with your content – helpful, not salesy. Content that makes the greatest impact in the social sphere is visual by nature and will continue to move in that direction, as you can tell from the recent design layout changes on both Facebook and Google+. Post links to content on your company website, with videos and/or photos included in your post. Share content through your own social feeds, but ask colleagues to share through theirs as well. According to DemandGen Report’s findings, primary platforms where B2B prospects look for information are blogs, LinkedIn, SlideShare and YouTube, while Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest reflected lower levels of influence*.
As depicted in the infographic, the formula for B2B marketers is simple:
Content + Search + Social = Impact
Leveraging these three tips and applying this formula will help your organization create a social strategy that is rooted in content and designed to improve search visibility.
*Source: The 2012 B2B Buyer Landscape: New Challenges, New Complexity by DemandGen Report
About the author:
John Walker is digital marketing manager at JPL Integrated Communications where he works with B2B and B2C clients to help them prioritize investments and slash through the buzz to find the right tools for their goals.