A journalist contacted me with some questions about social media marketing that I hear quite often. I thought I’d share my responses here. These thoughts are particularly directed at B2B marketers.
What are three or four things social media marketers should do, and explain why they’re important.
1. Listen to your market and customers using tools like Twitter filters, Google Alerts and LinkedIn searches. This is free research that complements your existing market intelligence and provides real-time insight on what people are saying about your company and your market.
2. Identify the social media channels that your customers use – if any – and stake out at least a basic presence there. You don’t need to be active on every social network, but you do need to understand the culture of the ones that matter and you do need to respond to customers when they ask questions or talk about you there.
3. Have metrics in place to measure results. These metrics should be meaningful to the business, not just page views and visits. Look for engagement metrics like downloads, registrations and subscriptions. You need a way to determine how your activity and social channels is translating into business results.
What are three or four things social media marketers shouldn’t do and why?
1. Don’t lead with a sales pitch. Your principal goal should be to help people solve problems and make smarter decisions. Be helpful and sales will come. A good rule of thumb is to make about 90% of your contributions relevant to your audience’s needs, regardless of whether they promote your products or company. The other 10% can be self-promotional.
2. Don’t be silent. Social media is a conversation. If you’re going to play, be aware that people will ask you questions and they will expect answers. If you fail to respond, you’ll just look clueless. Better to stay away from social media entirely than to use it recklessly.
3. Don’t blast. Even though there are tools that make it possible to post the same message across multiple social networks simultaneously, I urge you not to use them in that manner. Each social network has a different culture and style. On a practical level, they also have different length limitations. Speak in the language of the community. Facebook is fun, LinkedIn is business, Twitter is rapid-fire news.
4. Don’t treat social media as a marketing channel. Recent research has shown that people are twice as likely to interact with companies over social media for customer support purposes as for marketing. Look at social networks as a way to connect with your constituents, regardless of whether they buy from you, sell to you or partner with you. Anyone in the organization who can benefit from that kind of engagement should be trained in the tools and protocols of social media.
Can you provide a specific example or two of a company that’s doing it well, and perhaps one that could use a little improvement?
Since my main focus is on B2B, I’ll stick to that.
Indium Corp. created a constellation of technical blogs written primarily by its engineers, with each blog title optimized for a desired keyword set. Indium serves a very small and specialized group of customers, and there aren’t many places those professionals can go to get solutions to their problems.
Indium uses the blogs to provide those solutions and also to capture contact information for sales purposes. When sales representatives contact a customer who has just been bailed out of a jam by an Indium technical professional, they are often received with gratitude. Indium’s sales leads grew 600% in the year after the program was launched.
CME Group (the former Chicago Mercantile Exchange) has amassed the largest Twitter following of any B2B company of which I’m aware. CME Group saw Twitter as an opportunity to become a news source, and it has positioned itself as an indispensable resource for commodities traders. CME Group works in a highly regulated industry, but that has not dampened its enthusiasm for experimentation with these new media.
Finally, Constant Contact has used Facebook and Twitter to deliver a constant stream of useful information to its small-business clientele about how to better market their companies. Only about 10% of its content promotes Constant Contact services. The other 90% is informational and advisory. Over the last two years it has grown its following on those two social networks nearly tenfold.