Social media hashtag
In our previous article about social media pitfalls, we focused on ways to remove roadblocks to get results. This section covers some of the core ways you can take advantage of marketing channels. It’s not an all-inclusive guide to social media for B2B; it would take several books to cover that topic. But if you focus on doing these things well, you’ll cut out much of the social media noise and enjoy focused success.

I don’t cover the exact type of content that will work best for your specific company. Ultimately, you should aim to reach the specific people at the specific companies who buy from you. If you want to talk strategy, we offer a free marketing assessment as well as a paid strategy service. In the meantime, focus on these 15 social media dos, and you’ll find it easier to roll out a working social media strategy for your company.

1. Learn web-marketing 101 before you spend time and effort on social media.

We covered this a bit in the pitfalls section, but here’s B2B industrial marketing in a nutshell.

  • Step 1: Bring people to your website.
  • Step 2: Get them to give you their email addresses and contact info once they’re on your site.
  • Step 3: Send them follow-up emails with useful information to maintain contact with them and bring them back to your site.
  • Step 4: Ask them via email and on your website to reach out to your sales team.
  • Step 5: Ask your boss for a raise. After all, you’ve helped your company attract real sales leads

I know this process doesn’t sound social or sexy, but it works. If you want to help your business by generating leads that your sales team can convert, this process is your friend. So how does social media play into the process? One, it can help you get your news, information and resources out there to bring people to your website. Two, it allows you to monitor what’s going on in your space. Three, it allows you to directly contact your potential clients and customers so you can nurture them through the buying process. Many B2C companies will use social media for customer service, but that’s generally not an effective use of social media for most B2B companies.

Now, on to the most important facts. Google search sends us 10 times as many site visitors than social media sends us. We also find that email marketing is far more effective as a tool to close sales than social media, and email marketing has a 4,300 percent ROI. Social media isn’t close. So before you put your money, time, energy and your reputation into social media, focus on ROI. Get your website and email marketing strategy in order.

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Our free Industrial Marketing Guide will show you how to attract qualified website visitors, convert them into real leads and nurture them through the buying process.

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2. Publish on your LinkedIn company page — now.

Most companies have a company page on LinkedIn, and most professionals have a personal account. For many years, LinkedIn served as a static listing site instead of as a publishing site, only allowing a select, few “Influencers” to publish long posts that earned clicks, leads and attention. But as of February 2014, anyone can now publish on LinkedIn. So go right ahead and publish posts on LinkedIn just as you would on Facebook.

Get on it quickly, and you’ll stay ahead of many companies who are still learning how to build their presence. It’s the place you can actually gain a strategic advantage. If you want to run social media and you work for a B2B company, make LinkedIn your absolute, number one social media priority. It’s responsible for driving 80 percent of all B2B social media leads.

3. Use LinkedIn’s Showcase pages.

LinkedIn is killing its Products and Services Page and replacing it with Showcase Pages, a kind of product-specific mini-blog. In a move similar to allowing everyone to post on their pages and profiles, LinkedIn is also allowing everyone to post updates on product-specific pages. LinkedIn wants content so they can compete with Facebook and Twitter for attention, clicks, ad dollars and marketing spends. They want to be a truly social, informative platform, not a stagnant listing site. This is another trend you can jump on to actually get ahead of the curve, for now.

4. Start commenting in LinkedIn Groups.

LinkedIn Groups are pre-made marketing communities. If your company specializes in HVAC subcontracting, you’ll do well to build up your name in the construction LinkedIn Groups. Unlike the LinkedIn Company Page, you have to comment as an individual user. If you have a solid LinkedIn profile and genuinely helpful and useful information to share in a group, you can post and start getting people to your profile, and eventually, your website.

Don’t spam everyone with tons of sales messages, but share useful information, get your name out there and meet some people. If you have a budget, you might consider using a tool like Oktopost to reach users in a number of groups. But, it’s free to start posting yourself.

5. When you’ve got a real following, start your own LinkedIn Group.

Once you’ve built yourself a solid reputation as an expert commenter in a number of relevant groups, you’ll find it easier to start your own LinkedIn Group. Keep your Group focused on a particular subject within a particular industry. If you sell IT solutions to logistics companies, then regularly update your Group with information that helps logistics executives navigate IT. Focus it on a narrow topic to attract your audience, and make it deep so you can educate your audience and gain their trust.

Ultimately, you want to make personal contact with people who may actually become clients and customers. Don’t start a LinkedIn Group unless you’re really committed to managing it well. That means Groups should be lower down on your social media to-do list, but once you’ve got your website, blogging and email marketing humming, LinkedIn Groups can help you gain leads. If you’re wondering why I’ve focused on LinkedIn so much, it’s because, as I stated earlier, it’s responsible for 80 percent of all B2B social media leads.

6. Use social media to promote your tradeshow booths.

Odds are, if you’re at a B2B brand, your company attends a fair number of tradeshows. What do you need to succeed at tradeshows? Buzz. You want an interesting and exciting booth that people talk about. So, start the conversation on social media, send emails and use all of your marketing channels to promote all the interesting things you’re doing at your booth.

7. If you use Twitter, start with Lists.

Mark W. Schaefer, author of Tao of Twitter, writes that the real power of Twitter is in reaching real people and establishing real, business relationships with them. If — and for some companies, it is an if — your audience is active on Twitter, Follow them, and group users into logical Lists. You’ll want to have a List of the corporate accounts that matter, a List of the journalists you want to reach for PR purposes, and a List of people who may buy from you. ReTweet those actual people, share their content, comment on their posts, Reply to their Tweets, and once in a while, if you’ve built rapport with them, Tweet useful resources directly to them.

8. Put a person’s face and name behind your company Twitter account.

In The B2B Social Media Book, Kipp Bodnar and Jeffrey L. Cohen show that (shocker) real people generally have more Twitter success than companies. I say “generally” because there are some notable exceptions. Recognizable brands like Coca Cola, the NFL or Google are so popular that they’re bigger than any one individual at those companies — even the CEOs — could possibly become. But for the most part, an expert value engineer with a real face is more personable and social media friendly than a small, value-engineering company. A great example of success here is Ann Handley, who has her personal name and face behind the highly popular @MarketingProfs Twitter account.

It’s easier for a real person to connect with other real people than it is for a company to do so. Remember, you want to reach real people who use Twitter as themselves, not the marketers managing social media for your partner companies. Tweet to those real people who work at those companies more than you Tweet to the corporate accounts.

9. Attend Tweetchats.

What could be better than participating in a conversation with a large number of people who could benefit from your expertise, products or services? Tweet chats are weekly events where people follow a specific hashtag at a specific time, e.g. 12pm – 1pm every Thursday. Twitter users will comment with that specific hashtag in every Tweet they send, and anyone following the hashtag can see that Tweet. The conversation will center around a specific topic, such as leadership, branding, entrepreneurship or many others.

Leaders, brands and social gurus promote thousands of hashtags every day, and there are established Tweetchats around hundreds of different conversation topics. Find ones that intersect with your target audience here or here.  If you see real success with Tweetchats, you might consider starting your own, but don’t start one unless you’ve got the resources to lead a weekly discussion that actually benefits your Followers.

10. Use a social media monitoring and publishing tool.

Dozens of social publishing companies have sprouted up over the past few years. From Hubspot to Bitly to Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, you have plenty of options to manage and monitor all of your accounts. Hootsuite is free, it lets you schedule Tweets and social posts out over time and monitor other people’s accounts. The point is to limit your time on social media and make yourself more efficient at managing and monitoring your accounts. Don’t waste time; get results. Hootsuite is my favorite free tool. At Gorilla 76, we use Hubspot because of its impressive email marketing and website integration.

11. Put an email signup tab on your Facebook Page and Tweet sign-up pages.

You want to use social media to generate leads? Then, put tools in place to capture contact information right on your Facebook Page. As Kipp Bodnar and Jeffrey L. Cohen suggest in “The B2B Social Media Book,” Facebook allows you to put custom signup tabs on your Facebook Company Page. Services such as Shortstack make it easy to create those tabs and start capturing email addresses. Don’t spend countless hours making perfect, beautiful tabs, but do integrate a way to get contact information.

For instance, you could make a custom Facebook tab that gives people a chance to sign up for a 30-day course on something informative. The “course” would consist of blog posts on your website, and you would email people the links over the course of 30 days. Be creative with it, but the point is capture contact information directly through Facebook. As you probably know, Facebook also allows you to Pin posts to the top of your Page. There’s nothing wrong with pinning a post that leads to a signup page. For that matter, the new Twitter “upgrade” also allows you to pin a Tweet to the top of your profile that any visitor can see. You could pin a Tweet that links out to a signup page there as well.

And as Bodnar and Cohen say, it doesn’t kill a puppy to Tweet a sign-up page. If you want people to come to your website to sign up for your newsletter and download your guides, Tweet and Post links to those pages. Just remember the 10-4-1 rule: 10 shares of other people’s content, four links to content on your site, and one link to a sign-up page on your site. Start with a ratio of 10-4-1, then tweak from there as you continue to experiment. Don’t turn your social media channels into a stream of selling points. It’s important to build your position as an educational resource.

12. Use pictures and videos because they’ll help you get more “engagement.”

Countless studies on social media engagement suggest that posts with pictures and videos drive more engagement. I.E., if you include pictures and videos in your Facebook Posts, Tweets, and LinkedIn updates, more people click on them, like them, comment on them and share them. Visually engaging content taps into the real power of social media: getting people to share your content with their friends.

Also take into account that Facebook ranks posts differently for different people. If users like text posts the most, Facebook shows them text posts. If others like videos more, their Facebook News Feed will contain more videos. So, different types of content at different times of day will help you spread your message further and wider.

13. Use Facebook to increase reach so you can build your email list.

Ultimately, you want to make real contact with your target audience so you can bring people to your site, get them in your email list and score them as leads. But, even if your target audience isn’t highly active on Facebook or doesn’t always see your posts, you can reach people on Facebook who have direct contact with your target audience. Think about who you can reach and what information they need. Share content not only for your target audience, but also for people who have contact with your target audience. One example might be the entry-level programmer who works with the senior level manager you really want to reach. Write for those peripheral audiences and ask them to share your content.

You’ll find and think of many ways to get seen and grow reach on Facebook, but note that you’re competing for less and less News Feed space. Facebook’s ranking algorithm constantly changes, business pages join Facebook every day, and they publish increasingly more posts. That means you’ll show up in fewer and fewer Facebook users’ News Feeds as time goes on, and as of this writing, most Pages only reach about 3 percent of the people who Like their Page.

Your takeaway? Building a Facebook audience shouldn’t come at the expense of building your email list, because you don’t own your Facebook audience but do have more control over your email list. To combat Facebook’s volatility and still grow reach, you can use your other channels to cross-promote your Facebook presence. The idea is to direct your Twitter Followers, LinkedIn Followers and email subscribers to see and engage with your Facebook messages. Then, as they Like your Page, see your Facebook Posts and share them, their contacts will also see your Facebook Posts. When your existing contacts’ Facebook Friends see and Like your Page, you’ve grown your Facebook reach. Nice work. But your bigger goal is to have them click to your site and sign up for your email list. That’s leveraging the power of your existing network to grow your real reach. If you’re really dedicated to building a Facebook presence to reach new contacts, you could take this concept to its fullest potential with a social media amplification tool.

14. Use Twitter to “meet” journalists.

Journalists use and monitor Twitter more than just about anyone. They’re scouring for story ideas, asking questions, Tweeting their articles and building their audiences. Twitter is a great way to make first contact with a journalist. If you ReTweet their individual posts, send them helpful news tips (not promoting your business) and make contact with them, you can start building a professional relationship (especially if you Tweet from your personal account). Then, you can ask how to best send them your company’s press releases and increase your chances of getting covered.

15. Repurpose blog posts and presentations on Slideshare.

You’ll find an inordinate amount of executives and managers use Slideshare to consume content. LinkedIn bought Slideshare in May 2012 because Slideshare has become a regularly visited site by business professionals. In Q4, 2013, Slideshare boasted 60 million unique visitors a month, a drop in the bucket compared with Facebook’s 750 million users. But, the people who use Slideshare are professionals and decision makers, largely at B2B companies. It’s worth considering, and Slideshare is integrated with LinkedIn Company Pages. It’s not difficult to take existing presentations and blog posts and repurpose them on Slideshare. Keep this low on your priority list, but definitely put it on your radar.

Measure your web marketing

As web marketers, our job is to get real results by taking advantage of the online tools at our disposal. For B2B, that means having a leads-first philosophy and measuring success. To learn how to keep your marketing stats, take 10 minutes to read our free guide on measuring online marketing ROI. It will save you time and money.