As I wrote way back in 2007, there are plenty of things wrong with social media for B2B marketing. But in that post I also alluded to the fact that there are plenty of things right.
Social media tools like Twitter and blogs (it's frequently forgotten blogs are social media) are becoming standard in the toolboxes of B2B marketers.
But the truth is most marketers are not leveraging social media to full potential to create a brand, reputation and authority for themselves or their companies.
So, here are five key ways B2B marketing professionals can leverage social media.
1. Build a rock-solid reputation.
Social media allows marketers to build a strong reputation by earning the trust of their peers and industry, 100 percent organically. Like many marketing tools, social media makes this possible, but not necessarily easy. With social media, you can build relationships and connections without the need to get past gatekeepers such as editors and traditional media.
The new gatekeepers are your peers, where trust is formed by the idea of social proofing. Social proofing, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous situations when people do not have enough information to make opinions independently. Essentially we look for external clues about things like popularity, trust, etc. The web allows you to display earned social proofing publicly to help paint a picture of your positive reputation.
After reputation is successfully built through the use of social media, that reputation becomes a pull factor in attaining organic attention -- from media, from your industry or from prospects. And the best part is that it's possible for you to form our own reputation based on the merits you deem worthwhile.
Use social media to build the kind of reputation that resonates with prospects, and success will be a natural byproduct.
2. Nurture leads long-term with targeted, qualified prospects.
Reading some pundits and blogs, you might be deluded into thinking that social media is a quick path to leads. But the truth is while you can create connections quickly with social communications tools, long-term lead nurturing is still a must to actually make sales.
It is not uncommon for a prospect to read a vendor's blog for six months or even longer before engaging that vendor, or for a lead to require seven or eight marketing touches before being sales ready. If you ignore the requirement to nurture leads, you're yielding this opportunity to more agile competitors who will scoop these savvy prospects out from under you.
3. Build a strong permission marketing asset like a trusted blog.
Marketo's Modern B2B Marketing blog is read by an organically formed community of thousands of marketing professionals interested in the B2B space. (As of September 2009, we have more than 4,500 subscribers and 10,000 weekly visitors.) Subscribers have come to anticipate content aimed at helping them achieve success with everything from finding qualified sales leads to learning about demand generation and all things B2B. We've worked hard over the years to develop a voice in the industry and share tips, tools, and best practices with the marketing community as a whole. For it, we're rewarded with one of the most valuable assets any B2B marketer could ask for: an active, engaged audience.
4. Attract leads at scale once your brand 'tips' in the social web.
People like Seth Godin and Chris Brogan have strong personal brands (in other words, they probably don't need my links). Their brands have "tipped" in the social web -- in other words they have become organically referential (thus my links). Marketers large and small reference these thought leaders on digital channels, at conferences, during networking events and when discussing top marketing practitioners. Both Seth and Chris get no shortage of book deals, speaking opportunities and consulting offers. And it's all inbound -; that is to say, their efforts are focused on getting found by potentials through inbound marketing. This is scalable, it delivers quality and it's authentic. Put your sharpest team members out there, and the same is possible for your brand.
5. Maximize the social and SEO synergy.
Roughly one-third of all commercial searches on Google are B2B in nature, more than 50 percent of Google's target advertisers are B2B, and almost 38 percent of Yahoo's target advertisers are B2B. Clearly, SEO is essential for modern B2B marketers to succeed. And to not put the SEO and social media synergy to work for your brand is a mistake. Having an industry presence in the social web that delivers value, such as a blog, positions your company as a referential brand. And what does it mean to be referential on the web? It means you're going to consistently attract organic, editorially endorsed links: the lifeblood of the engines.