You have got a few employees managing your social media accounts, and you've amassed some followers, friends and contacts. You've posted a few tweets and blogs marketing your product or service to consumers, but you're still stumped at how to reach out to other businesses.

Using social media for business-to-business marketing can be integral to promoting your company and forging industry contacts, especially when you're involved in areas of retail and trade. The truth is, using social media for your B2B efforts isn't much different from marketing to consumers. It's just a matter of shifting your focus and keeping your ear closer to the ground.
How to Use Social Media for B2B Marketing: Defining Your Target Audience

When developing your B2B strategy for social media, the place to start out is to find out where other businesses are going. Who are you trying to market to, and which social media platform are they using? Are there business owners or certain employees that you are looking for? Where are they getting their information?

Derek Edmond, a managing partner at Waltham, Mass.-based B2B marketing firm KoMarketing Associates, suggests using the search function that most social media sites have, such as those of Facebook or LinkedIn. "Most of these sites even have an advanced search option, so that you can scour through regions and titles," Edmond says.

You're likely to find correspondence from individual employees of companies rather than the company itself, says Edmond, and you should keep this in mind as you refine your contact list. One way to do this, with Twitter, for example, is to look through the Twitter lists of other users and follow people with the titles you're looking for.

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How to Use Social Media for B2B Marketing: Monitoring Before You Act

Once you have defined your target audience and started developing your B2B contacts, don't immediately start spamming your latest press releases, says Edmond. The key is to contribute to the conversation before you jump in trying to market services. "If there's a Twitter chat going on, join the chat before trying to promote your agenda," he says. "Anyone can post a link to Twitter, but the question is, how do you make them pay attention to it?" One effective way of searching for topics and active conversations on Twitter is to click on or search for certain hashtags relevant to your industry.

Before you start aggressively pursuing your strategy, you should also be monitoring what people are saying about your company by setting up an account with Google Alerts and searching social media sites with tools like Radian6, or Social Mention. You can also read or subscribe to the blogs of the companies you want to market to, so that you can respond and comment whenever a post grabs your attention.

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How to Use Social Media for B2B Marketing: Communicating Your Message

One of your primary goals in your marketing strategy should be to offer resources and knowledge to your followers, says David Armano, senior vice president of digital marketing firm Edelman Digital. "The key is provide value through thought leadership," he says.

Posting Reports and Presentations
If your company has recently completed an industry-related report or presentation, for example, publish it on SlideShare and post a link to it on Twitter. "I think SlideShare is really well-designed for how people are looking for information these days," Armano says. "You can digest it quickly as opposed to doing a really long white paper."

Initiating Interaction on LinkedIn
Another great way to provide knowledge while marketing your company is to join groups on LinkedIn and start relevant conversations. "Groups are the biggest opportunities for businesses," Armano says. "Start a topic around what your niche is, so that you can build an audience that is comprised of other businesses and business owners."

LinkedIn also has a Q&A section where employees of different companies seek advice on different topics. Providing helpful answers to these questions can help cement your role as a leader and reliable source of information in your field. Armano also advises creating a company profile on LinkedIn. This way, whenever an employee of your company posts a link in their status, it becomes aggregated within the company profile.

Organizing Events
According to Armano, one of the most helpful tools social media offers in terms of B2B marketing is the ability to effectively organize events. Armano says that SOBcon, a convention that brings together leaders in social media, is a great example of how to leverage social media to build a following around an upcoming event.

"They put a lot of effort into online community building before and after the event," he says." Reaching out to businesses before an event not only helps boost your attendance, but also helps you to build your customer base afterward.

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How to Use Social Media for B2B Marketing: Being Cautious Throughout Your Marketing

Throughout your marketing efforts, says Edmond of KoMarketing Associates, keep in mind that social media shouldn't be thought of as a direct sales tool with B2B clients, or you'll end up disappointed. "If you're dealing with enterprise-level software or a business advertising contract, for example, it's less likely that you're going to see a Twitter update about that," he says. Think of social media as more a generator of quality leads, he says, since "often it can take months, if not quarters, for a client to actually close business."

Edmond also advises marketers to be careful when directly soliciting social media users as you respond to their posts, because you could end up getting overlooked as a spammer. Instead, try to relate your message to an existing conversation that is happening. "If you know your case study is going to address a particular problem in the industry," Edmond says, "Wait for it to come up, then interrelate that issue into your post."

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How to use Social Media for B2B Marketing: Using Analytics to Measure Your Marketing Efforts

With any online marketing strategy, it's imperative to have some type of analytics tool is in place that will help you set goals and measure the success of your actions. "Where are people leaving, and where are they coming in?" says Edmond. "What are the search terms or key words they are using to get to your site? These are the questions analytics tools help you to answer."

Edmond advises using tools like Google Analytics, Omniture, or Marketo to measure the quality of your traffic and put conversion methods in place. HootSuite, a Twitter application, also has an analytics tool that allows you to track and measure the effectiveness of your tweets.

As you develop and refine your B2B marketing strategy, Edmond says, don't forget that providing answers to peers and potential customers is arguably the most effective social media marketing tactic. "You might be ignored, but you're trying to foster the problem-solving aspect of social media."

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