There is a received wisdom within the marketing community that social media is primarily suited to B2C-focused companies looking to up their brand equity. However, discounting social is a short-sighted move for any business, regardless of customer base or size.
Although there aren’t any significant upfront costs to setting a business up on social media, many small to medium sized businesses don’t feel they can dedicate the time and resources required to do so correctly.
There are a number of ways by which SMBs working in the B2B sector can make use of social media over and above brand building. A good social media presence does of course provide excellent exposure for brands, bringing the company, its products and/or services to a broader audience effectively and efficiently.
However, social media channels can be employed as a cost-effective means to actively increase sales. Using the tools provided by platforms for reporting, search and analytics, it becomes possible to target exactly the right audience for a specific campaign or promotion.
If you are serious about starting out in social there are several steps you should take to help you get it right.
Do Your Research
Do an audit of your competitors’ websites, do they link to any social media channels? If so, assess how well they are using it, bad social media is worse than no social media. A Twitter feed that has lain fallow for weeks or even months can actually do more damage to perceptions of credibility than having none at all.
If your rivals have no feeds or are not using them correctly then you are in a very strong position to gain industry authority in your relevant sector, town or city. Establishing a helpful, interesting and regularly updated Facebook page or Twitter feed increases the conscious and subconscious appeal of your business to potential customers, making it appear more professional, reputable and established.
Find Your Audience
A social media feed with no audience can be a daunting prospect but every social media campaign has to start somewhere. A sensible way to begin is to “invite” prospects according to the types of business or consumer you’d like to be doing business with, you can segment this by searching within a particular geographical area or by job title. There’s also no rules against using your competitors’ own follower lists as a source to find appropriate followers.
So long as your feed offers content that is interesting and relevant, around half of those you follow will follow you back as a general rule. Of course it’s important to be realistic, establishing a solid audience takes time. However, there are other tactics you can deploy, such as making use of carefully considered #hashtags to expose your business to the right people and to give you access the most relevant conversations.
Finding The Time
A recurring theme here has to be that establishing and maintaining a valuable social media presence is a long-term exercise. Once you’ve found your audience, you then have to allocate enough time and resource to engage with them. This includes crafting at least a few compelling posts every day, 365 days a year, and being prepared to take the time to deal with enquiries on a one-to-one basis when there’s an inbound message or query.
Ensuring an ongoing service, allowing for time off for holidays or unexpected illness, can be circumvented by posting your content via a scheduling service. This is imperative because spells of inactivity will impact on your ascribed authority.
Effort also needs to be placed on making your posts interesting or useful for customers to keep coming back to your feeds. This is the most challenging aspect of maintaining social media channels; content can include advice, fun facts, hints and tips, tagged photographs – whatever it takes to make your feed interesting to your target audience.
It’s well worth putting the time in though because establishing yourself as an authority to your followers will drive visits to your website and increase your marketing clout. This in turn should increase your leads and drive sales conversions.
A simple way to gauge the impact of your social media is to monitor the number of leads (or purchases) before a campaign goes live against the number afterwards. Social media can even be used for direct lead generation, for example by directing a prospect to gated content hosted on your site, and then asking for a user’s contact details in return for a freebie such as a white paper download.
There’s no denying that building a social media presence is time-consuming. However, if a business is time poor, finds it too challenging or doesn’t have the in-house know-how to maintain a social media presence, a simple solution is to outsource some elements. There are a number of user-friendly and cost-effective tools on the market to encompass both scheduling platforms and content creation services.
After a number of years working for the likes of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, AMP (Australia Mutual Provident) and NTL as a computer programmer, Richard Ells teamed up with Adrian Reeves, a colleague, to start a small Web agency. That agency grew into one of the largest agencies outside London. In 2012, seeing the rise of social media, he drew on his experience and programming team to create a social media scheduling system for his own clients. However, he soon realised the wider benefits of the software for other Web agencies and Retortal was born. Richard's unusual mix of software skills and business skills, along with his experience of user interface design, has enabled him to create a unique software and content service that is now used by hundreds of web agencies around the globe.