Social media works best when its various components are used together. They provide a way to reinforce branding, to communicate more frequently and effectively, and, most importantly, to interact. This is especially true for B2B marketing where 77% of B2B technology decision makers were active in social media in 2010 (Forrester Research). Your goal is to validate the B2B buyer’s choice and provide credibility to your organization.

Getting Started
You need to research and plan just as diligently as you would with other marketing strategies.

  • What channels do your customers use?
  • Why do you want to be there?
  • What do you want to say?

Most importantly, social media marketing requires content. Relevant, valuable content is the most likely to be shared through social media and reach more of those interested in what you have to offer. The different channels include blogging, networking, bookmarking, photo and document sharing, podcasts, video, forums, and more. Each channel and each piece of content has a use in your marketing plan. If you decide to create both a brand account and a personal account, your brand account is best used to communicate with late stage customers, and for sharing new features, corporate news, and case studies. A personal account with your name or a sales rep’s name can be used for early relationship building and general information; the tone should be less promotional.

What to Use and When
Use blogs, either video or written, to offer valuable insights and timely news. Blogs are also excellent SEO tools because they are a constant source of new content and keywords.
Video is strongest at attracting attention. YouTube has many informational videos including recorded webinars and tutorials that may be viewed repeatedly.
Micro-blogging gives you a handy pathway for sharing your blog or video as well as links to other content that is of interest to your target persona. Make your content easy to share by placing social media widgets in close proximity to it. You can create a fertile word-of-mouth campaign by sharing links to third party reviews and blog posts.

Most Effective Social Media
The most effective social media is that which your customers use. Beyond that, no single channel will do it all for you. It’s best when the different channels are used as part of a coordinated effort.

For example:

  1. Write a blog about a customer problem and how to solve it. Place widgets for the various social networks at the head and tail of the post to make sharing easy.
  2. Share the link to the blog post on Linked In.
  3. Use Twitter to share the link along with an introductory comment for a hook. Ask for a retweet.
  4. E-mail a link with widgets to your post.
  5. Create a white paper or case study about that problem and its solution and offer it through the same channels.
  6. Put that white paper or case study on Slideshare with links back to related blog posts and your website.

Measuring ROI
Social media is the long game in marketing; don’t expect immediate results. Give the strategy time to build awareness and start gathering interest. An automated monitoring solution can be invaluable for tracking this. With the right software you can monitor millions of blogs, forums, social networks, and sharing sites. You can build a dashboard to monitor sales accounts and get development ideas.You can dive deeper than basic demographics and determine the basis of opinions. Cision, Jive, and radian6 are just three of many on the market. A starting point for measuring ROI is to assign value to “micro-conversions.” If an account is worth $5,000 and it takes 500 “contact us” forms sumbitted to generate one account, then the value of a micro-conversion is $10.

The best (and most actionable) social metrics focus on behavior, not aggregated numbers. It isn’t the number of eyeballs; it’s what their owners are doing with the information:

  • Engagement Rate
  • Total likes and comments divided by total fan count
  • Shows impact of individual posts and whether they are positive or negative
  • Helps build EdgeRank! (a Facebook algorithm personalizing newsfeeds)
  • Retweet Rate: Gauges relevance and appeal of posts
  • Chatter Levels: Shows overall presence and groundswell of your efforts in the social media space.
  • Socially Referred Leads or Revenues: How many leads or how much revenue originates from each social source?
  • Conversion Rate: As with other prospects, how many convert into customers from social media sources?

Social media continues to mature as a marketing tool. Measure revenues and actions to get an overall feel for its value to you as a marketing tool.