Social media is not just a convenient way to keep tabs on friends, family, and long-lost classmates. Social media platforms—LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, as well as industry behemoth Facebook—are the go-to places for B2B marketing efforts. Any channel partner intent on landing more clients should not ignore social media for lead-generation initiatives.
As businesses gravitate toward social media, channel firms that follow will have plenty of company. According to Forrester Research, social media spending in the U.S. is expected to increase to $18.7 billion in 2019, up from up from $8.2 billion in 2014—a five-year compound annual growth rate of 17.9 percent.
Still, getting started in social media can be intimidating, says Chris Chase, CEO of JoomConnect, an MSP marketing firm in Oneonta, N.Y. “There can definitely be a fear of posting,” he says. If that is the case, Chase offers straightforward advice: “If you’re not doing social media, just start doing it. It’s not hard, and it’s always better to say something than nothing at all.”
As Makiko Ara sees it, channel pros should first wade into social media by creating their own personal profiles. Ara, director of digital marketing at Total Product Marketing, another Vancouver, British Columbia-based firm, advises IT companies on marketing strategies including social media. Her recommendation: Create complete profiles with photos, logos, and relevant content. See how veterans use specific social media platforms to communicate and engage. “Start engaging with people in the industry and leaders—even competitors—and emulate and learn from them,” Ara says. “Understand how they are reaching their audience and what kind of content clicks with their audience.”
After learning the basics, create a solid plan. This is a good way to instill discipline to social media efforts, something that is needed given that it may take considerable time to realize benefits. The essential elements of a social media plan include outlining business objectives, content strategy, time and personnel required, and target audience. Considering all these elements together will determine the structure of your social media efforts: where, what, and when to post, and how to manage day-to-day social media activities ranging from initial content creation through analytics to determine how social media is affecting the business.
From Sujan Patel’s perspective, all aspects of a social media plan flow logically from the audience. Patel is general manager and co-founder of Web Profits, an Austin, Texas, digital marketing agency. In his experience, social media is one of the most significant platforms to leverage for brand building. “Figure out who you are going to target, and then what is going to be of value to them,” Patel says. Too often companies launch social media by taking an inward approach—touting their skills or sharing their accomplishments. Such a tack is a mistake. “You don’t build your brand just by talking about yourself,” he says. Patel recommends following a 1-to-5 ratio. “One out of every five things should be about you, and the rest should be those value-add things that you share with your audience,” he says.
As for the various platforms, let the target audience determine the outlet initially. “If you’re trying to connect with anyone over 35 use LinkedIn,” says Ginger Clay, marketing architect at IgniteRM, a B2B marketing firm in Omaha, Neb. “LinkedIn is a good place for B2B social,” she adds. “I use my personal account to repost business content.” As for younger audiences, Clay recommends Twitter.