Last month, in Part I of this two-part article series, the Marketing Maven introduced social media and its relevance to the industrial marketer—the what, why, how and when of using social media to support B2B marketing efforts. You can read the article here.

This month, we delve into the most popular social media tools for B2B: Blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Our angle is pragmatic, focusing on what each tool is, and why you might want to use it. As for getting started with any of these tools, it’s simple: just visit their Web sites and establish free accounts.

Several concepts apply to all of these social media tools. First, in many ways, the tools are integrated with each other. For example, entries on your company Facebook page can be automatically sent to your Twitter account, or the videos you post on YouTube can easily be embedded into a blog entry. On LinkedIn, you can promote your Facebook and Twitter presence. This interconnection among social media tools helps expand your visibility and reach, and also provides economy of scale when creating content: you can use original content in multiple social media outlets.

Second, as we mentioned in Part I, all of these social media tools are meant to promote useful conversations. By its nature, conversation is two-way communication; you both talk and listen. And useful conversation in this instance is relevant conversation. The key is to connect and converse with others who share similar interests as you, and to keep the conversation going. Social media tools are useful only if you stay engaged with them.

Blogs
A blog is type of Web site you update regularly with fresh content, including articles, commentary, analysis, graphics and video. Blogs offer the ability for readers to participate in the conversation by making comments on entries. Blogs have become extremely popular; the blog search engine Technorati currently tracks more than 115 million blogs.

A blog is often written by one individual but also can be a collaborative effort among multiple writers. Either way, it should have a singular and consistent voice.

Why use a blog?
A blog can offer the following benefits:
•    Allows you to publish fresh content on topics that are timely and interesting to your audience
•    Positions you (or your company) as a thought leader or industry expert
•    Invites feedback so you can listen to what your audience has to say
•    Improves search engine rankings if content is optimized for search engines

Free blogging software is widely available and can be installed on your Web server. Popular programs include WordPress (www.wordpress.com) and TypePad (www.typepad.com). You should get a unique URL for your blog, such as blog.companyname.com or companyname.com/blog. The harder part is posting regularly to the blog. A blog will quickly whither and die if you don’t commit to posting and monitoring it regularly. Before you get started, you should develop a content strategy for your blog that includes details including what you are going to write about, as well as a plan for regular posting. 

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social network that connects professionals. You can create an individual profile on LinkedIn and use it to expand your professional network. Recently, LinkedIn began offering company profiles as well. Think of LinkedIn as the world’s biggest networking event.

Why use LinkedIn?
The ability to create and participate in groups is a big benefit of LinkedIn. For instance, if your company manufactures engineering software, you can create a group around this topic or search for other groups related to this topic. Within the group, you can ask and answer questions, which helps build the visibility of your brand and establishes your expertise on a particular subject.

You can also use LinkedIn to search for professionals with similar interests. It can be particularly beneficial for your sales team, helping them reach out to others – including their prospects and clients – to expand their network, and to research profiles of potential buyers and companies.

Facebook
Mostly known as a consumer tool to stay in touch with friends, Facebook is now being used for business as well. Facebook allows companies or brands to set up profiles, and instead of having friends, they have “fans.” Fans are likely to be employees, customers and prospects.

Why use Facebook?

  • Facebook allows you to add information, photos, videos, links to events, and more. When you update your page, the new content can appear on your fans’ newsfeed pages. They will always be up to date with what what’s going on. Facebook is an easy way to get out information about new products, events, and industry information without being obtrusive or pushing it upon your audience.
  • Facebook gives your fans a unified place to connect with you, stay updated, and communicate with other fans with similar interests. Your fans can comment on all of the information you put in your news feed. You always know what people are saying about your company and the information you publish.
  • Facebook offers a targeted ad program to help get your message out to those who may be interested in your content.

YouTube
YouTube is a video sharing site, where you can set up an account and upload videos and even create your own channel. A video uploaded to YouTube can also be embedded in other Web sites. YouTube provides the code and you can simply cut and paste it from YouTube into any other Web site, blogs, Facebook page, etc.

Why use YouTube?
Video has become a critical B2B marketing tool—so many people just don’t want to read anymore! And YouTube is an easy way to publish and distribute video. The widespread popularity of YouTube has also lowered the bar for production quality. It’s acceptable—almost chic—for business videos to have a homemade quality, whether you are portraying an interview with an executive, a customer testimonial or a product demonstration.

Viewers can post comments on YouTube videos, which gets the conversation going. What feature to take note of: after your video plays, YouTube shows thumbnails of other videos it considers related to yours, which users can click on and view. You don’t have complete control.

Twitter
Twitter, a micro-blogging service that limits posts to only 140 characters, is another social media tool being used by businesses. The text-based messages, called tweets, appear on your account page and on the Twitter pages of people who “follow” you.

Why use Twitter?
Twitter is starting to find its place in B2B marketing. It’s a great tool for listening to what others are saying about your industry, and perhaps your company and products. It’s also a good way to promote and share content: brief statements with links to articles, videos, white papers, events and more.

If you offer good content, people who follow you might “re-tweet” it, which is basically recommending your content to others in their own tweets. This helps expand the conversation, with your content being the subject.

Final Advice

  • Before diving into social media, establish social media objectives. Do you want to promote your brand, seek customer feedback, connect with a new audience, or other goals? Let your objectives guide your decisions.
  • You may not have the time and resources to use all the social media tools available to you. What you do choose to use, you should use frequently. There’s no fixed timetable, but update your social media pages as often as possible.
  • Don’t sacrifice your current marketing efforts for the social media cause. Instead, think of how you can get better results from current marketing efforts by integrating social media into the equation.

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