Create a Social Media Strategy

Use these steps to create a social media strategy. As social media and the social channels have grown in influencing buying decision, so too have the reasons to create a social an effective social media strategy. Using content, articles, video or online advertising, companies can potentially reach millions of buyers or potential consumers. It’s exciting to think that for any business it is now possible to reach people in different countries and markets. But this doesn’t mean that it is easy to connect with these people, reaching and connecting are two very different social media strategies. It is an important difference that many social media marketing campaigns fail to understand.

Social media marketing strategy

A social media strategy is more than marketing or likes, it should include digital selling, social selling, social reach, buyer or customer engagement, customer service and reputation.

While the main social platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram) have a combined audience base of nearly 3.0 billion users, only a small fraction of them will be open to receiving your messages, with less again willing to connect with your business. The reality is that most people will know nothing about your business or your brand. This is the reason why it’s has become vital to create a social media strategy that you can execute against a clear purpose and goals.

The success of any social media strategy is rooted in the plan and messaging.  But success is never instant, so it’s essential to stick to the plan to allow it to take hold. To help create a social media strategy we have listed some steps below.

Create your social media marketing plan before you start any activity

Don’t get caught in the trap of “random acts of social marketing”, it is surprising the number of companies who just jump into social media with no other plan other to see what works.  They post a few comments, a few special offers or maybe a few articles. Then they get disappointed with the results. Just no point doing that, social media marketing is just like gardening, you reap what you sow but you must work hard to grow your audience and nurture relationships with them.

So, he first step is to create a SMART goals list for your social media activity.

Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time-bound

Using this methodology will make it easy to track progress and allow you to easily see what needs to be refined along the way. An example using LinkedIn, a SMART goal could be to “increase our connections with IT buyers in Ireland by 100 during Q1. In this one sentence, you have communicated a specific goal, one that is measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.  SMART goals work best when you can convey the objective in a short sentence or two.

Choosing which social media platforms to focus on

Depending on whether you are B2B or B2C you need to select which social media platforms you will focus on. Selecting which platforms is often overlooked when creating a social media strategy. Take the time to review your Ideal Customer Profile or Buyer Persona and then research where you are most likely to get engagement. The general thinking in random acts of social is if there are over 300 million profiles on LinkedIn, then surely the likelihood of some form of engagement happening is on.  While that is not entirely incorrect, it’s not the right approach to consistent social reach for your business.

Let your SMART goals be the guiding factor in determining what is it you want to achieve. You need to understand who you want to target, with what, when, and what type of engagement you want to have with them. Once these questions have been answered, then you decide which platforms will help you achieve your goals.

Have a social purpose and a clearly defined identity

Buyers today interact with companies whom they feel an affinity and a connection with.  One of the most effective ways to create this connection is for your business to have a social purpose.  This social purpose should form the basis of your marketing content, articles and social media activity. Can you help educate, inform, help, donate, entertain etc. as part social purpose. Consumers are becoming blind to naked sales and marketing pitches

Implement the 3×33 rule of Social Media

This point related back to your social purpose. While the goal of any business is to acquire and maintain profitably customers, when it comes to social media, remember that givers gain. To drive engagement, followers and connections, you must be seen as a useful or even valuable source of information. This means having a mix of content which is not self-generated or focused your brand.

  • 33% of your social media content is stories and case studies to engage your target audience.
  • 33% of your content is sharing ideas, insights, article and stories from thought leaders or experts in your industry.
  • 33% of your social content should be about social purpose and personal insights to expand your social reach.

The above 3×33 rule will help you accomplish a couple things. Firstly, by sharing content other than your own, you’re showing that the interest of your audience comes above the interest you have in selling something and you are more than just blasting your followers with your own content.  Just like in real life, we avoid people who can only talk about themselves and what they do. Well the same is true for social media, this is why givers gain most.

social-media-business

If you fail to be seen as useful and valuable, then your social reach will be limited as people will not be attracted to your profile plus they are unlikely to engage or make a connect with you. To become a trusted adviser, your social accounts and social selling activity need to post educational and informative materials while subtly blending in details about company.

While I hope you find these social media marketing strategy guidelines someway helpful, they won’t guarantee your success in social. However, by creating SMART goals, doing the research into your customer profiles and social platforms to use, having a social purpose, and following the 3 x 33 rule of social media content, you’ll expand your social reach to engage with your target audience.

The Buyers Journey

the-buyers-whys

Increasingly the buyers journey is now done online. Even B2B customers have adopted consumer-like behavior. They now conduct product research online and often make purchasing decisions without a sales rep’s involvement. Those B2B customers who engage with sales agents are already 57 percent of the way through the buying process before their first contact. This fundamentally changes the type and tenor of the interactions that sellers use to engage with customers.

The most often used description of The buyer’s journey is, ” the process a buyer will go through to become aware of, consider and decide to purchase a new product or service. This journey can be condensed down to a three-step process: The Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they may have a problem. Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it and then the Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution. 

 

buyer-journey-quote

 

 

During the Awareness stage,  a buyer will identify an issue, or challenge they want to address. At this stage they decide what priority this issue or challenge should be. So ask yourself?

How would the buyer describe his or her challenges?

Where and how does the buyer educate themselves on the challenges facing others or their industry?

What would be the impact of non action by the buyer?

In your (the sales person or marketing) business, what are the common misconceptions a buyer could have in relation to addressing the issue or challenge?

What would be the compelling reasons when the buyer comes to deciding whether or not this should be prioritized?

 

At the Consideration stage, the buyer should have moved to having clearly defined the issue or challenge plus a commitment to dealing with it. They have self educated, read whitepapers, interacted with companies and sales people plus will have evaluated the different options available to pursue the end goal of resolving the challenge. Ask yourself:

Which categories of solutions do buyers investigate?

Where do buyers educate themselves on the various options or solutions?

How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each solution?

How do buyers decide which option is right for them?

Lastly, at the Decision stage, the buyer have arrived at a decision on which solution matches their need.  Some questions you should ask yourself to define this stage are:

What criteria or other considerations will a buyer use to evaluate the available offerings?

When buyers comes to investigating you (yes, they will) and your company’s offering, what do they like about what they see or read compared to the competition?

What concerns will you need to cover off on your solution?

Is there a buying committee or who else needs to be involved in the decision? For each person involved, how does their perspective on the decision differ?

What is the buying process or will the buyer have expectations around sampling/trying your solution before they purchase it?

What is the true cost of acquisition, so outside of buying your solution, do buyers need to make additional plans around implementation, IT or training?

The answers to these questions will provide a robust foundation for your own buyer’s journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Digital Selling The Ultimate Sales Channel?

In a world where generating sales leads is now the biggest challenge facing companies, could digital selling including social selling be the ultimate sales channel for the foreseeable future. In the digitally connected world, to attract buyers attention, a business has to develop trust, this means starting with authentic interactions and engaging on social media.

Digital-Selling

There are lots of definitions as to what “Digital Selling” actually entails, but the main point to get across is that digital selling is about creating cohesion between sales and marketing in the areas of content marketing, inbound marketing, social selling, data, social listening and insights which are mapped to the buyer’s journey. All these “online” elements when structured together can be used to create a Digital Selling strategy. It is not just about the sales team trying their luck with social selling or the marketing department producing a stream of content. To make it work, leaders must create an organisational structure around the social media channels and KPI’s to measure buyer engagement.

Many companies feel that in-house created content reach (views, likes, downloads)  is the ultimate measure for buyer interest, however other measures like social reach, buyer connections, sales person profile/company page views, questions posed, questions answered and conversation engagement are other key measures worth considering. A key part of any Digital Selling strategy is everyone in sales and marketing should be involved in the creation, organising and sharing of content.  To succeed with the socially influenced buyer, remember companies with the best stories shared will win. In a way, a business needs to have a publishing department, one that concentrates on creating volumes of content or research which is mapped to a buyer’s journey

Let’s take a deeper look at Digital Selling

Digital selling is the use of social selling (1:1 buyer engagement on social channels undertaken by sales people) combined with the use of digital assets (videos, articles, whitepapers, case studies, infographics, webinars, online presentations) and supported by sales intelligence (data, ideal customer profiles, insights, triggers, CRM, social listening) to generated leads and revenue.

In a way, digital selling could be termed “closed loop selling” as it about matching your sales strategy to buyer behaviour which we now know is increasingly influenced by social media.  So in a way, it takes a holistic view of the buyers journey to bring together the assets and actions in order to be valuable to buyers on their journey, one that ultimately leads to better engagement and ultimately more sales.

There are many compelling reasons around this strategy, mainly driven by the fact that buyer behaviour has changed and there is no old way of doing things as most sales tactics such as cold calling have diminishing returns. Today’s connected buyer is more informed than ever before plus they have become expert at tuning out to all those interrupter sales strategies and tactics that worked so well in the past. They seek not to be sold to. They seek advice, knowledge, insights and someone to guide them to the right purchase decision.

The whole digital sales transformation is in full swing around us, whether it is inbound marketing, freemium models, social selling or consultative sales models, it is digital selling to step forward and take centre stage.

Digital selling is fast becoming main stream as forward thinking SaaS companies lead the way whilst many smaller or medium sized businesses must watch and learn fast.

digital-selling-strategy

So where does social selling fit in?

As I stated previously, Social Selling is the key sales person’s activity within Digital Selling. Again, there are many definitions but my own one is “Social selling is the sum of connected actions shared online when experienced by customers/potential customers will influence their awareness and consideration for your business.

It boils down to the influence an individual sales person can have on customers and prospects’, by sharing content on social networks which is consumed, shared, commented on and visible across multiple networks.

Sales teams deploy social selling as an activity that is proven to be valuable (sharing insights, articles, expert advice) to buyers as they move through the awareness, consideration and selection stages on the new buying journey via social media.

Social Selling uses three key elements: namely Insights, Triggers and Referrals to map the buyer’s journey, then supports these elements with articles, curated content, videos, whitepapers etc to engage a potential customer.

Summary:

A digital selling strategy acknowledges that the connected buyer needs education but they educate themselves. They have become blind to advertising and ignore slick marketing material. They value peer recommendations over sales jargon and they complete a large part of the buying process without sales interactions or taking calls. They want to be guided and expect insights from experts with an understanding of their business not yours.

So, pause, listen & engage to nurture relationships via social networks. Modern sales leadership know that the key to sustained success is to include digital selling alongside social selling and social media marketing so all departments and all employees can play their part in the online customer engagement process. When sales and marketing work together to engage someone from prospect to customer, the whole business from top to bottom can stay on the same page with critical contacts, conversations, conversions while measuring the resulting ROI. That is Digital Selling.

How to Use Social Media To Promote Your Business

The use of social media is now the most effective way when you need to promote or launch a business or new product. The free access to social networks for prospect identification and the ability to reach a large audience of buyers via content means every marketing or sales leader has to use these channels as part of a go-to-market strategy. When launching a new product or service,   social media provides a rich media platform that with some planning can make it easy for people to share around your message.

grow-business-using-social-media

It doesn’t seem like so long ago that promoting, marketing and launching a product whether nationally or global required a massive budget and was one of the barriers to entry the traditional multi-nationals relied upon. But the digital switch by buyers to self-educate on the social networks has re-written both the sales and marketing rules.

The following approach or any part of it can be used by anyone with the right discipline and time.

Use Facebook

Action:

Create a Facebook fan page specifically for your brand or product, then share and network with the Facebook community as it is the largest single social networking site on the web. Remember it is about engagement and then sharing. To build up your fan and advocacy base to give you that critical mass to share your stories/messages, why not offer an incentive to “like” your page, maybe by giving some merchandise or prize.

Suggested Primary Goal:

Create an incentive for people to “like” your page by providing via a free product giveaway in order to grow your fan base.

Use LinkedIn

Action:

With over 400 million business users, one of your first actions should be to create a company page, followed by joining interest groups related to what you are selling. Don’t forget to pimp up your profile with a photo and fill out as much detail in your profile as possible. Learn about “social selling” and how to use content from your blog (see below) along with other content to engage connections. You can also search and tag prospects, influencers and potential partners.

Suggested Primary Goal:

To identify potential buyers and partners for your brand or products.

Website and Blog

Action:

Thanks to WordPress, Weebly, Medium, Blogger etc it has never been easier or cheaper to create your own branded web presence and attract potential buyers (with some SEO and promotional activity). For less than €100 you can have your own domain and less than €500 can give you a fully branded website. Learn to target keywords, read up on SEO and how to share your website URL’s on sites like Plurk, Scoop.it, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest to name but a few, will start to give you a trickle of traffic to build upon.

Learn to write 1000 plus word blogs with titles like Tips, How to, A guide to or Top 10 so you can further use social media to attract potential buyers and improve your search engine results. Try to write a blog weekly but monthly at a minimum. Don’t forget to share and post your blog articles around the web.

Suggested Primary Goal

To make it easier for potential buyers to engage with you while finding out more about your business.

promoting-business-on-social-media

Product Reviews by Social Influencers

Action:

If possible, prior to formal launch try to get some external product reviews, even recommendations. As the trust between buyer and suppliers is at an all time low, peer recommendations instead of marketing blurb can give your business a much needed injection of interest. Maybe offer your product free in return for publishable references.  Apart from using LinkedIn there is a whole host of social tools (lots are free) that you can use to identify social influencers or connectors. Also do not forget journalists and online magazines, approaching them can be as simple as crafting an introduction letter with an invitation to review or sample your offerings. Ensure you put a unique slant on your business, what problem is it solving and why would people be interested in your personal story.

Suggest Primary Goal:

To gather independent and verifiable 3rd party authority as social proof, which you will then share with potential customers.

Have a Contest

Action:

Who doesn’t love a good ole a contest and they work well on Social media especially in the B2C space. Using your social media channels, offer up some real goodies (if not your actual product then something related to it). Keep it simple, you are not trying to snare emails, you chasing “share ability”

Suggest Primary Goal

Note: Get a fan base engaged before you officially launch your business or product so that when you do launch you have a fan base that could be ready to buy and spread your message for you whether that is on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The combination of your regularly updated blog, website and your social media community activity can be a powerful platform for getting in revenue faster.

Try a Quiz

Action:

It is also easy to create and publish a quiz on your website and social channels. Just do a Google search for “create a quiz”. There are some free and paid options. People like to test their knowledge and if you can relate or match the quiz to your product even better.

There doesn’t have to be a prize but you could combine it with a contest as above.

Suggested Primary Goal: To engage customers and also create more buzz.

Create Infographics or Video

Action:

The rise in popularity of infographics and video content in social media cannot be ignored. Sites like Canva, Visualize, Piktochart and Easel.ly make it easy for anyone with some patience to create stunning graphic stories. You can even create video content online but there is a higher price to be paid here, if your product is very visual then maybe a 20-30 second video for YouTube or Vimeo maybe a must.

Suggested Primary Goal: To provide some wow media formats that could go ‘viral’.

sales motivation

SlideShare

Action:

You can create a PowerPoint presentation that could not serve as a key note presentation but would also publish on Slideshare to spread your message while reinforcing your professional image.

Suggested Primary Goal: Publish on the Slideshare platform to make it easy for people to

These few tips on using social media when launching a business or product are by no mean exhaustive, what else have you tried? The purpose of the article is that with a limited budget and the learning of new skills (social selling, social media marketing, creating infographics, writing blogs, running contests etc) most of us can achieve results beyond our expectations. Oh yeah, did I mention lots of hard work but no pain no gain.

How to Use Content Marketing the ACD way.

Many companies struggle in how to use content marketing to drive their sales or business upwards. No big surprise as today’s buyer is more educated and savvy than ever. Smart marketing leaders know that traditional marketing methods are becoming less and less effective by the day, so turning to social media and content marketing as a means to drive traffic and leads makes sense . In fact social media/online advertising will overtake traditional advertising this year, posing opportunities and challenges for many companies.

But social media and content marketing is not the same thing. Yes they do operate hand in glove with each other however one is focused on “consumption” while the other is based on “participation”.  The goal of content is audience consumption, while social media is all about audience participation.

content-marketing-how-to-guide

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus advertisements.

So think of content as a beautifully prepared meal that people want to consume, social media as the room where they sit talking about the lovely meal they just have eaten and social networking is how you make people aware of your food in the first place.  They key to using content marketing is to create different meals aka content themes (chicken dinners become boring after a while) to keep people coming back for more. The same way we create different meals for different times of the day or weather, we also need to vary our content according to the different stages our prospective buyers are at.

I call this

ACD Content Marketing   

I believe your content tactics should mirror both your company stage of development and your sales pipeline. ACD content marketing focuses the type of content created to match the three stages in customer acquisition. These are Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

Awareness Content

Awareness content is heavily SEO focused, a new business or one targeting a set of keywords for Google traffic will create allot of this type of content. It is aimed at potential buyers whom have no previous awareness or interaction with your business. The goal here is using keyworded content to get searched and seen by as many people as possible. Themes for awareness content include such titles as – how to, tips on, a guide to etc.

Awareness Content is served up on:

  • Social Media Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube etc.
  • Posted on Blogs – Medium, WordPress, LinkedIn Pulse and Blogger.
  • Published to your own Website and Landing Pages
  • As presentations on Slideshare or Learnist.
  • Visuals (including Infographics) on Visual.ly or Imgur.
  • SEO link building to places like Scoop.it, Quora, Pearltrees.

This type of content is usually on-going as a business targets new keywords or sets of customers. It is important to capture their interest via newsletter or update sign-ups. Then you can now move to creating “consideration content” or content that is focused on getting customers to select you as a vendor.

Consideration Content

As you build traffic, repeat visitors, newsletter subscriptions and social network connections a business should start to blend in consideration type content into their content strategy. This is where you use content to nurture (lead nurturing) prospective customers.

The goal is to create content that will “nurturing the customer” meaning informing them on why/how your product or solutions will solve their problems. At the beginning consideration and awareness content can often be have similar traits as in keyword focused, but try to leave the SEO to aside as you progress, switching the focus on going deeper with informative and insightful content. The content is still served up on all the channels lists in the previous section plus emailed to your subscriber base.

Consideration Content should include:

  • Whitepapers
  • Research articles
  • Success Stories
  • Case Studies
  • Valid and Verifiable Customer Testimonials
  • Interviews (text and video)
  • Webinars
  • Sharing other forms of proof (reviews/awards/wins)

Decision Content

Decision content is offered to your qualified leads (sales and marketing working together) from lead nurturing them during the consideration phase. This content should be personalised, specific and introduced at the right time in the sales process. I suggest business splits decision content into “pre-close” and “post-close”. Pre-close content can be vital to closing a sale so should be planned out carefully.

Types of Pre-close Content may include:

  • Onsite or Virtual Product Demonstrations
  • Existing customer reference with detailed implementation
  • Personalised Proposal
  • Pricing Documents
  • ROI Presentations using existing customer cases

Lastly, there is the “post-close content”, this can include surveys, up-selling and cross selling content and referral requests.

Ensure you create content to welcome new customers and solicit feedback as part of your content arsenal. Also make sure to produce content templates that thank them for their purchase. Also post-close content should include sharing information on your newest products and upgrades.

acd-content-marketing

Wrapping it All

The ACD marketing method has other benefits, used correctly it can be a superb way to gather valuable insights. Content marketing is the marketing of the here and now plus the future. It will only develop in its sophistication and personalisation as the social media networks become central to sales and customer interactions. Content is the always on, 24/7 plug-in to the internet world, always there guiding your potential customers even when you are asleep. The key to to create attractive and appealing content that will be consumed by the reader that matches where they are in your sales pipeline.

The Bitter Business can help create or work with your social media marketing or content marketing strategy, helping you to understand what type of content works and which aspect of your content creation needs to be improved to deliver more traffic, more leads and more customers.

Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Business

Small business can struggle to strategically use social media marketing to get their message out. In fact at times social media can feel a bit overwhelming. The top 10 social network sites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, VK, Flickr, Vine and a host of other niche networks generate huge audience participation for a business to market themselves to.  But where does one start, which social network suits best and what are the best methods to market a small business using social media?

Here is a list of tips to help any small business to better use social media to get their message in front of their target audience.

social-media-marketing-tips-for-small-business

Create a social media marketing plan. Plan out what you want to achieve, how you are going to achieve it and what resources you need prior to kick starting any social campaign. Too many businesses just dive in and start plastering links on LinkedIn, posting images on a Facebook page or tweeting messages without first considering how social media activity can help drive their business. The reality is that to do social media in a meaningful matter requires committing resources (content creation, social selling, and social conversations) and people (content seeding, managing social profiles, community engagement) to the task. Effective social presence means constantly updating, sharing and posting to keep everything fresh to attract potential customers. Old, outdated and “infrequent” activity will just not cut it. The plan should map out a schedule that works best for the business based on resources or budgets. Social media should be viewed as a strategy investment with goals and then needs to be prioritised with clear ROI on the planned activity.

Create a buyer persona to define your target audience. Not all social media platforms work for every business, B2B is different from B2C, are you looking to sell online generate traffic or do lead generation? If you’re trying to reach B2B buyers then LinkedIn maybe your best bet or if teenagers are your target audience then Instagram could be the way to go. If the marketing or creative community is on your radar then Google+ communities is worth targeting. Also consider when this audience is most active and then plan out the posting schedule accordingly to maximise your results.

If your potential customers are teenagers then schedule social shares during the evening when they check their profiles. A good tip is start with one network and get skilled at doing it well. Then add in other networks over time.

The 3 C’s of a social media plan. Content, content and content. Content (your own and 3rd party shares) is what powers social media. Always have a fresh supply of content and make it current to the topics, season, conversations or news. A few blog posts of 1000 words plus is a good starting point. A thousand words might seem long but as a small business you need to become a subject matter expert for your industry. Share stories, insights, tips, lessons and learning’s in a friendly tone.

Use content/images/videos/guides/insights from complimentary 3rd party sources to build up your content library. In fact readers value quality content regardless of the source and recognise the person posting it as a valued contributor to the community.

Social media is multimedia. While article content is the main tool for social promotion, video is fast becoming the engagement channel among certain demographics. Video is getting easy to shoot and share. Customer interview videos with detailed discussion can be powerful. Also use imagery, pictures and infographics that showcase your company’s products.

Social media platforms are for engagement. As with social selling, all your activity should strive to drive engagement not pushing out blatant sales promotions . Follow the steps – Awareness, Consideration, Nurture and Develop. Selling comes later once you have developed a relationship. Social media is the channel for potential customers and buyers to become aware of you, to get to know you, to understand what value your can bring and to learn what your company stands for so be authentic and share content that brings value to the reader.

Become a thought influencer and source of quality information, this will attract customers to notice you and in time they become receptive to buying from you. So share quality content that reflects your own personal brand and watch as people joins you in your journey.

Stay engaged on conversations and comments. Don’t just share and disappear, stay on top of discussions and your postings. If a customer leaves a comment about something you posted (positive or negative) then don’t over react, just reply back. Buyers need to know you are listening, responsive and can engage with discussions. Listening and replying to social media conversations requires time so ensure you have planned for this activity.

The social media road should lead to your website. As you generate more awareness and consideration amongst buyers then over time they will end up visiting your website to learn more about you. So ensure you have your website in ship shape order including newsletter sign-ups, landing pages and contact us points before starting social media activities

social-media-networks

Your activity and content should reflect your brand. It is important to plan out so that all your social media channels, blogs, content and website reflect your brand. People want to engage with real and genuine businesses. Your content should mirror your own voice and match the topics or relevancy of your content to your business. For example, if a business is selling a HR solution, then the content needs to be factual in nature with a business tone.

If a business is selling a lifestyle product, then energetic or inspirational tones might work better. Where possible use real customer stories and always uses real testimonials on web pages.

Share to receive. Social media is not about you, it is about your customers or prospects. Study and research the language your target audience uses to talk about your industry. What topics interest them and what social conversations they engage with? Then engage them with content and insights that match these terms. The use of hashtags is a great way to join in on conversations on social media. Also optimise your content, blog and website with the keyword terms that will help you get found in web search results.

Another tip is as people do allot of question type searches (“how do polish my car?”), so a business selling car care related products will need to use this type of language in the content they publish on their blog.

Mobile is a must. Now most Facebook posts and tweets on Twitter are being done on mobile devices. Social platforms will gradually deliver a mobile first experience so your site and blog should be mobile optimised to provide a great browsing and shopping experience.

There you have it, a few social media marketing tips that might help you get the word out about your business and get the attention of the buyers you want to sell to.

B2B Social Media Strategy

How many small businesses really value a B2B social media strategy as a channel to create awareness and drive customer acquisition? As the social media networks and communities run into millions of business buyers on a journey of discovery the question has to be asked

Is your business maximising the potential of social marketing.

b2b-social-media

I am certainly not the only one who can prove that you can get leads and sales from social media plus measure the success; however some marketing and PR people still are not fully informed on what social media has been able to achieve in the past few years. If any proof was needed I have many examples of B2B focused businesses who have implemented a successful social strategy to engage buyers and drive higher consideration levels for their product or service. Yet many companies still have a very limited exposure or plan on to use social networks to help scale their sales. Is it due to a lack of resources, maybe   not sure of the value or return, maybe you think your business or product does not warrant investing in social, uncertain as to what social media can do or is it just a simple case of unsure as to how to implement a social media strategy?

If you are a business owner selling into a B2B market then maybe it is time to challenge some of your beliefs regarding the power of social. Nearly every business size and type can utilise social networking to boost buyer consideration. As a starting point let us discuss the various buzzwords and concepts we hear mentioned.

What does it mean to be a social business

The words “social media” can conjure up all types of ideas and meanings. While most people will identify or even use platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, any strategy involving a social element is more than just profiles or getting followers. Being a social business means defining a whole range of actions and goals that match a bigger business. At the heart of it all social marketing is a belief, a concept, and an approach to engaging people for work, pleasure, family, friends or business. There were the ideals from which all platforms were created and I am sure on which new ones will be formed. However it is not limited just to the platforms mentioned above.

b2b-social-media-buyers

Social media allows us to open communication channels, local and global interactions and instantly share information or news across large networks of people.

If we take a wider or bird’s eye view of how social can impact our business then we switch from simply seeing B2B marketing as managing our Twitter account or Facebook page towards really evaluating how much a B2B social media strategy can help our business as a whole from sales to customer support to recruitment. The use of social networks can rapidly improve how we communicate both internally and to the external market which can open up all types of possibilities that go beyond the traditional view of what social media does for a business.

Let me give you a powerful example as to what social media can achieve.

The Ice Bucket Challenge. Just a few short summers ago, we all were throwing buckets of ice over ourselves or over someone else. It all started with someone living with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) to raise awareness for people suffering from it. The idea quickly spread, so fast that the ALS Association made it an official charity effort. This fun activity, shared by so many of social media raised over $115 million for the charity. It resulted in over one million related videos on Facebook videos and got over two million mentions on Twitter.

Now I’m not suggesting business owner’s start throwing buckets of ice over their heads but I am using this example as a reason to encourage anyone involved in B2B sales or marketing to think broader about social. Even a small change in how we view things can bring a big change in what we prioritise.

There are many ways to extract value from the social networks

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There are many ways in which the networks can help those in a B2B market to achieve their goals. A common issue I still find is that many B2B businesses still do not fully understand how social media can help them.

Most social media strategy plans are centred on using social to engage directly with a target audience. As a business network, LinkedIn is proving to be really effective for B2B sales and for social selling. As how sales teams prospect for new customers evolve then LinkedIn will increase in value for how sales people research and engage potential customers.

Now I hear you say, “OK apart from LinkedIn where else can I use social media in a B2B sales environment?” Well, it may surprise you but a business can use Twitter, Facebook, Owler, Crunchbase, Medium, Google+, Pinterest, WordPress and Blogger to drive buyer engagement. This list is not exhaustive. The value in B2B social media can be found in SEO, in readership, in views, in reviews, in referrals, in content found and shared, for data in social conversations, in buyer’s profiles, in social data and in potential buyer contact details.

There are tens if not hundreds of industry forums, interest groups and social business groups which can be tapped into to increase awareness for your business. Also think about what you can get out not just about what you have to put in (content, articles, information news). Does your strategy involve using the networks to source emails, telephone numbers, conference attendees, competitor analysis, event details, buyer likes and interactions?

Social Media Strategy is not an option

It is a must have. The world and buyers are changing how we source vendors. The average life expectancy of a company is now approx. fifteen years. Due to the impact the internet has on all our lives whether consumer or business means the world is moving fast and faster. As social media becomes more and more accessible on mobile, TV and devices while time poor buyers turn to it to self discover for purchasing decisions, then not engaging with it can leave you at a disadvantage.

Now is the time for B2B companies to really make social a key part of not only their digital strategy but their overall business strategy.

How to Find New Customers on Social Media

Every business needs to find new customers and social media has become the go to channel for reaching new buyers using content as the main hook. Since the arrival of social selling and big data tools, social networks are now the main channels on which to identify and engage with new customers. While social platforms are superb publishing channels they are also great channels in which to promote products or services.

social-media-channels

The foundations to using social media platforms to find new customers are built upon 3 pillars. The first is having all your  social media profiles set up, the second is having your website populated with some customer centric content and the third is you have put in place a lead nurturing process for potential customers engaged with through the social networks.

So assuming all the social profiles are set up and you have the resources to lead nurture, take a look at these simple ways you can use social media to find new customers.

Here are some ways to use social media to find new customers

Getting leads via friend invite

A great way to increase social media exposure is to enable a friend’s invite scheme. Encourage your existing user base to invite their friends to connect with you or the business and maybe reward if they do will allow you to tap into a market segment that is likely to be interested in you. Also as you are using friend invites to increase social media exposure, why not use those friend invites to find new customers. The audience who already purchase your products or engage with your website are more likely to introduce higher quality leads, which allows you to find leads that are more likely to convert into paying customers.

LinkedIn group discussions

LinkedIn has become the main channel for B2B social selling, providing businesses and sales people the opportunity to network and engage with shared interest professionals. Done correctly the LinkedIn groups can provide a gateway to share, listen and engage with potential new customers.

A simple way to start is to do a search for the type of customer you are looking for; this will give you a list of groups to help you identify new customers. Just type in the search bar the profile of person you want to find and then on the left side click on Groups.

LinkedIn-group-discussions

Start viewing the groups that have populated in your search, but before clicking on join, be sure to look through the list of members to make sure that the people in the group are the type of people you want to engage with.

Once you have been approved into the group, plan out how you will go about sharing interesting content (not always your own!), creating discussions and contributing to existing topics around the group topics. Doing this activity in a thoughtful way will build your “social selling index” and add credibility to your brand. Over time this activity will give you insight to what your potential new customer are interested in. This is the preamble before you should reach out to connect with them.

Tap into hashtags on Twitter

Hashtags and social conversations are a superb way to find new customers. Twitter has over 600 million users and the real-time chatter provides any business with ample amounts of data to find customers.

For example, if your company is selling the latest marketing tool and your target audience are marketing professionals, search the hashtags #marketing on Twitter and a list of conversations and profiles with marketing will be accessible. Just like LinkedIn you can then start following and engaging with these professionals so you can start building relationships that can potentially turn into new customers.

Promote your customers on social media

Promoting real and valid customer stories is a great way to find new customers through word of mouth referrals. Select some customers who are benefiting from using your product or better still ones, who engage with your product on the social media platforms, then promote them on your company’s social channels. This type of activity will gain those customers’s loyalty, and the exposure you receive when they also share the “promotional url/article” on their own social profiles; increasing your brand awareness through your brand promoters.

Funnel social media traffic to landing pages

The creation and use of landing pages on inbound marketing and social media campaigns are a great way to find new customers. When running a campaign to promote a product, a white paper or maybe a webinar on social media, funnel your traffic to a landing page that relates back to the tweet or social post. Companies like Hubspot and Marketo are experts at this. It works as follows.

landing-page-example

When someone clicks on the link in the tweet/post it takes them to a dedicated landing page to download the content or information after submitting their name and email address. This kick starts the lead nurturing process for potential new customers that were acquired through social platform traffic.

Use and optimise Social Video

Video channels such as YouTube, Vimeo and Vine are powerful social networks to generate social media traffic for your business. In fact, according to Shareaholic, Google owned YouTube drives the most qualified referrals to websites.

social-video-facts

If not already doing so, consider using video content in your marketing strategy. Ensure to always include a call to action at the end of the video or in the description box. The call to action should funnel people to a landing page (see previous tip).

Target and measure Social Sharing

Social sharing is not only a powerful method to generate online referral traffic but also to boost SEO which in turn drives more traffic. Every day there are over 22 billion social shares on the web. This echo system can provide a large amount of product exposure that requires very little work.

Always include social share buttons on every blog article and make sure they are positioned to make it is easy and encouraging for users to share your content. Depending on the quality of the content will increase traffic to your content or website.

Become active on Google+

Google+ has over 2.5 billion users. (Social Media Facts and Trends) and in the world of social networks, Google+ can be overlooked. However, Google+ has a useful feature in its Google+ Communities. Just like LinkedIn groups, these communities have members which could a source of new customers. Do a search on a topic relevant to your business, and you will see the communities that could be a good channel to engage with potential customers.

Google-Plus-Community

Do a search for “web designers”. The search will pull up the Google+ communities that were made for web designers. Start by joining the communities that have the highest number of members, highest number of posts, and the most relevant profiles. Again the tactic is to engage within the community to build authority, then share relevant content that funnels people towards your website or landing page.

Final Thoughts

All the social media channels provide any business with the opportunity to find new customers and as a customer acquisition channel. The about suggestions are just some of the ways social platforms can be used to find customers. Remember that every tactic must be customised to your types of business and customer, vanilla flavour doesn’t work! So ensure to understand which social networks your target audience are on before committing resources into social media to find new customers. Understanding your ideal “target prospect” and where/what (type of content) this audience engages on the social networks will help you in being efficient in acquiring customers. Do not get caught up in the quantity over quality of leads debate, this is a matter of targets. To be successful in customer acquisition via social media is as simple as ABC, (a) use the right social networks, (b) have great content to share (c) have the right social selling tactics. Follow this mantra and finding new customers on social platforms will become a whole lot easier than you imagined.

Social Media Facts and Trends

Social media facts and trends for marketing supported by user statistics are now influencing marketing strategies and tactics. Companies have already started to bypass the more traditional mass media products of radio campaigns, TV ads and press promotions in favour of driving awareness on the social networks.

Listed below are some social media facts, trends and social media statistics to help inform how or where a business might focus their social media strategy.

Remember that today, social media is allot more than just likes, followers or branding. It is a complete publishing and sales channel with the ability to tap into large volumes of data together with a reach that stretches into the millions of buyers.

Build a social network channel now

This is not a trend, this is a must do. Any business who is resourcing and building their social media channels (populating them with audiences) are creating an online publishing platform with built in marketing channels and a content marketing distribution network that works 24/7. Company leadership should view these social media networks as valuable digital assets that will grow each year. Done correctly, social media networks will give any business huge leverage in winning over customers and a connected marketing channel which works nonstop.

So without further ado, let us take a look at statistics for the major social media networks.

Statistics on Social Media Demographics

The social media networks are a whole universe of conversations, tweets, like, followers, profiles, content, data and interests. Social data tells us they are no longer just used by the young and the nerds. Social media interaction is a truly global activity, embraced daily by people of all ages and in every corner of the web.

Social media trends and statistics

# 72% of all internet users are now active on social media

# 89% of 18-29 year age group use social media

# 30-49 age groups has now over 72% usage

# Over 60 percent of 50 to 60 year olds are active on social media

# Even in the 65 plus age bracket, 43% are using social media

# 84% of C-level/vice president executives use social media to support purchase decisions

# Nearly one in three consumers are influenced by social media in their purchases

# 87% of consumers are influenced by reviews read on social media

# 71% of users access social media from a mobile device

# Twitter has over half a billion users

# Facebook has over 1 billion users

# LinkedIn has nearly a quarter of a billion users

# Google+ has more than 2.5 billion users but only 10% are active

The myth that social media is the playground of the young has been debunked. Buyers, consumers, shoppers, sellers, seekers, businesses and organisations are all to be found in the social media universe. The age barrier is no longer relevant except for demographic targeting

“Facebook is still the biggest social media network. But Google+ and Twitter are serious contenders for audiences”.

Marketing and Business Love Social Media

93% of marketing departments use social media for branding/business

70% of brands have a presence on Google+

Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the top 3 sites used by marketing

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Here are some other social media statistics and infographics to mull over.

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social-media-buyers-profile

Every business that wants to engage deeper with target audiences should be increasingly aware of the global march towards a near total digital age, one which rewrites the rules on how brands engage with buyers.

These social media statistics with researched data makes it even more evident that the only way forward to engaging consumers and buyers is through social media communications.
Understanding the global social media landscape is not just some useful information; it provides valuable insights and data that must be central to any business strategy.

Social Media Trends – Forecast

#Social media is “in-the-moment” updates will grow rapidly. Real time sharing of video and content is going to get faster and better

#Buy Buttons. Major social media brands will feature some kind of buy button as an element of their online advertising campaigns

#In-app features will spread giving marketers ever more opportunities to engage with their audiences

#New content marketing or publication channels will evolve on existing social networks

#User privacy and the use of social data concerns will grow

#Internet Users now totals 3.175 Billion, that’s nearly half of the world’s population (7.357 Billion).

#Mobile is the future. Nearly 2 Billion users utilise their mobiles for Social Media

#Social media searches within social platforms will become more powerful

#Video will grow. Videos average 62% more engagement than photos. Live video streaming is set to explode

#Smart advertising is on the up. Big data will allow brands to target specific buyer intent or triggers

#Content specific to each social media channel and audience will evolve

#The rise of influencer marketing spend within user generated content will become more visible.

So there you have some social media trends and statistics. How relevant they will be in 6 or 12 months (or by the time you have read this article) is anyone’s guess. The important thing is to keep on top on what is happening on the social networks and don’t chase every social media fad that comes along.

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Sales training and digital sales transformation including social selling strategy training in Ireland.