Regardless of popular belief, social media isn’t a new concept. It’s been around in the form of word-of-mouth since the beginning of time. It’s in our nature to want to share information and our experiences, whether good or bad. In fact, and I’m sure this is true with many companies, word-of mouth is Bastian’s number one form of new business, and with the onset of social media, customers now have even more ways to connect with and talk about their favorite brands and companies.
In recent history, social media has appeared in the form of chat rooms, dating sites, instant messaging, and finally as the mainstream Websites many of us use today. Even to the vast number of baby boomers, social media isn’t a new concept. In fact, social networking continues to grow dramatically among older users as they adapt to newer, technological trends.
Sure, social media works well in your personal life. To most of us, it has become our way of keeping in touch with friends and family. But how does it relate to business, and more importantly, how does it relate to companies with more of a B2B focus?
According to “The 2011 State of Inbound Marketing” by Hubspot, 90% of businesses are maintaining or increasing their social media spending, and most of those businesses rated social media as being more important than any other marketing channel they are using. But what are the benefits of using social media for B2B marketing?
The cost is marginal compared to more traditional forms of marketing. Companies have spent thousands of dollars to attend tradeshows every year, but the greatest cost to attend to your Facebook or Twitter page will be dedicated time and effort. In that regard, social media is not cheap, but keep in mind the investment of your time, energy, and effort will go a long way if you actively use your social media accounts and do your best to keep fans and followers engaged.
You can share your expertise. Never has it been so easy to share your company’s expertise then it is today. Through the use of blogs, email newsletters, whitepapers, and social media sites, companies are able to quickly and easily share industry knowledge, and by doing this they become the go-to resource for their customers and prospects. With outbound marketing and hard selling becoming a thing of the past, the use of content marketing is the best way to get a foot in the door and start building the trust and credibility needed to make that first sale.
You can provide excellent customer service and build relationships. Another great aspect of social media is the ability to directly interact with your customer either in the form of service or every day conversation. If a customer comments on one of your social media sites, you have the option of replying right away. Not only are you interacting with and/or helping that customer immediately, but your other followers will see that as well. This greatly improves customer retention and also shows your followers you are dedicated to helping them and care about their thoughts and opinions.
You can increase traffic on your website. Social media greatly increases your company’s presence on search engines, such as Google and Bing. Social media marketing combined with organic search engine optimization (SEO) efforts can be an effective tool for leading people to your Website and showing them what your company has to offer. With the introduction of real-time search capabilities and even Google’s latest social venture, the +1 button, the relationship between search engine visibility and the use of social media is becoming more and more synonymous.
You can monitor your brand. With the onset of social media, has come the creation of tools that help companies monitor and analyze not only their own social media accounts, but also the entire social conversation. If you successfully monitor what your customers, prospects, and competitors are talking about, you will be surprised by the number of new opportunities you can identify, whether that be customer needs and insights, product flaws, or competitive advantages.
So, is social media just a fad? The simple answer is no. For many companies this assumption is merely an excuse to avoid changing their marketing strategy or even their business model. Social media, in various forms, has been around for a long time and is here to stay, even though the tools may change.
If you’re looking for some B2B social media inspiration, check out BtoB Magazine’s 2011 Social Media Marketing Winners. These are great examples of how B2B companies are successfully using social media to engage their customers and prospects while marketing their brand and generating sales.
So what do you think? Is social media marketing a good investment for B2B companies? Feel free to leave your comments below.