"What does social media have to do with a B2B business?"
Being, almost exclusively, a B2B agency in NY, I hear this question almost daily. The answer, at first, was relatively simple; "It will improve your search rankings organically and position your brand as a thought leader through custom content creation like blogging."
And, that was our patent answer just a few short months ago. Today, that original answer is still valid, but woefully superficial.
As it turns out, most B2B brands and enterprises have something in common—a sales force. Whether it's a sole-proprietor or an international organization, 99.99% of the time they're constantly focused on driving qualified leads into the sales funnel. And THAT'S where social media truly excels for B2B companies.
Now, if you happen to be a B2B marketer interested in testing the proverbial waters of social media, before you stop reading here and start writing a blog, allow me continue.
A social media initiative needs to be approached like any other marketing initiative, carefully, thoughtfully and well-planned out. You need a roadmap. Otherwise you'll wind up with a Twitter account and nothing more than random acts of social media with nothing to show for it. With a plan, a roadmap, a well-crafted social media initiative is almost infinitely trackable and will easily demonstrate impressive ROI as well as ROO (Return on Opportunity). That is, as long as you have the tools in place to capture and measure the data.
Start with a website SEO assessment. Use a free tool like Hubspot's Website Grader (http://websitegrader.com/) Almost instantly you can compare not only your own site, but your competitors sites as well to see how you stack up.
Next, address the SEO comments in the Website Grader report. Add alt tags to images. Create meaningful header descriptions, meta tags and review the site's reading level.
Then check the number of inbound links your site has. Inbound links are invaluable for getting found on Google, Bing and Yahoo! The more sites linking back to you, the more of an expert you look like in the search engine's eyes and the higher they will rank your site in relevant search results.
Now comes the fun stuff. Content creation! Create a blog and blog frequently. At least twice a week if you can find the time. If not, find a resource that can ghost write for you. Then Tweet. A Lot. Tweeting is micro-blogging and you need to tweet interesting, relevant articles to your followers. Join and participate in LinkedIn Groups that pertain to your industry. Be brave and even start a group of your own! Explore Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Delicious...all the social media outlets and use as many as you can to publish your remarkable, custom, content to your followers.
OK, now you have a network, an audience, a community where you can engage in true, one-on-one dialogue with your customers and potential customers. You've stretched the mouth of your sales funnel. Now start inviting them in.
Create landing pages on your website. Unique landing pages for unique offers you will put out to your new found friends. Don't put out a welcome mat and simple have guests come in the front door and have to go look for their rooms themselves!
Welcome them and take them directly to the front desk where they can "check in" via a custom landing page.
But what if too many "check in" at once? How can I manage? Good question. You need an automated solution in place that will generate an email for everyone who comes and "checks in". Then, that email should also contain a strong CTA with yet another automatically generated response. And so on, and so on.
At Honey, we've become Certified Hubspot Partners and recommend using Hubspot as a robust, comprehensive solution for both managing your website and contentent creation as well as for tracking and nurturing your leads. In fact, Hubspot can link directly to most legacy CRM systems like Salesforce.com creating one, seamless lead-gen tool.
So, yes, social media will improve your search rankings organically and position your brand as a thought leader, but hopefully you can now see it's true value and potential as your most powerful sales and lead generation tool.
If your organization has a sales department, you need Honey's attraction-based, inbound marketing solution. Get found. Get leads. Get sales.