Can a Social Media Strategy Benefit a B2B Business?

originally posted on Concept Hub

One of the most asked questions that I hear regarding social media is…

Can a Social Media Strategy Benefit a B2B Business?

First, I would like to point out that at this very moment you are reading a blog post by a business that sells to other businesses.

When I launched this blog my goal was not to communicate to other social media consultants, but to communicate directly with my prospective clients, the ones who were not yet blogging and even the ones who were not quite sure what a blog was.

The goal of this blog is to educate my audience about this emerging industry. As a result we have been able to establish ourselves as experts in this industry and gain the confidence within the business community.

Through a simple social media strategy a business can;   .

  • Be seen as a leader.
  • Stand apart from the competition.
  • Build  their brand image.

One of the most recognized advantages of participating within social media platforms is that such participation increases the organization’s organic SEO. But a good social media strategy should see beyond the SEO.

Beyond SEO

Google, the gods of search, and the various other search engines work diligently every day to make search better for the end users. This includes beating those who try to “trick” the system and ensuring that each individual’s search results are relevant to their needs.

There are a number of initiatives happening right now that will forever change the game of search including personalized searchuniversal search and social bookmarking tools such as Stumbleupon or Del.icio.us.

In a nutshell, what this means is that when I search for a product or service and you search for the exact same product or service, our search results will differ depending on our past search behavior as well as who we are connected to within our various social networks.

So the question is not whether or not your page is ranked highly in a search result, but the question is what will a person find in the links that are ranked highly?

Conversations about products and services, as well as the workplace, are happening everyday. That dialog is not a marketing message or a press release, but authentic dialog coming from past and present customers and those authentic conversations  equals trust. If the dialog is positive, and the trust is high, the conversion rate to a sell is even higher. If the dialog is negative, you may never even have realized you just lost a sell.

By participating within online communities a business is able to;

  • Create demand for their product or service indirectly.
  • Get honest feedback directly from their customers.
  • Protect their reputation by directly responding to issues or inaccurate comments.
  • Excel in customer service for all the world to see.

More than that, if the online communities are not talking about you, check  to see if they are discussing your competitors or the overall industry you are in. This way you can;

  • Keep tabs on the competition.
  • Stay up to date on emerging trends.
  • Challenge outdated assumptions.

Jump In…The Water’s Fine

Even though social media has become mainstream, and it seems everyone is talking about it, many organizations still fear what might result if they open up the flood gates of an open dialog.

What if someone decides that a corporate blog is an open invitation to complain?

What if a company post turns out to be inaccurate or insults someone and it is pointed out for all the world to see?

What if there is a typo?

Last year Wired Magazine wrote about the advantages of being “naked online.” It turns out telling the world that you are human, you make mistakes, you have feelings, insecurities, and doubts can be a good thing!

When I launched my first blog, which was my personal blog, I had many friends express concern that I was “putting it all out there.” However, I have twice as many followers on my personal blog than my corporate blog, and those who follow me there have often been the best supporters I could ever hope for. It turns out we all have something in common. We are all human and we have similar fears, insecurities, hopes, and dreams, doubts, and yep…we all make mistakes. It also turns out we feel more connected to those who show that we have such things in common, and I suspect we tend to develop a newfound trust for each other as well.

But what can you do if someone else shows your warts?

  • Take responsibility for your mistakes.
  • Show that you have learned from each mistake.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.

Keep in mind that an open dialog can show the world what values your organization stands for, and if those values are strong and clear, they become a mountain that can withstand any little storm.

The Ultimate Myth – It is NOT about reaching the Millennials

The final thing about social media that I would like to address is the myth that organizations need to embrace these new trends and technologies to reach the Millenials (the younger generation, aka the echo boomers).

Yes they grew up with this technology. Yes they speak “lol, brb, btw, cob” and so forth. But not only are they not as savvy with the trends and technologies as you might think, they most likely do not know the business value of such tools and trends.

I work with a lot of interns and the bulk of the time spent initially is teaching them about RSS, Tags, and social bookmarking tools.

Keep in mind, these tools were developed by Generation X as a means to connect and collaborate, as a means to do business far and wide. Although the generation that is coming in the workforce today are very net savvy, they are not necessarily prepared to teach you what you need to know about social media.

Recently I had the opportunity to work with 4 interns on an online street team project. One intern who will be graduating in the near future, was telling me how surprised she was that people were so willing to connect and build relationships online.  Through the internship she was able to learn to network both online and offline.

She wrote to me;

“This internship was fantastic. I really broke out of my shell during the duration of this internship. It has pushed me to become less introverted and more extroverted by such activities as conducting interviews and interacting with people online.  I learned quickly that this internship requires a good deal of independent work. I created five online profiles and groups through various social networking sites. I believe it has helped me become more online savvy then I once was.”

The skills needed by tomorrow’s workforce are not very different from past generations. They will need to know how to network, communicate value, take personal responsibility and persuade. The difference is that it will be happening within many different environments, both online and offline.

Are you prepared to show them the ropes?