Archives for March 2013

B2B Social Media Locally and Beyond

 

B2B social media and all things Internet have got us all thinking globally. Not a bad thing, but sometimes the good ol’ fashioned local networking is overlooked. And with the diversity of social media platforms, there is at least one that suits every business, even B2Bs. That B2B social media power can be focused on local connections…whether your “local” means regionally like in your city or pertinent to your industry.

B2B Social Media Locally and Beyond

How to use B2B Social Media to build a local following…or stay in touch with an existing network

If your business primarily serves a local community or is part of a tight-knit industry in which relationships are paramount, you know the importance of a web presence. Most of us fully grasp that the Yellow Page ad no longer serves as our primary outreach to local customers.

Many studies reveal the obvious, most local customers use the web before making a purchase…especially customers who are businesses themselves. Here are some traditional B2B networking concepts that are important to growing a business and how to apply that concept to B2B social media engagement.

1. Listening to business owners helps you understand their needs and plans. It helps to define ideal clients.

Traditional: Face-to-face meetings or social events with individual clients or perhaps industry networking events at conferences. If you require clarification or change your research focus based on new information, you meet with clients again.

Social Media: Just a few ideas:

  • Organize Twitter followers (or non-followers of interest) into Twitter lists that identify various segments of your target clients. Then create a stream in a social media management tool like HootSuite to “listen” to what they are talking about. Boost usefulness by adding hashtags, keywords, or other filters to your stream so that you receive fewer, but more relevant posts in the stream. Learn something new? Add a stream or change your stream filters.
  • Use Facebook pages to engage with your clients.
  • Post discussions and polls in LinkedIn groups related to your target clientele…or just read responses to others’ LinkedIn group interactions.
  • Read your competitors’ reviews that their customers posted online. It will tell you a lot about what your potential customers want and don’t want.

2. Presenting your business lets other business owners know what you offer that they or someone they know might need.

Traditional: Joining local service clubs like Rotary International or speaking at the club meetings, using your elevator speech when meeting people, exchanging business cards, follow-up phone calls and e-mails.

Social Media: Engaging your local community can lead to word-of-mouth marketing which leads to more clients. Social media can extend the reach of your networking in your local and industry-specific communities.

Building relationships is key to growing a successful business and this can happen online by remembering that social media is social, even in business. Using social media is not that much different than face-to-face networking.

Being friendly, useful, and genuine will get you further than constantly pitching your products or services. Many great tools abound to help you identify and attract the followers you want to engage with. Here are a few examples:

  • TweetAdder – a free tool that helps you identify Twitter users by geographic location.
  • Tweepi – a free tool that helps you follow the best followers of leaders in your industry. For example, if your business is ship-building, look for influencers in your industry in Tweepi, then use the tools to follow that influencer’s followers.
  • Search the web for local businesses, visit their websites to discover their social media links, and then connect. Remember to engage with their posts to build the relationships that generate qualified leads.
  • Put all your social connection links everywhere including on your email signature, website, business card or use QR codes to provide easy ways to find you online. This gives your prospects the invitation to learn more about your business.

3. Current customers can learn about new products or services.

Traditional: TV or radio ads, billboards, brochures, direct mail, even direct email campaigns might be considered traditional.

Social Media: Whatever community is appropriate for your business use it to the fullest. For example, use a Facebook page to inform your followers about new products. Conduct a contest in Facebook that generates buzz.

Ensure detailed information is available on your LinkedIn company pages including pictures and keyword-based descriptions. Use all your communities to direct attention to your website or other company page. Use great pictures and offer deals to draw interest.

4. Current customers can be your best advertising tool. Reference is the sincerest form of flattery in B2B.

Traditional: A local business owner attending a local golf charity event complains of a big problem keeping him awake at night. One of your past customers mentions that your business helped his business overcome the same problem with amazing results. Whammo! Another customer will be calling you right after the 18th hole.

Social Media: Get those referrals online so many prospects can see them. Select 3-to-5 sites related to general business or your industry to focus gathering customer reviews.

Google+ is a must, as well as general directories like Yelp or the Better Business Bureau. If you sell products on Amazon, get Amazon reviews. If you run a restaurant, list on UrbanSpoon or other foodie site.

Incorporate asking for reviews throughout your sales cycle. Include a request and link on your invoice, follow up with emails for shipped products to ask for reviews, or send “thank you for your business” and include a request a review. Regularly read and follow up on comments. Thank them for good comments, address issues and respond to negative comments.

5. You use your successful business status in the community to support a cause close to your heart. And, in doing so, your exposure and customer base increases.

Traditional: Become a non-profit board member or adviser, sponsor a community event, or volunteer to find opportunities to show your business cares about the local community.

Social Media: Here are a few ideas to help you engage or expand your engagement with your local community or industry to build brand recognition, trust, and respect:

  • Most non-profits have a website or social community network page. Support them by following, liking, and posting. Share their information with your own networks.
  • Seek out causes that are relevant to your business or local community by searching on the web or in social communities, then engage.
  • Check out sixdegrees.org and networkforgood.org to identify opportunities to connect and then create website “fundraising badges” to share with your prospects and clients that your business supports a worthy cause.

 

Local B2B social media is NOT a replacement for being involved in your community for business and personal satisfaction reasons. Rather, social media can keep the conversation going to increase the effectiveness of the face-to-face activities, or help you identify connections you would not ordinarily get an opportunity to make.

For example, while connecting to local businesses on Twitter, I saw a really great profile picture and inquired about the artist who created it. Through that connection, we have been having all sorts of conversations and maybe one day she will ask about my services or refer me.

I have already referred people to her business several times. It will always be important and fun to meet other business owners and potential clients in person, but online connections can be rewarding, too.

Provide online content that solves a problem, gives them insight or is otherwise valuable. Also, remember that etiquette is important online as well as offline. If people reach out to you through social media through commenting on your blog, tweeting to you, liking your Facebook post, responding to your LinkedIn discussion, etc. then you should respond to them in a timely manner.

As many Tweeters say when connecting, “Keep the conversation going!” Connect with Social Business Maven and SEO Buzz. Comment to let us know how you use social media to listen to your clients!

 

Daniel Kushner is the Co-Founder of Oktopost, a marketing expert and social media guru. As the former VP of Marketing at innovative high-tech company Nolio, Daniel grew sales with double digit growth year over year. Daniel has been in the field for more than a decade and has successfully led the online marketing departments of various global organizations.

Social Media Marketing Strategies for Engaging Customers

Social media is arguably one of the most transformational aspects of our personal and professional lives. It has become people’s microphone, personal advisor, and source of entertainment. So it’s only right that businesses adopt smart approaches to doing business on the social landscape. Social Media Marketing Strategies

There are numerous resources out there showing you how to play “small ball” with social media. If you’re going to have a massive impact with your customers, you’re going to need to adopt a clever and effective strategy that goes beyond just asking questions and posting memes.

Here are some of the different approaches I’ve found to be successful for businesses of all sizes on the social web:

 

Educational/Informative

Education-based marketing is my favorite approach. It’s not education in the homework sense, but more of just keeping people in the know of the important data and talking points related to your market.

This strategy is all about enlightening your customers. Why? Because the more informed they are, the more confident they will be and the better their buying decision are. If you do a good job of educating people about your product or service, and the important happenings in your market, then they’ll look at you like a genius and reward you with their attention and business.

Provide content about how to use your product and host Q&A session where you can answer customer questions. Twitter is great for quick Q&As and Google + Hangouts are great for live demos. Creating an experience around your product or service is crucial to its success.

 

Customer Service

Many businesses have elected to utilize social media as an extension of their customer service support. This strategy generally revolves around troubleshooting; listening for mentions of customer questions or problems, and replying in a timely fashion with a solution.

This strategy is great for building rapport by helping people solve a problem directly. It also serves as social proof because other people see that your business emphasize service, which is a highly admired quality.

Be sure to monitor mentions of your business via reply, hashtag, or Twitter search. Reach out to people talking about your business and answer questions. Provide value by solving people’s problems and you’ll benefit from the goodwill and positive perceptions.

 

Community

Everyone has the basic human need to belong. People come together through cultural, political, professional, and personal interest related reasons. The success of your business is dependent on your ability to create a thriving community around your business. No community, no business.

LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google + make it very easy to create a place for people to come hang out and talk about your market, product, or service. Start your own special interest group on your platform of choice, then build in the value.

 

Curator

Becoming a content curator is another popular option of social media. Collect the very best industry-related content from around the web and share them with your customers. Articles, blog posts, videos, and audio content like podcasts, or interviews. An alternative method of curating content is to source and share user-generated content related to your product or service.

If you run a Chevy dealership, you could get your customers to share pictures of themselves with their Chevy’s. You could also share content related to Chevy reviews, car shows, and interviews with Chevy executives on your Facebook fan page or even on your website. The lesson here is you don’t always have to create the content in order to create a value exchange. Forwarding people to high quality content puts you at the “elbow” of a value exchange.

 

Collaborative

Creating opportunities for collaboration can prove to be extremely beneficial to all parties involved. Collaboration goes right along the concept of community, being that it’s one of our most basic human needs. We are social creatures who need to interact with other people.

When you come together in collaborative efforts not only do you empower your customers by giving them some “buy-in” to your business, but you also get an opportunity to create something very natural and personal to your customers which ultimately translates into a higher response rate. The higher the level of engagement, the more people are going to stick.

A few collaborative ideas are meet-ups, where you get your team (or just yourself if you’re a one-man army) in a room with your customers in a very relaxing and natural environment. You could even host a workshop where you and your customers share experiences, knowledge, techniques, and projects. Other effective collaborative efforts include Google Hangouts and Tweet chats, anything where you’re getting your customers involved to build on the movement you’ve both created.

 

Dewane Mutunga is the Founder & CEO of Connected Experiential Marketing, a NYC-based marketing agency that creates amplified brand experiences and touchpoints for consumer-focused brands and retailers. Find him connecting the dots on Twitter or LinkedIn.

How to Help Others in the Virtual World

Giving back to your local community is an important way to help others in need. And as you look for ways to boost your community involvement, networking with other area businesses can help you create long-term relationships that help introduce a Help Others in the Virtual Worldworld of professional opportunities. Giving yourself to your community is certainly an important element of networking for many small businesses. But what do you do if your primary community is online?

Just because your business peers are online doesn’t mean you can’t support them and find collaborative ways to help them. When you put positive energy into your web community, it can be one of those “what goes around, comes around” situations. When you want to channel your energy into helping others in your online community, here are some ways to actively support their work.

Visit Other Websites

Check out the websites of companies that you like or people that interest you. It can help with their page views, as well as SEO rankings. Subscribe to their corporate blogs or newsletter so you can check in often–not only will it provide you with new reading material, but it will help out your fellow online businesses.

Promote Their Products or Special Offers

When one of your fellow bloggers has a new digital product being released, is teaching a webinar, or is hosting a special promotional event, your support becomes invaluable. Sharing their success, signing up for their webinars, or reviewing their eBooks will be a huge show of faith they won’t soon forget. We remember the people who encourage and lift us up. And when you’re in need of support and assistance for your own project, your network is much more likely to help if you’ve already done the same for them.

Contribute Quality Guest Posts

Offer to guest post for a friend or a blog that you enjoy reading. When two successful websites pair up, good things usually happen! You don’t have to ask for payment or reciprocation, just offer up your content and see where it goes. When you contribute a guest post, make sure you’re sharing really great content that serves their audience. You can even connect with a multi-author blog for more regular collaborations. And when the post is live, be sure to share it through your online networks. Not only will you help more people see your post—you’ll help give the blog more exposure, too.

Share Great Content from Your Friends

Most businesses and blogs also have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, or other social media interests. If you see something that piques your interest, share it with your friends and family. This will help the site with traffic and help the site owners to gain new fans and followers. Everyone loves to have their hard work appreciated, and sharing, retweeting, or spreading the word about other informative, must-read blogs is a great way to spread the love.

Leave Comments on Other Blogs

Interaction with readers is one of the components of a blog that make it so valuable.  If a post makes you think about something, comment on it. Once you get the ball rolling, others will be more likely to comment  The best comments are those that give a thoughtful response beyond a simple “good job” or “great post,” so take a couple minutes to create a brief yet insightful reply that not only provides valuable feedback—it just might help spark additional discussion, too.

It’s easy to support your online peers if you’ll take just a couple minutes each day to read, comment, and share. And collaborating with other great bloggers and business owners will benefit everyone in the long run. How do you show your appreciation for your online network?

(Photo Source)

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.