A Primer on Marketing through Social Media

At first glance, the social media landscape seems overwhelming: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google Plus, Pinterest, Tumblr … I’ve even heard that MySpace might be making a comeback! As you survey this list, you may find yourself thinking, “So many choices, so little time!” In your B2B marketing and communication efforts, though, you’ll need to make your choices and find the time, because an effective social media strategy is a must-have for any successful marketing campaign.

Having a presence on ten different sites is worthless if you don’t have the time, knowledge, and motivation to manage your messaging. So before you rush out and set up accounts on multiple sites, take a look at this three-step guide. It will help you maximize your results and accomplish your objectives—all while showing you how to maintain a balance between your marketing efforts and the demands of the other professional hats you wear.

Step 1: Define your goals.

If you want a social media marketing plan to be effective, it must have clear goals, such as (among others) personal branding, customer acquisition, customer service, thought leadership, community building, or the humanization of your company. The goals you choose will shape the type of content you create for your blog, the people you follow on Twitter, the pictures you post on Facebook, and what you include in your company profile on LinkedIn.

Step 2: Choose your platforms and learn how to leverage them.

The social-media landscape is vast, and if you’re just getting started (or even if you’re looking to refine your strategy) it’s best to stick to no more than three platforms. The following list is far from exhaustive, but it describes the top platforms companies are using today:

Blogs give you a customizable platform for building your brand and creating your online reputation—both of which are necessary to position yourself (and your firm) as a thought leader when selling to more sophisticated buyers. Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad, and Wordpress are just a few of the many free blogging platforms available.

Facebook is a crowded space filled with countless photos of your friends’ cute kids and updates on what Aunt Jane had for dessert. However, with nearly one billion users, it’s also the king of the social networks—and it can be much more than an outlet for friends and family when leveraged as a tool to help humanize your business. Funny or interesting pictures you post there, for example, can spread quickly through “likes” and shares, leading viewers back to your business or services and providing free advertising for your company.

Twitter is densely populated with industry professionals, which makes it the perfect platform for B2B marketing. To get the most out of Twitter, use it for multiple types of communication: sharing relevant and valuable tweets (with your own added insight) from the people you follow, and tying in the messaging from your blog and other social media channels.

Unlike most other social media outlets, LinkedIn was designed primarily to facilitate social networking rather than idea sharing. The most powerful part of LinkedIn isn’t your company page—it’s the connections shared by you and your team members. Encourage your employees to join and share relevant updates with their network.

As you’ve no doubt seen in many places online, people love to share pictures with each other. Pinterest, a relative newcomer to the social media field, taps into this desire by being entirely image based. Since its launch it has quickly carved out a unique niche among the social media networks as an ideal place to post images of products, infographics, book and magazine covers, data, charts, and cartoons.

Google Plus is another new kid on the block that has been making big waves since it entered the scene, especially among entrepreneurs and tech-oriented businesses. One of the most important features of Google Plus is the +1 button, and I would not be surprised if the largest search engine on Earth adjusts your search placement based on the number of +1s attached to your page or posts.

Step 3: Use automation as a tool, not a strategy.

Now that you’ve set some goals and chosen the best platforms for connecting with your audience, I highly recommend using automation to help you build your social-media presence and develop your online relationships. Buffer, TweetDeck, and HootSuite are just three of the many great options that let you schedule your posts and tweets. After all, it’s great to keep the content flowing as much as possible, but you still need to fulfill your other professional responsibilities—and get to bed at a decent hour! Proceed with caution when applying automation, though: too much will leave you sounding like a robot and drive away your audience.

There’s a difference between using social media and using social media wisely. If you do the first, you’re just part of the crowd. If you do the second, though, you can build relationships that transform your audience into raving fans.

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