With today’s post we aim to answer the most common question we get about B2B social media marketing: How do you do it? It is a broad question that could have a lot of answers, but today we are going to focus on specifically how a B2B social media marketing campaign gets developed and executed. These seven steps should serve as an outline for you, and as you talk about your own social media efforts with members of your team, as well as management.
Step 1: Assess Your Market
Like most plans, the first step is the most important, because it dictates how to move forward. Before you write a single word in a document or on a PowerPoint slide, you must first get your hands dirty and do some serious research to determine if social media marketing is a viable option for your business. In a previous post I outlined times when social media isn’t right for B2B, but those are not catch-all cases.
To begin your research I recommend that that you look for any third party research about social media usage specific to your industry. You should also consider doing a formal or informal study of your current customers to see how they get news and information, but more importantly, how they are influenced. At the same time, use a free search tool like Technorati, Google Blog Search, Board Reader, and Twitter Search to do some research of your own to determine influencers in your industry that are active online.
Finally, this is the most important part of step one. If you complete your research and it shows that social media has little impact on your customers, then stop reading this post. Do not complete any of the other steps. Set a time 6-12 months from now to do another round of research, but until it shows that social media is an important enough factor, do not spend resources on something that will not be effective. You can use some free tools to monitor your company and industry, but that should be the extent of it, until a time when social media is a more viable option for your business.
Step 2: Determine Key Business Objectives
You are reading correctly, we are on step two and I am talking about nothing related to technology or the Internet. The reason for this is clear. It doesn’t matter how viable social web channels are for your business, if you don’t align your efforts with business objectives, you are wasting time and money. Schedule a meeting with all key stakeholders to review current marketing and business objectives and determine how online communications can be used to support them.
Step 3: Dedicate Resources
If you want to fail and fail quickly at anything, and social media is no different, then do something without the appropriate resources needed to succeed. In the case of social media for B2B, resources can mean many things. Mostly it refers to time. Do you have the manpower to execute the strategy you are in the process of developing? Have you estimated how many hours a week it will take? Additionally, have you thought about non-time resources: computers, video cameras, smart phones, and other items that help facilitate online communications. I realize that you can’t have everything all at once, but if you think about resources and plan for them in the future, it will greatly improve your likelihood for success.
Step 4: Prioritize Value Of Engagement Opportunities
All online opportunities are not created equal, just as all sales opportunities are not created equal. Look at where you current sales are coming from as well as forecast where they should be coming from in the next year. Allow these customer segments to help guide your time and engagement online. You can’t do everything at once. You must admit that to yourself and focus your efforts on the opportunities that have the most value to your business. If you have customers on Facebook, but your high value targets get most of their information from search, then focus less time on social networks and more time on a corporate blog and a search engine optimization strategy.
Step 5: Develop Daily, Monthly and Annual Plans for Tactical Execution
Repeat after me: “Without a plan, I am wasting time.” A major complaint about social media for marketing purposes is that it takes a lot of time and yes it does. However, most people are spending more time then they need to because they do not have a daily and monthly plan for their activities. Make a list of all of the engagement work you need to be doing and all of the content that you need to be developing and then assign it on a daily calendar over the course of a month. This is your guide to ensure your strategy is executed and time is not wasted.
Step 6: Measure, Measure, Measure
You can measure anything that is tied back to an objective. When it comes to social media their are two very important reasons for measuring all of your efforts. The first is determine ROI to ensure that your initial strategy is delivering the needed results. The second and equally important need for measuring to to determine how to shift or maintain focus on key tactics in an effort to improve impact. Having a tactical execution plan (outlined in Step 5) will also make it easier to manage the measurement process. To measure effectively you need access to as much data as possible. You need to ensure that your corporate Web site is set up with analytic software such as Google Analytics or Clicky. Use URL shortening services such as Bit.ly to help track clicks on each link shared on social platforms. Remember to use your data to help dictate future actions
Step 7: Do more of what is working and less of what isn’t
The final step may seem obvious, but I can assure you it is one that is not always done. On this blog we talk a lot about how quickly the landscape of online communications changes. If you understand that platforms and communities online change and that the adoption rate of your customers getting information on the social web helps to change this, then it should make sense that you can’t keep doing the same thing year after year. A look at your measurement in step 6 should help you make informed decisions of how to shift your strategy.
If you are in the planning stages and you don’t know where to begin, these steps should help you get started. If you are already down that road, what are other steps you are including your process? Let me know if the comments below.