For many PR and marketing professionals who engage on social media both personally and professionally on a daily basis, using sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, reading and writing industry blogs, and testing out the latest location-based services can be a no-brainer.
However, for many B2B companies, apprehension, time, unfamiliarity and money can stall or prevent the implementation of social media activities. Accordingly, agencies and internal PR and marketing staffs alike must demonstrate the value and ROI of the proposed money and time to be allotted for social media.
If your team has researched the industry’s social media climate, considered crisis and policy plans, developed an effective social media strategy and still find your client or boss hesitant, here are five ways to demonstrate how social media can be an effective marketing, public relations and sales tool:
1. Show them customers are using social media
While impressive figures such as 96 percent of the world’s population uses social media, Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S. and 80 percent of companies use social media for recruitment (all courtesy of the updated Social Media Revolution video) are compelling, make sure you can point to how and where your specific customers are using social media.
A list of potential customers doesn’t have to be all-encompassing to be convincing. If even a slice of your customer base can be segmented down using geography, special interests or industry keywords as search terms, utilize tools such as Technorati, WeFollow, LinkedIn groups and Listorious to create a snapshot of potential customers using social media.
By showing company leaders and sales teams names and faces rather than lofty user statistics, social media will become more real, and you’ll have a jump start on people to engage with once your social media plan gets the go-ahead.
2. Show them competitors are using social media
Even if competitors aren’t using social media well, just the fact they’ve dipped their toes into the water can be compelling. If competitors aren’t effectively engaging, all the better. The space is open for a company who knows that listening, helping and encouraging beats selling, yelling and hawking any day.
This initial research will also come in handy down the road, as you continue to compare your social media strategies with others in your industry. Set up a Google Reader folder, compile a private Twitter list and cue up an RSS feed around your competitors’ profiles to stay on top of competitors’ social media activities.
3. Show them people are talking about social media
Or, better yet, show them key industry influencers such as media, educators and associations are talking about social media. B2B companies already hold these organizations in high regard when it comes to news and industry trends, so their third-party recognition can be important.
Social media is a hot topic, and articles, interviews, blog posts, podcasts and videos that talk about how similar companies are using social media have become a topic of mainstream debate. Use this information to convey the medium is no longer a scary, unknown frontier and is being recognized by credible sources as a way to better engage, understand and deliver customer wants and needs.
4. Show them social media success stories
When it comes to social media, case studies are everywhere – even in the B2B industry – and offer bite-sized best practices and lessons learned. Get started here at Social Media B2B by looking at 10 Examples of B2B Facebook Fan Pages and 16 Best Practices of B2B Corporate Blogging.
In addition, comb through interviews with social media managers and PR professionals (such as this discussion with Ron Casalotti, social media lead of Bloomberg L.P.) who have already dealt with questions and fears from upper management surrounding social media. These real-life examples, addressing real companies and customers, will carry extra weight with B2B companies on the fence about the worth of social media.
5. Show them how to use and stay on top of social media
Before using social media professionally for B2B business, it can help to know the ropes personally. The saying “give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime” applies to social media as well. Education and demonstration can go a long way in showing B2B companies the value of social media.
Create Social Media 101-type documents that cover blog readers, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., and set up training sessions to address questions and concerns. Once clients become more familiar with social media on their own terms, they may become more open to the value of social media for their businesses.
What are other ways you’ve demonstrated the value of social media to your B2B clients or management?
Karlie Justus is a Contributing Writer at SocialMediaB2B.com. Follow Karlie on Twitter at @KarlieJ.