5 Ways to Sell Social Media to your B2B Clients

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?

PuSH Your B2B Blog to Readers in Real-Time

It takes work to create content on a B2B blog. And once that content is posted you want your readers to get it in real-time. You can certainly do this using your social networks, either through automated tools or manually posting links. Thanks to a new protocol from Google, and easy integration with WordPress, your posts can be delivered to readers in real-time. If you publish on WordPress.com, this will happen automatically. If you host your own blog, there is new plug-in that connects to pubsubhubbub, also known as PuSH.

Below is an amusing video from Google that explains the new protocol in easy to understand terms. The way it works is that instead of sites constantly asking for new content, or pulling, once content is published, a hub automatically pushes it out to subscribers. This means content is available in Feedreaders and other RSS catchers within seconds of being published, rather than in minutes, or even hours. We installed the plugin on SocialMediaB2B.com this week, and have seen posts show up nearly instantly in our readers. And make sure you don’t publish without meaning too (like I did on this post), because that too goes out to readers.

6 Firefox Add-ons for B2B Social Media Management

There are lots of reasons B2B communicators use Firefox when surfing the web, which include things like stability, security and support of open source software, but the best reason is the customization available with add-ons. There are over 1100 add-ons that are categorized as Social and Communications and we are going to look a few of them that people use to help manage their social media tasks. Note that if you haven’t installed add-ons before, they do not get installed without restarting Firefox. Generally all the open tabs will reload on a restart, but sometimes they don’t.

Yoono runs in left hand sidebar of your browser and lets you interact with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and various chat platforms without giving up large amounts of screen real estate. You can view your social profiles combined or separate, and you can also post status updates, post photos and share links to your networks. You can easily choose which networks to post to with every post. It incorporates bit.ly link shortening, but it seems to share links without including the title of the post. Make sure you test each aspect of any tool before you start fully implementing it.

Amplify allows you to share links and selections from pages by bringing up a sharing toolbar. These links post to your selected networks, as well as aggregate on a profile page at Amplify.com with your comments. This combines the ability to share links on multiple networks with one click and they all point back to a single post on Amplify, which includes comments and a social network.

Buzz It
So you have heard about Buzz and you want an easy way to use it. Buzz It creates a bookmarklet in your Firefox toolbar. When you are on a page you want to share in Buzz, click the bookmarklet and it will open a GMail message that lets you send the link and comments to buzz. This is one of many ways to share things on Buzz.

Feedly is one of the best Firefox social media add-ons because it brings a familiar web magazine layout to RSS readers. Using your Google profile, it presents all your feeds in an easily digestible format that doesn’t focus on the number of posts you haven’t read (like Google Reader does). There’s lots going on in this tool including details about how your content is shared, displaying content of the same type, like video, grouped together regardless of its source, a small toolbar that helps you share across networks, and discovery tools for finding additional relevant content. Load up this tool and dig in to learn more about your social graph and to overcome your fears of RSS.

I heard of Tweecious thanks to Kipp’s recent post about Delicious and social bookmarking. This has got to be one of the slickest tools I have seen, from both an interface side and from a functionality side. When you click setup, it says here’s your Twitter account and here’s your Delicious account, and gives you the opportunity to change them. The only question is do you want to grab links from previous tweets or just go forward. That’s it. It runs in the background and grabs any links you post to Twitter and saves them as Delicious bookmarks. If you are saving links as reference for future review, it is a good idea to save them in multiple places.

If there is one theme running through this list, it is the ability to more easily manage multiple networks. So one of the things to watch out for is creating duplicate content on aggregation networks, like FriendFeed. One great use for this is to create a feed of shared links. Tweecious can grab your links from your corporate Twitter account, but not conversations, and create a list of links in Delicious. Now you can use the Delicious feed that was automatically created.

Pixel Pipe Media Uploader
And finally, this list is not complete without a tool to upload media to your various networks. Pixel Pipe Media Uploader can upload photos, video and audio to more than 110 networks. If you are pushing content out to multiple networks at once this is an easy way to do it, however, add networks carefully, because every upload goes to every network. It would be great if there were an easy way to exclude some, but there are situations that warrant an all-in approach to content distribution. But make sure you visit these networks on a regular basis to respond to comments and interact with the community.

Have you used any of these tools, or are there others you would recommend to manage social media activities for your B2B company?