About the author: Tom Pick is an online marketing executive with KC Associates , a marketing and PR firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota, focused on B2B technology clients. He's also the award-winning writer of the Webbiquity blog , which focuses on B2B lead generation and Web presence optimization -- the fusion of SEO, search marketing, social media, content marketing and interactive PR.
You've seen the statistics. Over 90% of B2B decision makers use social media somewhere in their buying process. Two-thirds of B2B marketers have caught on, using social media in their marketing mix. Social media has a direct impact on brand search. Social media is mainstream.
And yet, many B2B companies struggle to show results. Part of the problem is that it's difficult to measure ROI with any precision, and part of it is confusion over whether social media is a marketing or PR activity (or something else, like customer service).
But the biggest factor is execution: according to a recent MarketingSherpa report , "two-thirds of marketers who work for organizations that have not used any form of social media marketing or PR consider themselves 'very knowledgeable' or 'somewhat knowledgeable' about this emerging strategy. Their overconfidence in unproven ability can doom social media initiatives to failure."
Here are eight common mistakes B2B companies make when jumping into social media marketing . Avoid these, and you'll greatly increase your chances of success.
1. Using social media as a direct response vehicle.
Unless your product is a price-sensitive impulse purchase (e.g. a restaurant tweeting about today's lunch specials), social media doesn't work well for direct response. For B2B companies, social media is primarily about interaction and knowledge sharing. A hard-sell approach is not only ineffective, but it can also damage a firm's brand.
2. Expecting instant results.
Social media is not like an advertising or email blast campaign designed to produce immediate results; it takes time to develop relationships, build significant blog readership or attract a large Twitter following. Social media marketing can produce significant results , but not overnight.
3. Failing to invest sufficient time and effort.
As a consequence of #2 above, many social media efforts are dubbed failures before they have a chance to succeed. Blogs have a few posts written and are then abandoned. Twitter accounts sit silent with only a handful of followers. Facebook fan pages go without updates for months on end. The B2B companies achieving results with social media are those that set a clear strategy, adjust tactics based on results and experience, and maintain commitment to their social media efforts.
4. Focusing internally.
Social media is about listening and interacting. Focusing only on your own message -- our product this, our company that -- is as boorish as talking only about yourself at a business mixer or cocktail party. Of course, you can link to your own blog posts or other content on occasion, but these should be mixed in with links to external content, and in the context of answering a question or providing helpful information to solve a problem.
5. Not building networks or using syndication.
It's not enough to have great content. You need other people sharing it on your behalf as well. Use your blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, and other social media tools to build a network of influencers who will amplify your content, and use RSS syndication sites to expand the reach of your blog.
6. Having unoptimized and inconsistent profiles.
For CEOs and anyone who represents the "face" of your company to customers, prospects or other stakeholders, every profile on LinkedIn or other social networking sites is a marketing opportunity. While obviously allowing space for originality, every profile should include a compelling and consistent brand message (as well as links to the corporate website, blog, Twitter account, etc.).
7. Not monitoring.
One of the most significant aspects of social media is that it empowers others to share your message (or contradict it). You can't control every conversation about your brand in social media, but you can help shape them, or at least be seen as responsive in participating in them. Social media monitoring is imperative for understanding what's being said about your products or services, thanking your fans and responding to critics.
8. Ignoring synergy between different media.
Social media, your corporate website, PR activities and even online advertising don't exist in isolation from each other; the impact of all of these programs can be magnified by linking them wherever appropriate. Press releases should link to related content on your website or blog as well as to the profiles of anyone quoted. Your corporate website, email newsletters, even employee email signatures should link to your blog and Twitter account. Product microsites can be linked back to the corporate site or blog for additional information. Cross-linking between these different sites and sources raises your profile in search, maximizing your Web presence within your industry and product space.
Avoid these common mistakes, and you'll greatly enhance your company's success with social media.
Photo by: Truth Went Trendy