Surveys of B2B marketing budgets consistently show that a higher percentage of marketing resources are being invested in content development, inbound marketing and social media than ever before. But business social media is too important to be left to the marketing department alone – it requires a team effort between marketing, sales and other customer-facing employees.
In addition to the obvious advice to make all of your invaluable content social-media friendly and easily shareable, I’d like to suggest 7 simple steps that could help the whole organisation to come together to fully realise the potential of business social media.
1: Integrate social media into CRM
Most B2B sales people have already realised the potential of business social media – and in particular LinkedIn – for researching potential prospects. But that value is compounded by integrating social media information directly into the CRM platform – and ensuring the information is always up to date.
If you’re already using Nimble – as a growing number of our clients have chosen to do – this integration comes baked-in to the core CRM platform. But if your current CRM solution doesn’t offer this, or treats social media as an afterthought, you need to seriously reconsider your strategy. It’s that important, and it’s the essential foundation for integrating your social media efforts across the organisation.
2: Professional social media profiles
You don’t want to deny your sales people – or your other social media participants – the chance to let their personalities shine through in their online profiles. But there’s a lot to be gained from ensuring that what they say about their role in your company in their personal LinkedIn profiles conveys a consistent, positive and professional message.
First, make sure they have a professional looking photograph. Second, encourage them to use a common set of words and phrases when describing your company and their role that accurately reflect how you’d like to see yourselves positioned. Third, in additional to their personal skills, suggest a handful of skills and expertise that convey the key things you want your company to be associated with. Last, get them to ask for endorsements from customers who can be relied upon to value what they have done for them.
3: Feed them with a stream of interesting and relevant content to share
Encourage and enable your staff to regularly share relevant information with their connections and followers through a distribution programme that draws their attention to new material that is likely to be interesting and relevant to the audience. Encourage them to re-tweet your twitter updates. Let them know when you have published a new blog article and encourage them to share.
Help them be seen as expert advisers and credible problem solvers in the markets you are addressing. Remember that the primary purpose of social media is not to sell, but to build credibility and to educate, and in doing so to encourage the recipient want to learn more. So ease off on the overt promotional messages and focus on teaching and sharing. Include a stream of useful third-party-generated information.
4: Encourage them to take part in groups
Identify the groups that are most closely associated with your chosen market focus and encourage your folks to join up – and to participate where they have relevant experience and an interesting perspective. Help them develop a reputation as someone knowledgeable about the issues your organisation has chosen to address.
5: Provide a framework, but avoid creating a police state
It’s helpful to create clear guidelines, and to expect them to be implemented, but the advantages of a light-touch decentralised approach to social media engagement far outweigh the illusion of control given by a centrally controlled, HQ-only approach to social media. Loosen up!
6: Regularly review your progress
Well-aligned sales and marketing departments have clear communication paths and regular reviews of progress. Use those meetings to review, refine and if necessary tune your social media strategy.
7: Equip your sales people to continue the conversation
One of the primary purposes of great content is to stimulate engagement and a continuing conversation. So whenever you create and distribute a new piece of content, make sure that you equip your sales people with talking points that enable them to lead the discussion in the right direction.
So there you have it: 7 simple ideas, none of which require that you hire an expensive social media agency. In fact, I suggest they simply represent straightforward common sense. Putting them into practice could help your organisation to realise the undoubted potential of business social media.
One last thought
Having a joined-up social media strategy is one of a number of winning habits that we’ve observed in some of today’s most effective B2B sales and marketing organisations. Why not benchmark your current processes against the best in class in Inflexion-Point’s 10-minute online self-assessment? I guarantee the exercise will throw out at least one actionable idea.