Earlier in January, we presented a one of our most successful webinars to date, titled Social Media for Business Marketers – the real ways B2B marketers can use social media to drive success. It featured Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman, co-authors of the new B2B social media marketing book, Social Marketing to the Business Customer.

Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to get to all of the questions in the webinar itself. In this first in a series of posts, Paul addresses some of your top questions about B2B social media marketing.

I have a personal Facebook page. Do I use the same page for my business or do I create a different one?

Unless you’re a sole proprietor who has no problem mixing business and personal information, I would recommend you create a separate Facebook page (formerly called a “fan page) for your business. It may be possible to create a shadow personal page for yourself that is limited to your business activities and contacts, but Facebook frowns on duplicate accounts.

Doesn’t the consumerization trend make these differences less distinctive?

There is some truth to that in technology sectors, where some trends emerge first at the consumer level and then spread into the business. That was the case with Internet, and we are seeing the same trend happen with tablets right now. However, the same principles that we outlined in the webinar hold true: businesses buy based on value. They rarely make impulse or lifestyle purchases. In the case of tablets, for example, we saw early uptake with individual enthusiasts, but most businesses are taking a measured approach to adoption, often spearheaded by a group like the IT department. Regardless of where the trend started, the same principles of value-driven decision-making apply.

How do I encourage participation in my corporate blog?

If you mean participation by your own employees, then this problem is quite common. Busy people see no benefit to contributing, and they may even think they’re taking a risk of saying the wrong thing. The best approach is usually to find the small number of people who really want to contribute to the blog and then celebrate and promote their good work. When others see that there is recognition and career enhancement to be obtained by contributing to the social media efforts, they will begin to come on board. This won’t be a flood, but rather a trickle. The more people who find value in participating, the more they will tell their colleagues.

If you’re referring to participation by visitors, then the best approach is usually to ask. Conclude all your entries with a question inviting comment or make the question itself the subject of the blog post. Ask people to vote on a logo design or the theme for your next user conference. Or you can even try something offbeat like asking visitors to nominate their choice of the strangest college mascot. There are poll plug-ins for most popular blogging platforms that can make participation even more fun by letting people vote and see how their choices compared to the group’s.

Which would be more effective for building/maintaining a community – i.e. of developers for b2b – LinkedIn or Facebook?

When you say “developers,” I assume you’re speaking of software developers. It’s impossible to generalize, but research has shown that B2B marketers overwhelmingly favor LinkedIn for professional communities. This is because LinkedIn has a reputation for being serious and professional, and because members are identified by their titles, company affiliations and professional certifications. This may change over time, particularly since Facebook is now trying to raise its profile among business professionals, but LinkedIn still rules the roost for B2B at this point.

If the developers you seek are focused on your platform, you might be better off with a branded community that you host. Building your own platform gives you flexibility to offer features like downloads, threaded discussion, code swaps, contests with leader boards and other features developers appreciate. Many software companies use private branded communities as a form of technical support, which not only saves them money but also develops a sense of camaraderie among their customers.

I am in groups on LinkedIn, and have been on LinkedIn for over six years. It still seems to me to be one of two things: 1) People looking for jobs (This won’t help my business); and 2) Like-minded professionals (i.e. marketing oriented professionals), also not helpful for my business.

It’s difficult to address your comment without knowing what your business is. Certainly there is a lot of job prospecting on LinkedIn, and the site is also popular with marketers. However, there are a great many professional communities on LinkedIn, and some of them are quite active. Many people use LinkedIn to get answers to their questions from like-minded professionals, and in my experience, the answers are often very useful. The Procurement Professionals group, for example, has 76,000 members. It’s hard to believe that many people would have joined unless they found some value there.

Groups can be a mixed bag. Open groups tend to be freewheeling and a target for spammers. However, there are many groups that qualify their members and keep their ranks small, and there the quality of discussion is usually much higher. In general, the more exclusive the group, the higher the quality of interaction.

LinkedIn is an easy and inexpensive way to create a community around your company or your area of interest. It’s also effective for B2B lead generation because members of targeted communities are essentially prequalified prospects. Be careful, though. Salesmanship is usually frowned upon, so you will get much farther by creating relationships through the exchange of valuable information than you will by pushing your product.

Is it even worth the effort for a small B2B company to maintain a Facebook fan page at this point? We struggle to get any feedback from our current fans (and we don’t have that many!).

It may not be. As we noted in the webinar, the goal should not be to set up a Facebook page, but rather to achieve a business objective. If the nature of your business does not lend itself much to interaction, then Facebook is probably not a good tool. Facebook’s core strength is the members’ ability to share and interact with each other. That means you need to give them something to share. That may be members-only discounts, contests, quizzes or provocative content they can discuss. On the other hand, many companies use Facebook as a kind of press release distribution service. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they will get limited results without giving members a reason to interact.

How do you report the demographic information to your client?

It’s very difficult without capturing information in a form. The major social networks are stingy with information they provide about members. Your best bet is probably to ask people to give up some information in exchange for an incentive, such as a discount or access to content. Alternatively, you can conduct a survey over members of your group and extrapolate that data to the larger population, although such a research tactic is inherently limited.

Perhaps the more important question to ask is why you need demographic information in the first place. In most cases, such standard demographic categories such as age, sex, educational level and income are poor indicators of buying intentions. I preferred the approach taken by Best Buy as outlined in the book How Companies Win by Rick Kash and David Calhoun. The electronics retailer segmented its customers into categories such as Enthusiasts, Online Aficionados and Deal-Drivens, and targeted promotions according to buyer behavior rather than age and income level. It worked for them.

Download the webinar to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions about B2B Social Media was posted at Modern B2B Marketing – Marketo Best Practices Blog. | http://blog.marketo.com