It’s easy to get caught up in the buzz, and the hype, around social media. I’ve been working with many B2B companies to help them figure out when and how to use social media in their business.  The answer is always a bit different depending on the product or service. One area that few people have written about is how to use social media for solution marketing. Let me demystify the topic a bit by sharing five ways I’ve seen it really work.

1.   Is there a market for your solution? – With one-twelfth of the world connected through social media there is bound to be a conversation underway about your specific solution. Wouldn’t it be nice to know upfront what that conversation is about and the needs the participants are expressing? Few marketers do the social-focused research ahead of time to determine the market. But there are great opportunities, such as the ways social media data is being used in the stage-gate funding process for solution development.

2.   Leverage your brand advocates – If you already have fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter, why not energize their word of mouth about your solution? You could enlist them to use the solution for free if they agree to write a review of it. Of course you can’t dictate that they write something positive. But whatever they say, they’re helping shape your solution with the power of their voice!

3.   Leverage your community – Whether you build your own or rent one from a provider like LinkedIn Groups, a community is a great place to promote a new solution to your existing customers. B2B marketers often host advisory board and user group meetings, and these forums are hungry to stay connected via a tool like an online community. When you do that the results reported in a recent Jive report of over 2000 customers are outstanding. Lower costs and increased revenue – a perfect combination!

4.   Find intent to purchase – You’re probably interested in how these great social media conversations can help you find leads. There are various ways to mine the data using search terms. Both competitive and noncompetitive search terms can reveal buyers such as “replace solution X” or “upgrade competitor Y.” Just search competitive terms paired with “replace” or “upgrade,” and voila, a list of solution prospects!

5.   PR blitz in conversations not publications – The US is becoming a newspaper-less society. Meanwhile, new companies start up every day that want to be featured in the shrinking number of publications. Your PR needs to move from publications to conversations. Begin by tracking conversations where you brand’s solution fits best. Then start commenting at least daily on the stories that are most relevant to your solution. This will lead to 250 articles with mentions of your solution, as well as links back to your site (think of the SEO value there!). Over the course of a year, this is comparable to having hundreds of relevant, contextual ads out there for your brand, at a fraction of the cost of traditional PR!

So there you have it. Five ways you can use social media in your solutions marketing, all with the potential for solid return on investment. Good luck, and let me know if I can help you.