As social networks have become more entrenched in business-to-business (B2B) communications and have garnered more widespread acceptance as viable marketing channels, has your company developed a solid plan around social media for 2015?
There are nuances associated with establishing a social media presence, utilizing it correctly, and leveraging it for the needs and goals of your business. A recently completed Social Buying Study from International Data Corporation concludes that 75 percent of B2B buyers and 84 percent of C-level/vice president executives use social media to support purchase decisions. So, if you're not utilizing social media the right way, it could be easy for a buyer to be put off and move on to the competition. In other words, it’s an opportunity missed to engage with them directly.
With multiple social networks available, and each offering its own respective benefits, the most effective way to create value within the social media channel is to prioritize and develop a strategy. This will not only allow you to focus your time and effort where you’ll reap the biggest rewards, but also will help you build real, ongoing relationships with your connections.
Here are five important factors to consider as you start your social media planning for 2015:
1. Be Willing to Invest a Little More – According to a recent Duke University CMO Survey, social media spending is currently 9 percent of marketing budgets and is expected to increase to more than 13 percent in the next year. If you’re serious about social media, then be willing to invest more to support expansion into new networks, scaling up engagement, internal training and education, as well as monitoring and analysis of data.
2. Evaluate Where You’ve Been and Where You Want to Go – Take a critical look at how you use social media now and where you are on the maturity curve. Be honest. Do you have a LinkedIn page that’s merely a placeholder? Do you have a corporate Twitter account with only 12 tweets in 2014? Does it make sense for your business to invest in a YouTube channel if you already have an internal nest egg of video assets?
3. Focus on the Most Appropriate Networks for Your Business – Working in tandem with No. 2 above, concentrate your social media efforts on networks that will help you the most to attract and engage your target audiences. Revisit the demographics of your audience (i.e. age, gender, education, etc.) and re-examine the networks on which they actively participate. It would better to be 100-percent dedicated, for example, to a following on LinkedIn and to blog readers, than to maintain a simultaneous presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and a blog and to not deliver an engaged experience with your followers on all of the platforms.
4. Build Out a Content Calendar – Timely and relevant content is still the engine that drives B2B success on social media. The downfall of many companies is not having enough fresh and interesting content that is applicable and engaging to audiences today─and formatted to “speak the language” of the respective social networks. Start the content calendar build-out around corporate milestones, product announcements, tradeshow appearances, research and surveys, etc. However, leave enough room to develop perspective and commentary around marketplace trends as well as other breaking news and events that may impact your audiences. Determine how the content will be created (i.e. internal vs. freelancers) and what resources you’ll need.
5. Set Realistic Goals – Determine what it is your company wants to accomplish through social media. Keep goals achievable, definable and measurable. They may be as simple as enhancing customer awareness, promoting corporate milestones and staff accomplishments or increasing engagement. Be as specific as you can realistically measure. For example, if you want to track leads and sales generated through social media, be sure you have a process in place that captures that data. There are many companies that still fail to include specific social media platforms in the “How Did You Find Us” checkbox on the website or in any direct sales dialogues.
Just as important, stay flexible in your planning and budgeting. Social media is a still-evolving and ever-changing medium─many times driven to change within minutes based on market conditions, world events and public sentiment. You need to remain agile enough to both capitalize on the newest trends and manage the impact of unexpected issues.
Solid planning can not only help you develop and nurture a relevant social media presence but also hopefully create new business opportunities for your company.
So, how does your social media plan stack up for 2015?