It may have started out as a version of Hot or Not for Harvard University students, but Facebook is now undeniably a serious business tool. Likewise, twitter is no longer just for knowing what Stephen Fry eats for breakfast.
Social media often comes from humble beginnings, but can quickly evolve into a communications channel for the masses – including all B2B brands. For example, it has the benefit of real-time interaction with an engaged audience and can help to position you as a real thought leader in your field.
There is a lot of hype around social media, and this is where B2B brands can often come unstuck; it is tempting to jump on the bandwagon, but a poor social media presence is worse than having no social media presence at all.
It’s essential that brands take the right approach to social media to give them the best chances of success. On that note, here are eight top tips to getting started in social media:
Before getting started, it is vital to have a clear strategy in place based on a rigorous analysis of the social media landscape you are operating in. This should tell you where your audience are, how they are using the various channels, what competitors are doing, and the opportunities for your brand.
Your strategy should also include key messages for every channel and a list of short, medium and long-term objectives based on what success looks like for your business.
As any communicator knows, styles need to be adapted for different forums. For example, on twitter you need to learn how to communicate in just 140 characters and appreciate the ins and outs of short URLs, memes and hashtags. On Linkedin, you need to know how to capture a Group audience and encourage members to share their ideas and experiences.
B2B brands need to research and understand these new styles of communication, and ensure that everyone appreciates the subtle nuances that can help you to cut through the noise.
Setting up a social media account is one thing; having a social media presence is quite another. Before getting started, you need to know you have the resources and commitment required to keep it going.
Help yourself by creating a calendar of content and make sure you always have something to talk about.
As with any medium, content is key to a successful communications programme. There is a vast amount of information out there and people will quickly tire of feeds that are of no use to them.
Content must be fresh, unique, interesting and engaging. If you’re using social media to demonstrate thought leadership it must be new, or at least add value to the existing debate.
People often ask us how many followers they should have and how to increase their following, but perhaps there’s a better way of thinking about this. If you have the right content and promote it in the right way, the right people will come. It’s better to have 1,000 engaged readers of your blog than 10,000 disengaged followers and the right content will ensure that the high value interest keeps coming back.
Getting key spokespeople on board is vital if you are to create a compelling social ‘product’. Some will be more familiar with the channel than others, so training needs to be tailored. They will also have varying perceptions of how much time they need to put into this and what they will get out of it, so you need to set reasonable expectations up front.
It takes planning, dedication and perseverance to make a success of social media and to start seeing results. This needs to be built into your strategy and objectives, so that your targets are achievable and to manage expectations internally.
A major benefit of social media is that it enables you to talk in real time to a niche audience. It is vital that your content focuses specifically on what’s affecting them. Getting the right spokespeople on board with the necessary insight and experience is the first step to achieving this.
Generally speaking, easily digestible content works best as people have a limited amount of time to spend on social media. There are various analytics tools available to determine what works best on which channels. Keeping a close eye on this and recent industry reports will help you to tailor your content in various formats to keep your audience engaged.