So by now you probably realize the potential social networking holds for both you and your company – but you might be unsure as to how you can really use it effectively. A recent Mashable article (HOW TO: Use Social Media for Enterprise Business by Ben Parr http://mashable.com/2009/06/30/social-media-enterprise/) outlines four of the best ways to use social networking from a B2B perspective. Below are his suggestions – as well of some examples of how we are making social media for us:
1. Build a reputation of expertise.
Blogs, according to Parr, are the best way to illustrate your know-how. Sure, a large number of followers can garner a lot of attention, but if you choose to blog about niche topics, and someone stumbles upon your blog when searching for a relative solution, you have hit the jackpot. Become an expert, write about things people care about and interact with fellow bloggers as well as your readers; before you know it, you can become the go-to resource – something we all want.
We operate three blogs at JB: Mine, the graphic design blog (http://www.cuttothepaste.com) and a marketing “newbie” blog (http://www/marketingnewbiekimberly.com). Though we might not have thousands of followers (yet!), we blog about what we know: design and marketing! We blog about things people want to read about: creative logos, outrageous ads, trends in the industry…. And we acknowledge our readers through comments.
2. Research your customers
Get some background on your customers to help keep you in the loop. This means checking out their Facebook profiles/fan pages, Twitter profiles and blogs. You can not only see how they portray themselves, but also how they interact with their own customers. This can help you get a feel for the company in general, as well as what others are saying about them. It would be wise to also be up on their (and your!) industry-wide trends. Google Alerts is one way to do this.
We are heavily involved in the SoNet arena, so simply by having Twitter and FB accounts, we like to think we know a lot about the trends of the minute. Simple tools such as search.twitter.com, hashtags and Google Alerts help keep us informed – because with social media, things are always changing, and if you are not up with the latest and greatest, you can miss out. We monitor the trends, then respond and adapt accordingly… which is the best approach, in our eyes.
3. Ramp up your networking
This one’s pretty obvious: Networking really can help get your foot in the door. Whether it’s by knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone, meeting up through a Twitter meet up or connecting via Linked In, being involved is important. It can help you stand out from the crowd, illustrating you as someone who is connected and socially apt. And we all know its connections such as these that can establish relationships, which can then lead to the signing of a contract.
Within the past year I have met several great contacts through Twitter. These are contacts that tweeted out things of interest to me, which I then reached out to. Since then, we have shared tips and referred one another to potential clients. Really, it’s easy. Be open minded, reach out to others, say something of value and go from there. Changes are if they are using a social site such as Twitter, and you go about it the right way, they will be receptive.
4. Learn from others
This one is really important, especially since social media is constantly changing. See what others are doing and how it is working for them. Learn from others’ mistakes and incorporate elements of their success into your SoNet strategy. You can do this by following the tweets of industry leaders, getting an RSS feed to top blogs and asking questions. We do all this and more. We read sites such as Mashable to learn about, for example, Twitter’s recent changes; we read tweets about apps we are thinking about adding; and we talk to others about their finding, likes and dislikes.
We aren’t perfect, but our ability to learn while rolling with the punches has gotten us where we are today: A company leading the charge in successful SoNet campaigns. All it takes is a little trial and error and a lot of elbow grease… but once you discover how social media can work for you, it just might make all the difference.