*Originally published on CommercialIntegrator.com
Pro AV marketing revolves around the smart use of social media. You don’t need to be on ALL the channels, you just need to know how to use the ones you do.
You’ve just finished writing an exceptional blog post that helps your customers better understand a pain point. Maybe you give them tips to improve the sound quality on their next conference call.
Now, you need to figure out how to make sure people see this great blog post.
Last month, I wrote about the concept of the marketing funnel. The goal at the top of the funnel is to introduce prospects to your company through educational, non-salesy content.
A blog post like the one described above is a perfect fit.
There are a number of effective ways to get traffic (eyes) to your content, and some of them are even free, like organic social media.
Whether or not you are a frequent user of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. you have probably heard that many other people are. The chart below shows the astounding number of people who have signed up for these services.
Just because they are popular doesn’t mean they are a good fit for your business though.
It’s important to think about who your target customers are and how they align with the average users of each of these services.
For example, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn users tend to be middle aged while
Instagram and SnapChat users are much younger. YouTube falls somewhere in the middle with a growing audience of older people joining every day.
Given the dynamics of the commercial integration business, I would recommend that you focus on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. However, the best way to leverage each of these platforms varies.
The term organic post refers to unpaid updates that you make on these social media platforms. The main benefit is that they are free – can’t say no to that! But don’t overlook the cost that goes into a social media strategy in terms of time commitment. Ideally, your business should be posting new content every day.
In order to be able to maintain frequent updates over a long period of time, it’s important that you have a structured social media marketing plan:
WHO: Specify who is allowed to post on behalf of your company in order to ensure consistency and limit problems. This person will also have to make time on a daily basis to manage your social media updates. If this is a new responsibility for this person, you may want to consider having them take a training course. Hubspot Academy has some terrific free classes that can provide a nice introduction.
WHAT: The point of your social media program is to engage prospects and customers. You need to put time into figuring out what content they want to see, create that content and distribute it.
Here are some suggestions:
- Customer testimonials either written quotes or short videos
- Highlights of an exciting new project
- Fun facts like the size of the largest video wall
- Famous quotes that inspire and are related to your industry, company mission, etc.
- Special day of the week like Throwback Thursday or Wacky Wednesday
WHERE: Once you create a profile for your company on a social media platform, followers are going to expect to see regular updates. It’s a good idea to start with one social media platform and implement your strategy for a while before you consider adding another. If you start off too fast and then find you don’t have time for regular updates, your social media program will languish.
WHEN: In addition to ensuring that you have regular (often daily) updates, you can track the results of your posts to get a sense of whether there are certain times of the day or days of the week that work better than others for your market. Traditionally in business to business email marketing, we tend to focus on Tues-Thurs but I have seen that weekends and holidays can be great times for social media updates. People are often on Facebook and Twitter when they have downtime – or are trying to avoid the family holiday dinner.
HOW: The best advice I can give is to create a social media calendar and plan out the content of each post at least a week ahead of time. That way, if something comes up, the content is already prepared and someone can fill in to place the posts if needed. You can also use social media management software such as HootSuite and Sprout Social to schedule posts ahead of time.
The Lowdown on Social Media Platforms
Each social media platform is slightly different with a variety of strengths and weaknesses as well as best practices to maximize your results. It’s important to take all of these considerations under advisement as you select the first platform that you want to engage with.
We tend to think of Great Aunt Sally’s latest cat photo when we talk about Facebook but it’s also a surprisingly effective B2B marketing tool. You can reach all the same people you interact with during the work week but at a time when they are relaxed and more open to reading your content.
Your first step in Facebook marketing should be to create a Business Page. It will include a short overview of your company and is where you will start posting your updates. Once the page is set up, be sure to include Facebook buttons on your website, emails and other marketing communications so people can start to follow your page.
Once upon a time, companies could reach large numbers of new contacts with organic Facebook posts. One of the impacts of recent changes to Facebook due to privacy concerns is that your organic posts will now only go to a subset of the people who follow your page.
Across Facebook, content is now prioritized to show your personal contacts ahead of posts from businesses. As a result, it has become more challenging to get effective free marketing on Facebook. One alternative is to create a Facebook Group where you invite like-minded people to get together and discuss. Any posts made within that group will be seen by everyone in the group.
More and more businesses are also turning to paid Facebook ads as a way to reach beyond their existing contacts. You can use Facebook targeting tools to reach people based on their interests, job titles, etc. Plus, you can create lookalike audiences of people who are similar to your existing contacts – this is an exceptional way to expand your reach.
Originally LinkedIn was a platform for finding your next job but has evolved to become much more. Since it is focused on business and industry contacts, posts are more professional. However, over time they have become much less dedicated to the job search. It’s a great place to learn about trends in your industry, effective business practices, popular B2B events, etc.
Similar to Facebook, you can create a Business Page and Group on LinkedIn. The content for these would be handled by your social media manager much like Facebook. It’s also possible to run paid ads on LinkedIn but the cost is much higher than Facebook. It’s not uncommon to pay $5+ per click. LinkedIn ads are best used for very targeted account-based marketing programs where you know exactly who you want to reach.
However, I believe that the best way to leverage the LinkedIn platform is through personal networking and outreach.
I would recommend that you meet with the leaders in your company and define a common strategy for LinkedIn, including:
1. Connect with the Right People: Who do you want to sell to or influence? Your entire executive team as well as others in your company should be connecting with them on LinkedIn – not just your sales team. Put together a target list of companies and individuals that you want to build a relationship with and divide it amongst yourselves.
2. Deliver Consistent Value: Once you connect with the prized new contacts, the worst thing you could do is message them to ask for something. Instead, you should be on the lookout for helpful content you can post or share with your followers. If you pick the right content, over time your connections will see that you have an update and be excited to learn more.
3. Build a Personal Voice: Once you have built a pattern of sharing useful information, you can start to publish longer form content. These articles can be somewhat similar to a blog post in the sense that you want to address a common pain point but should be written in a more personal style with anecdotes from your own experiences.
4. Then Reach Out: As you consistently share value, you will find people are searching you out to connect. At this point, you can message someone you have been connected with for a few weeks/months and present a very specific business opportunity. Maybe discuss a shared interest and see if they would like to talk in more depth.
When there’s breaking news, it will likely be seen on Twitter first. That’s because the whole focus of the platform is quick updates on what’s new. Like on Facebook, you can create an official account for your business and use it to share updates. All posts on Twitter are “public” unlike Facebook and LinkedIn where you can control who sees your content.
Tweets must be no more than 280 characters (up from the original 140 limit). This forced brevity has given rise to the use of hashtags such as #AVTweeps to expand your reach.
You can share photos and videos so many of your Facebook posts would also work well on Twitter (although shortened). Additionally, you can follow important hashtags in your industry, so you are always in the know when breaking news is taking place. This allows you to capitalize on the moment, by using that trending hashtag.
My advice on this platform is to make sure that you are updating not once, but a few times per day. Your messages can quickly become buried in your audience’s newsfeeds due to the number of updates happening constantly.
Of all of these social media platforms, I would say YouTube is still developing, especially on the B2B side. At my house, my teenagers hardly know what the black box called a TV is since they spend so much time on YouTube, Netflix, etc. It’s easy to think of it as simply a consumer play. However, it can be much more than that.
Not only can you find a video to teach you how to fry a turkey in a trash can on YouTube, you can also find instructions on how to install a videoconferencing system. And just like the turkey example, the vast majority of people doing that search will decide it’s not something they can tackle by themselves. Wouldn’t you like the people looking for a videoconferencing system to contact you?
The best way to get started on YouTube is to create your own video channel. You can then establish categories for your videos like install examples, steps to prep for a project, etc. Over time, you can build up this library of content and make it available for others to find.
It’s also possible to place paid ads on YouTube which is something that my team has been spending a lot of time on lately. It’s really a blue ocean for B2B marketers with vastly less competition than the other social media and search channels.
We’ve been pretty excited so far with the results since you can also retarget your existing contacts and create similar audiences (which are comparable to lookalike audiences on Facebook).
I am hoping this article gives you an overview of what is possible with social media marketing as well as some specific first steps that you can take. Social media is a relatively low-cost marketing vehicle but as I said earlier you shouldn’t overlook the time it requires. If you plan ahead and start small, you can see positive results without an enormous investment in either time or money.