As you are no doubt aware, social media is becoming increasingly more popular in B2B software marketing. The big three of social media are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Given the market power of Google, there’s no doubt that Google+ will eventually be an important channel for B2B marketers to integrate into their social media mix. However, no one has quite figured that one out yet (if readers have some great b2b marketing examples, please share in comments). Pinterest is also worth mentioning for it’s sheer growth this year (it’s broken in the top 30 for page views) although B2B best practices are also still being discovered.
If you’re doing research on the reach of social media. There are some pretty interesting stats in this article on the topic. What I found particularly interesting was the peak usage data (for example, Twitter seems to peak between 2pm and 6pm).
So, where do you start? How do you use social media to market your company’s enterprise software products? I see a few categories of usage for software companies, and in particular product marketers.
The Company Account
First of all, your company should be mining social media for the customer service and branding purposes. Your Twitter account should be a central location for dialogue about your product and services. It should be quick to respond to any customer service inquiries, and it should provide useful content that’s related to your market. If you keep your company twitter account engaging, you will have then earned the right to post about your own company from time to time, by linking to your own pages and lead generating collateral. Just make sure that what you link to is interesting, and not just about grabbing a lead. No one likes that. And make sure linking to your pages is not all you do with your social media accounts. It will appear spammy and get you unfollowed.
You should have a Facebook page in your company’s name and engage in dialogue with customers, as well as post about important events that are occurring. Here’s a great article on setting up your company Facebook profile.
LinkedIn is where many people start today in researching your brand. Keeping your profile up-to-date and engaged in groups is important to raise awareness. LinkedIn is also a great place to post jobs within your organization. The more you contribute to groups by answering questions, the higher your profile will be. You can post your own content and drive leads to your site from LinkedIn.
Make sure that your company itself is active in these social media channels. It’s not only a great place for customer development but lack of a social profile can really be a warning sign for potential prospects these days and eventually the conversation might even turn against you. Here’s a great quote from this article by Alex Payne: “If you don’t provide a forum for those discussions, someone else will, and you won’t control it.”
I believe it’s also important for B2B software companies to establish employees as thought leaders within the social media universe. I would not restrict this to a job title. It shouldn’t be solely your product marketers that take to Twitter – if your technical folks like to write by all means, let them. However, you will find product marketers take to social media quite well.
Your thought leaders should be tweeting and establishing themselves as centers of knowledge in relation to the market. I tweet about 4-8 times a day, with what I hope is content that is useful to my followers. I find this content by subscribing to a bunch of RSS feeds that are interesting to me and using the Feedly extension for Chrome when I am at a PC. On my iPad I use Mr. Reader, and on my Android phone I use good old Google Reader. I don’t check my reader all day. Instead, I check it in the morning, at lunch, and at the end of the day. All I have to do is scan the articles and pluck out what I find interesting. I read them, and if they are worth sharing I use Hootsuite to manage the flow of tweets. I’ll often schedule 4 or 5 tweets at one time, but to be sent out over the course of a time period like the morning or afternoon.
It’s also important to not just blast content but to engage with others in social media. This can be challenging at times as it gets time consuming, and when you’re working you just might not have the time. However, if you engage others in active dialogue then your social media presence will skyrocket as people love actual conversation rather than just being published to.
One of the most fundamental, oldest and still underrated component to your social media strategy as a product marketer will be to keep an active blog for your company. Some companies produce a “company” blog, and some like to distinguish the individual contributors. I like to personally blog a few times a month for my company as it improves our standing with the search engines, and gives those prospects who are out there doing their own individual research before contacting vendors a reason to check out my company – I’m helping them with free information.
To generate content for my company blog, I employ a fairly standard content market practice. Think of your content like a pyramid. At the top is the big idea, which usually becomes a white paper or some other extensive content piece with tons of depth. Once that’s written, you can generate many social media content elements from blog posts to tweets. The lower levels of the period are less in depth but more frequent.
Another element that you should consider as a product marketer is to produce YouTube videos and podcasts. At my company we call our videos “chalktalks” where we take an important concept about our offering and spend a few minutes whiteboarding it. Here’s my latest one on the technology behind OpTier products.
So, if you start to employ these tactics your company will become more socially engaged and in touch with the new world of B2B marketing. It’s not just about bring the leads in early in the purchasing process. Today it’s about being a company that exhibits thought leadership, useful and free content and actively engages in the dialogue in the marketplace. The best companies are already there and you should be moving yours there as well.
What do you think? Any tips you’d like to share about social media for B2B product marketers? I’d love to hear them!