Virtually every business these days can benefit from understanding how to reach out to and engage customers and key influencers via social media platforms. Cathy’s most recent Knoxville News Sentinel column gives insight on how social media could help B2B organizations get more business.

The use of social media marketing has risen dramatically across all industries in recent months. Worldwide, there are over 1.79 billion monthly, active Facebook users.

For marketers, social media platforms represent an opportunity to reach a targeted, captive audience in a fast-paced world of clicks, likes, shares, retweets and mentions. Traditionally, companies advertising to consumers would occupy the majority of this digital space. That trend is shifting, however, as more and more B2B companies are realizing the power of social media marketing as well.

Although social media marketing can be very beneficial for B2B businesses, it is important to execute these strategies through a focused, research-driven plan in order to elicit the best results. While consumer-facing social media content tends to be somewhat more spontaneous and creative, B2B social media marketing should focus on the business – its presence in the industry, its ability to perform, etc.

Platforms that work well for B2B social media marketing are LinkedIn and Twitter. Although both have substantially fewer users than social media giant Facebook, they frequently provide a better opportunity to achieve B2B marketing goals.

So what should B2B social media marketing strive to accomplish?

First and foremost, social media marketing should help B2B organizations achieve greater brand awareness.

Whether it’s through LinkedIn, Twitter or even Facebook, social media platforms allow businesses to talk about their brand and to get it in front of a wide audience quickly. In creating awareness, B2B companies establish familiarity and positive attention through news, insights and industry information. Potential clients or customers are social media users as well. Getting in front of them creates awareness, which increases the likelihood of being able to connect with and ultimately do business with a potential customer. Sharing content and promoting it on these sites is easy, affordable and very trackable.

Second, social media marketing can help B2B organizations stimulate sales.

By first creating awareness with potential customers, B2B organizations are then able to more successfully convert sales by way of social media platforms. Social media networks offer opportunities to connect to groups, conversations and even individual targets – which can quickly go from the digital landscape to the conference room with the right finesse. Sites like LinkedIn offer tremendous amounts of information – who the CEO is at a particular organization, who the HR person is, etc. – and all with the added benefit of being able to connect to these individuals through creative and personalized messaging. It’s an ever-important part of modern-day networking.

Last, but certainly not least, social media marketing offers the opportunity for B2B organizations to “show off.”

Consider the fact that social media users are employing their platforms to get much more than simply entertainment. More often than not, social media users turn to these same sources for news and information. This gives B2B organizations a chance to show off what they’ve done well and what they could potentially offer a new customer. This can be executed through advertising, group involvement and/or conversations that illustrate success and knowledge in a particular field. B2B organizations can utilize social media platforms to spread their messages and to share stories on the great things they are doing.

LinkedIn is the obvious choice for B2B social media marketing, as it offers the most “business-like” environment, along with the most engaged business-minded users. It also offers an opportunity to join groups or communities of like-minded individuals and organizations. LinkedIn has a direct messaging feature, which affords the opportunity to connect directly with a potential client or customer. LinkedIn is also popular for its profiles and helpful information about executives and their companies.

Twitter gives B2B organizations the opportunity to engage quickly in real-time. Whereas LinkedIn conversations tend to be more formal and require time between responses, Twitter is a fast-paced platform that thrives on being in the moment of news and events. Twitter can be used effectively to promote links and stories about your business to a wide audience quickly, as well as promoting content from other popular sources that resonates with your brand.

Facebook is less popular for B2B social media marketing but can be used in a similar way to Twitter in terms of promoting content and generating overall awareness. It can serve as an extension of a B2B website – a place to share content with the intent of informing and passively promoting.

Social media marketing should be seen as an integral tool of any B2B organization’s overall strategic marketing plan. B2B companies can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines and let more tech savvy competitors steal the limelight. Social media is much more than just a place to socialize – it’s a place to get news, connect with others and, in some cases, actually do business. Social media marketing for B2B organizations creates awareness and results in more leads – which can result in more business.

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