Social Marketing Campaigns for B2B Marketers

“Social” is different, but how to map it into  what I already know?

While thinking of changes as a revolution is useful to create awareness, changes in business typically happen over time. And the basic principles of marketing or any other business discipline don’t get thrown off the window overnight.

If you are in a small or medium-sized B2B company, hear a lot from Social Media experts about the need to “listen” and “engage” and “set a Facebook page”, but very little advice on how to bridge and integrate traditional marketing and social media marketing campaigns, this post is written for you.

This post leverages what you already know about marketing campaigns to help understand how marketing campaigns happen in Social Media as compared to Traditional Media.

Not just another media

The core difference between Social Media and Classical Media is that the latter is uni-directional. Print, radio TV, and e-mail enable inexpensive broadcast of messages to a large audience, but did not offer the channels for customer participation and for audience peer-to-peer interaction.

Social Media, however, can support more engagement between all participants. The media mix is moving towards dynamic web and Social Media. The shift is gradual but, because the new media is fundamentally different, it has effects that go beyond a simple change of channels.

Segmenting to reach you target audience

Before running a marketing campaign, we need to find an effective way to reach our audience.

Traditionally, segmentation is provided by media companies. If I want to target women considering purchases related to wedding planning, I would advertise or run a joint campaign with a vertical publication, say, “New Bride Magazine”.

No change. Social Media knows a lot about the members of the Social Networks it supports. Facebook and Google can help you to segment through targeted advertising or by letting you peek into the demographics or behavioral patters of web users. But the audience also self-segment themselves by congregating around LinkedIn discussion groups, making their personal profiles available, or using Twitter hash tags, for example.

Publishing content and promoting it

Like in traditional marketing, a social campaign usually starts with content “push” from the company. In Social Media, you cannot really “push” so the message is less self-centered and the content must be more open and interesting to the audience to attract attention.

That could be a blog followed by promotion in Twitter, for example. Or a social media advertisement campaign involving a video in YouTube. The goal is to get the audience to react and interact with you. When they do, they let you know of their interest and become part of your Social Marketing Funnel (which moves from your proprietary database to Social Media).

Engaging and Converting

Traditionally, “lead conversion” happened when the “suspect” provided their identity by calling the company, replying to an e-mail, or filling a form on the website. The company interprets that as a license to engage in a sales conversation.

Social Media allows for a more gradual engagement. Users can visit social media properties and “follow”, which implies interest but not necessarily a signal of readiness to buy. A brand advocate might not be a potential source of new business, but might help you to influence many other prospects by recommending your product or service publicly.

Social Marketing needs to be capable and ready to acknowledge and reciprocate those more subtle levels of engagement with market participants.

Nurturing a prospect into a customer

While the monthly e-mail newsletter may still be applicable in some cases, Social Media create new possibilities of soft engagement that can be less intrusive and more sensitive to customer interest.

Customers can follow the company Twitter channel, or comment in the company blog or download a white paper. The nurturing process is less of a monthly pool and more of a continuous engagement.

After a first transaction, the work of marketing was to pursue Customer Loyalty. In the Social Business era, companies need to strive to turn happy customers in Brand Advocates and cultivate the direct channels to let them influence others. Rather than publishing glossy Case Studies, you can directly connect your happy customers to your prospects in much more authentic and transparent interaction.

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