Marketing Tips, Articles & Tools

Social Media Marketing for Business

By Jeff Dietrich, Plug Media Group

B2B social media conversation

Smart businesses are investing more heavily in online marketing this year. Paid search, display ads, websites and email marketing are all part of a successful interactive strategy, but many companies, in order to stay competitive and eek out more bang for their marketing buck, have also adopted social media programs or are at least planning on working with a social media agency in the upcoming months.

Social media marketing presents a new and powerful tool for marketing your business, and those who want to engage with their customers better and increase sales are investing in this high-return channel. Simply put, the goal of social media and marketing is to create a new and active group of advocates talking positively about your brand.

While in the past it may have been easier for companies to write off social media as mere fad, new tools and resources have made social media too important to ignore. Now a multigenerational part of our culture, social networking represents an entirely new way in which people and companies communicate. It builds upon and reinforces your brand and helps generate more business activity and referrals.

The “2010 Outlook” by BtoB Magazine predicted that social marketing would continue to grow in importance for business-to-business marketers. As of November 2009, 54% of survey respondents were using social media for marketing, up 9 percent from November 2008 and about 4 percent from June 2009. 60% of business-to-business marketers surveyed said they plan to boost spending on social media in 2011.

Before diving in, learning the basics and understanding the tools are critical. There are distinct differences between personal networking and business networking, as are the protocol and tactics used to engage ones audience. It is important to map out a plan and assign a team or resource from your organization who will be able to participate and engage your customers once the dialogue has started. Many companies choose to work with a social media agency to help provide monitoring and reporting of metrics as well as to ensure best practices are followed.

Plug Media Group works with companies to help them communicate and connect better using the tools these networks provide. We outline a strategy and help clients set up their business on LinkedIn or Facebook or create a Twitter account, for example, walking them through the capabilities of the tools, then we help make sure they follow through and continue to integrate social media with other online marketing initiatives as a holistic approach designed to make the most of their investment.

The best way for businesses to approach social media and networking activity is to keep in mind the basics. Listen to and engage in conversations. Respond to people who talk about issues that are important to your company. Lastly, update frequently with valuable information.

Top of mind in all of this for most marketers is accountability and being able to make the connection from social marketing to sales. Until recently marketers were not as well-equipped to track or measure the results of their social media tactics, making them less-likely to adopt such programs. Working with a social media agency is the best way to keep a clear picture of how your business and online marketing tactics are perceived and utilized by your customers. The impact of third-party tools and social media on business goals has always been difficult to quantify.

In 2009, a majority of businesses were still unsure about the actual value of being on LinkedIn or Twitter or the impact of having an industry blog. The obvious benefits of social media are customer referrals, reviews, polling, and brand awareness, but when done correctly social marketing builds upon and improves the entire business practice. Look to open the door to new levels of activity and measurability, and partner with social media agencies to make the connection between social networks and sales.

Jeff Dietrich is a brand strategy and media consultant with Plug Media Group in Houston, Texas.

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