This Spotlight on Social Media for Business-to-Business Companies series is brought to you by LinkedIn, where marketers can reach the world’s largest audience of professionals as they network, collaborate and share valuable business insights and information.
The following Q-and-A is with Ashley Goetz, marketing coordinator at Quantum Retail, which provides technology and software solutions to retail companies. Read more about Quantum Retail’s best practices for businesses on its blog.
A lot of social-media best practices are aimed at consumer-focused businesses. How do you need to rethink social-media marketing when you’re approaching it from a business-to-business perspective?
When you’re doing it from a business-to-business perspective, it’s a little bit harder to engage higher level executives. What we try to approach it as is a [tool] for knowledge sharing and connecting those executives with resources that they maybe wouldn’t otherwise see.
For example, [on] our Twitter account, we don’t necessarily use it like retailers do — where you’re interacting with customers, answering questions. We pretty much use it as a news feed, where we’re sharing what is relevant in the retail industry. …
We don’t see Facebook as being applicable as much to business-to-business — it’s a little too close into people’s lives. But LinkedIn is actually perfect for us … it allows us to be involved in groups and share the resources that we develop. … sharing white papers, linking to our blog. I would say that’s about about 10% of the traffic to our website.
What are your social-media goals?
The main thing we’re trying to achieve with this social media is share knowledge and our expertise. … Our goal in marketing is to use that knowledge to create white papers and such that we can use to educate the rest of the industry on innovative best practices.
How does social media fit into your sales strategy?
It’s a sales tool to [create] brand awareness and to educate the leads we’re going after. And a lot of them do read the resources we put out — the white papers and reports — and it makes the business development initiatives that much fuller, because they’re already versed in our way of thinking and they’ve heard of us and they see us as industry experts. … It’s amazing, some of the high level executives we’ve had reach out to us because they saw something on LinkedIn or someone shared a report with them or they saw a discussion.
What special social-media challenges do you face as a small business?
That’s one of the main reasons we’re so involved in social media, as a brand awareness tool. … People are used to seeing my face and seeing information that’s coming from our company and they know it’s not spam and it’s not just selling our company. It’s more about educating and now people understand that when we put out information, it’s very legitimate and they’re going to learn a lot from it.
Is there any social-media conventional wisdom that you’ve had to learn to ignore because it just doesn’t apply to your industry?
Facebook [is] not very applicable to us. It’s more of a personal social network and when you get into business messages it’s almost too invasive, I think. … I think there’s a line you have to draw [regarding] what social media actually makes sense and how you use it in a professional business environment.
There’s a stereotype that business-to-business content can be a little dry. How do make sure you content is engaging?
We understand that with the typical white paper you expect something that will be somewhat informative, somewhat technical and that will typically be pushing the company’s products. So the way that we approached that is that is let’s put out a report on what’s going on in the industry — include a lot of news articles and references to things that are actually happening in that report that are … cross-industry trends: social media, mobile commerce, up and coming technology — what retailers should be looking for. From including more current news and things like that, we got a lot more people that were engaged with it, because you can actually see an example of how one retailer is using [technology.]
Have you been able to determine what your return on investment on your social-media efforts is?
That’s one of the things about social media that’s great, is that most of it doesn’t cost anything. LinkedIn, Twitter, those kinds of social media, they don’t cost anything. We do invest in things like our e-mail marketing efforts and being able to see who’s downloaded something and tracking things like that. And that has definitely paid off for us, because we can engage more when we see who is actually reading our materials and opening e-mails. We can gauge what they’re interested in and how lead gen will reach out to them to further connect and move the process along.