For B2B organisations seeking qualified lead generation, social media can be a powerful marketing tool that allows you to drive thought-leadership and build credibility around a strong online market position that will engage your target audience.
But which social network is the best for B2B marketing? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube each offer B2B marketers value, so let’s take a look and see how they stack up.
Google+: This is Google’s version of Facebook and has over 350 million active users, so it certainly has reach. And power, because content placed on Google+ can rank highly in the personal search results of your Google+ circles and feature-rich content such as online video ultimately gains more exposure.
With Google+ you can also have a business page, which allows people to follow and engage with your business on a personal level and creates opportunities for the relationship development crucial to B2B sales.
Another major plus as a B2B social network is the Google+ Hangout real-time video application which allows video conferencing through a webcam. It’s a quick and easy way to keep business professionals talking on Google+ and sessions can be published directly to YouTube.
Being a Google product, Google+ will doubtless be integrated into developing applications supporting content marketing and organic search – such ‘social signals’ are pure gold for any B2B marketer.
LinkedIn: Created to facilitate and develop business relationships and now boasting 225 million active users, LinkedIn is the ultimate social networking tool for business professionals.
The most compelling feature of LinkedIn for B2B is the ability to view professional details of target prospects and determine appropriate introductions. Paid features like Lead Builder and Profile Organiser also offer valuable CRM capabilities and on a company level LinkedIn enables on-on-one engagement plus networking in Groups and in the context of comments and status engagement.
Opportunities as a marketing tool include personal branding for executives, sales development for business development professionals and marketing opportunities via targeted, real-time lead generating advertising. Additionally, a marketer can run targeted ads by location, industry, title, company and other specific demographics and ads can capture leads on the fly.
However, LinkedIn networking and marketing doesn’t necessarily work on its own; it’s crucial to take your relationships offline, whether on the phone or in person, to close the deal.
Twitter: For busy business professionals, marketers and CEOs, Twitter is the easiest way to get a message out, enabling quick information output that links back to important conversion sites such as your website and blog.
The mobile app for Twitter and ability to tweet 24/7makes Twitter the place where news breaks and where real-time conversations happen and also makes it a great place for B2B marketers to find and engage with targeted media.
Twitter is also the best social media tool for covering and marketing the conferences, workshops and seminars that are crucial to the success of any B2B organisation these days.
On the downside, any article shared on Twitter will rank lower in organic Google results than it would on Google+ and while Twitter makes it easy to reach out to others it doesn’t guarantee a reply, with followers less ‘substantial’ than well-developed LinkedIn connections.
YouTube: Online video, done correctly with the brand top-of-mind and well planned for target engagement, should be a crucial component of any online marketer’s social media program. YouTube, as a Google product and video-serving platform, is an opportunity for B2B social networking because compelling videos, when shared appropriately, can certainly drive qualified inbound leads.
YouTube video links can also be embedded and shared on websites such as SlideShare, another valuable B2B online marketing tool. These videos can then become visible to target connections on important B2B social networking sites including Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.
As a standalone B2B social network, however, YouTube doesn’t really offer lead capture or strong relationship development.
Facebook: Facebook is certainly the number one B2C social media network. As a B2B social media tool, Facebook primarily serves to convey information about client services, online promotions and event announcements.
At the same time it does offer B2B organisations the ability to gain opt-ins for e-mail marketing on a business page. However, B2B marketers who turn to Facebook as a social media tool will need to heavily engage in target and organisational groups and pages to get the most out of Facebook as a marketing tool.
Creating direct B2B sales relationships from Facebook can be done, but not at the level of Twitter and certainly not as effectively as LinkedIn.
The best B2B social network.
LinkedIn is the best social network for B2B marketing, being the only one that was developed purely to enable direct sales relationships for B2B marketers. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube should also be in the toolbox of any serious B2B marketer, but if you have limited time and resources and want to increase your bottom line, invest wholly in LinkedIn.
*Karl Boothroyd is the founder and CEO of IMA, a specialist B2B marketing agency. IMA is owned by Australasia’s largest marketing communications company, The STW Group.
Karl can be contacted at www.imab2b.com or 02 4627 8011.