Most marketers – especially B2B marketers – realize that likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter do not necessarily translate to quality leads that result in real conversions. While some marketers may consider their network to be every person that has ever engaged with their brand on social media, most know that your true network is the qualified, valuable and relevant connections you have built a real relationship with.
B2B marketing is all about relationships. The work your marketing team does to build your social media audience and create good, engaging content is only half of the battle. From there, your sales reps and executives must work to build relationships out of that audience. Despite this, only 20% of CMOs leverage social networks to engage with customers.
To help make the most of your social media audience, here are a few ways you can find, connect and engage with people in your industry to grow your B2B network organically:
Join (and Start) Groups
Both LinkedIn groups and Google+ Communities are terrific opportunities to connect with like-minded business people in your industry. Unfortunately, many marketers make the mistake of only taking the first step – creating or joining the group and expecting things to just happen. These two groups provide the framework, but must be nurtured to thrive. The following are best practices to follow for getting the maximum benefit from these professional groups.
While LinkedIn members are allowed to join up to 50 groups, this isn’t going to be the ideal number to focus your networking on. Choose 3 – 6 that you can devote real energy to.
Once you choose groups that fit your business, your work is just beginning:
- Engage with the group: The most important rule of being a good member of an online group is to remember it’s about the community and not about you. This is not an open forum for you to sell yourself and your services. With that in mind, freely volunteer information, offer relevant insights and assist others by answering questions. The long-term goal in being an active participant should be to become a thoughtful and respected member whose opinion and insight provide value to other members.
- Manage the group: If you are the creator and/or manager of a particular group, do everyone a favor and be an active one. Support and encourage prominent users – they can serve as the catalyst to an active group. Even participants who are a bit combative or contrary at times, as long as they don’t actively attack other members, can be valuable for creating lively discussions. If you manage the group successfully, its members will see you as an even greater authority and will naturally look to you for advice and solutions to their business problems.
- Create deeper engagement: Whether you are the creator of a group or not, you have the opportunity to increase the ways in which you engage with the members. As the group grows think of other ways to connect people. Meetups, teleclasses, webinars and twitter chats are great options. Brainstorm with your key community members within and outside of the group to get new ideas flowing. Create polls to find what is most important to the group. This increased engagement helps key members see you as more than another member of a LinkedIn group, but as a real, valuable member of their business network.
Participate In (and Host) Events
One of the ways to create deeper engagement and reach a new audience is through events such as Twitter Chats and Google Hangouts. While the hosts of these events use them as a more direct lead generation tactic, they also offer you a way to network with other participants in the context of a specific topic that you both share an interest in. This potential is why 67% of B2B content marketers consider event marketing to be their most effective strategy.
The tips for participating in an online group also apply to events – be a helpful authority and look to create a deeper level of engagement with other participants. However, there are also some ways to make the most of events specifically:
- Finding Chats: There are several resources you can use to help find the most relevant chats for your industry. Tweet Reports has a good list of Twitter Chats to sort through.
- Live Events: In addition to events specifically hosted on Twitter or Google+, most webinars and live events promote a #hashtag to allow attendees to chat about the event live. If you are attending a live event, prepare tweets and other social content tailored specifically for that audience so you aren’t forced to create content while there. Even with this preloaded content, you should still have your social media team – or at least one event attendee – ready to provide live commentary and engage with other attendees in real-time.
Once you have grown your B2B network through social media, make sure you keep that engagement going. While it may be tempting to collect these new leads and load them into the same automated email campaign as all your other prospects, you can see more value by continuing the relationship on social media. Check out my recent post on How to Nurture Leads via Social Media for more information on that.
What other social media strategies do you use to build your B2B network? What LinkedIn Groups or Google+ Communities are you part of? Let us know in the comments!
Cover image: flick @hanspoldoja