What’s the Value of Social Media in B2B Marketing?

*This article was originally published on Social Media Today

What’s the value of social media?

So, you have a business and you’ve gotten your budding empire signed up for a Twitter account and a Facebook page (and perhaps Pinterest and Foursquare?). Go you! You’re part of the social media revolution. Cake and champagne for everyone!

Fast forward a few months and you suddenly find yourself asking – what’s this actually doing for me? It’s a popular question on a lot of professional minds these days. “Ok,” you say, “I got on board this train, where’s it taking me?”

Ensuring your business has a presence in the virtual world is an essential part of any successful marketing plan. That said, it’s easy to get lost in social media. Between looking up relevant industry articles to load up the Tweetdeck and responding to comments on your Facebook page you can start to feel like you’re spending a lot of valuable time and resources keeping up a presence that isn’t necessarily turning into dollars. Or is it?

I like to think of social media as a networking tool. I know, that sounds rather obvious but if you take a look you’ll see a lot of businesses aren’t utilizing it the way they should. Effective networking leads to sales, especially in the B2B market. Social media is a great B2B sales tool, particularly Twitter, you just have to change the way you approach networking and sales.

Ever see a business you’d like to pitch your product or service to but had no connection? As any salesperson worth their salt will tell you, pitching to someone you’ve built a relationship with is easier, and usually much more successful, than cold calling. You just need a way to get a foot in the door, to get in their good graces, to endear yourself to them, and then the sale will follow. That’s how it happened in the brick and mortar days of sales, right? Well, Twitter can be the tool that gets those lines of communications flowing. The key is to pace yourself and to not be…..sales-y.

It’s important to remember that there are just as many spammers and cold tweeting annoyances out there as there are telemarketers. No one wants to talk with them. So sending a tweet to a new business you’d like to sell yourself to 5 minutes after you start following them isn’t going to hack it. You’ll be written off. Lines of communication closed. Twitter isn’t about broadcasting (though a lot of people seem to think otherwise). It’s about listening. It’s about conversations. It’s about building a relationship. Take your time. See what sort of things they tweet. Retweet the ones that are pertinent to your business and add a short encouraging message in front of it that pays them a compliment.

“Talk about a dog day afternoon! RT @ChicDesigns It’s bring your dog to work day at the office!”

It sounds corny, but this is what gets them to notice you. And if they reply, then you can get a conversation going. I like to compare it to networking at a cocktail hour. No one appreciates the guy who shows up, buys you a drink and lays into a business pitch. They want to talk to the guy cracking the jokes who also just happens to work at the company you want to be in business with. Show your personality, have some fun with it. In social media it’s as much about listening as it is about getting your message out there.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again – It’s not just about the message. It’s about the conversation. Keep your chin up, connect with the right people, build a relationship and then make your pitch. The sales will follow. Social media can get you in the room with the right people. It just happens to be a virtual room. If you can outline and define a social media strategy and refrain from merely broadcasting you’ll see that much sought after ROI start rolling in.

And if it doesn’t, tweet me and we can discuss some new plans of attack.