Online social networking is one of the fastest-growing methods of marketing. Facebook pages for companies are mushrooming; LinkedIn is the de facto way to network among professionals; and dozens of new business-to-business social networking sites have popped up on the Web. Here are five things you need to know to effectively use social networking to connect with other businesses and boost your business profile.
Reasons for Social Networking
More companies are turning to social networking sites because they are an efficient way to get the word out to other businesses about products and services. A study conducted by the search engine marketing firm iProspect uncovered four major reasons why marketers use social networking sites, in order of popularity: 1) to drive traffic; 2) to create brand awareness; 3) for direct selling; and 4) to influence purchase decisions. Studies indicate that at least 22 percent of businesses plan to join a social networking site within the year.
All social networking sites aren’t created equal. Before you reach out to other businesses, think about your demographic. If you’re trying to reach younger business owners, MySpace may bring you more rewards than Facebook. If you’re looking for female business owners over age 50, Facebook may give you the most bang for your buck. Many business experts recommend targeting your marketing efforts even more directly. For example, if you sell mainly to IT buyers, try a targeted IT social network such as ITtoolbox Community Hub or Focus. If you’re trying to reach small business buyers, look for social networks dedicated to them.
Remember to promote yourself on a regular basis when you market to other businesses. You should update your products and services at least weekly (some say daily) to maintain the best visibility. Respond to questions and requests for information promptly, and address any concerns your customers may have. Social networking isn’t a one-way street. You need to interact with other potential clients and companies, becoming their “friend” or joining their group. Promote yourself in these groups, but interact with them, too. Soon you’ll gain the trust of the group, which is an important element of using social networking for B2B marketing.
Beyond Face-to-Face Marketing
Some experts say that social networking will never replace good, old-fashioned face-to-face marketing. But others say social networking sites can open up new markets. These sites can actually facilitate open communication and shared knowledge across a broader range of vendors. The trick, however, is to be sure to become more than just a salesperson who is always trying to sell a product or service. By offering your expertise and opinions on the discussion of the day, potential business prospects will come to know you as an informed, thoughtful business person with whom they might like to do business. That’s what you want to accomplish with marketing on social networks.
Creating a Profile
The first thing you will do once you decide which social networking site or sites are right for you is to create a profile. Make it as detailed as possible; show off your goods, services, and skills; and be sure to keep it updated. You can see what kind of a reaction you get; and modify your profile as you branch out to other sites you’ve identified for your demographic.