You’ve probably seen the growth of social media marketing for yourself. The fact is that social media is one of the best content marketing tactics used by B2B marketers today. Microsoft partners are hardly excluded from that demographic. However, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the variety of social networks and marketing tools available to businesses. If you’re not strategic in how you are communicating to your customers, you run the risk of overextending or even diluting your brand. Instead, partners should set out to build a solid social media presence on a few networks instead of a weak presence across many.
But how do you decide which platforms are worth your time? According to the experts, it’s largely about what your goals are, who your target audience is, and what content you are capable of producing reliably.
Understanding the Role of Social Media
Brock Wells of the Microsoft Social Media Command Center says that choosing which social network is right for your brand really depends on what platforms your target audience is using. He believes that businesses should also consider their overall goals and objectives, as well as budget, as this will help focus efforts to the desired outcomes. For example, every product and audience at Microsoft has a different social landscape because of this information.
“First start with social listening to understand what’s being said about your brand or product and on which social networks. Social listening will help guide you as to where you should focus your social efforts to drive the biggest impact and ROI for your company. Once you identify the platforms that will best meet your goals and objectives, then develop your social listening, engagement, content, and paid media strategies to help you succeed in the space.”
– Brock Wells, Microsoft Social Media Command Center
Before diving in to social media marketing, it’s wise to understand what role social media can play in your overall business processes. Here are a few statistics to put things in perspective.
- 91% of B2B marketers who use social media sites to distribute content turn to LinkedIn as their platform of choice. 85% use Twitter, and 81% use Facebook (source).
- A whopping 80% of leads generated through social media for B2B marketers come from LinkedIn (source).
- Facebook has more than 1.59 billion active users, Twitter has more than 320 million active users worldwide, and LinkedIn has more than 450 million members (source, source).
Social media is a real factor in business success today. But many partners struggle to use social media effectively. With fast changing and ever-evolving social networks, it’s tough for businesses to know where they should focus their efforts. Jeff Shuey, IAMCP Seattle chapter President, IACMP Board Member, and Enterprise Content Management expert, recommends U.S. partners focus on the following networks: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Keep in mind that depending on which country you live in, there may be other social media channels that speak to your audience, but in the U.S. these are the big three.
If you’re not using LinkedIn for your business marketing, you certainly should be. Similarly to its function as a professional network, LinkedIn is strong in its ability to facilitate social selling, make connections, build relationships and share expertise all on a global scale (as each country has their own . In our recent blog about collaboration between The Final Step and Giacom, the two partners featured initially connected through LinkedIn.
Of course, because it’s a more formal social media platform, LinkedIn calls for more deliberate content to build a worthwhile following. Users are investing their time on the site looking for information that can help them solve problems at work or advance their careers. For that reason, LinkedIn is great for sharing industry and business-focused content. However, if you’re regularly posting content that is irrelevant to the business conversation, people will tune you out.
“LinkedIn is a platform for getting business done. When I go on LinkedIn I expect to see business related content, not pictures of cats.”
– Jeff Shuey, IAMCP
Twitter is a great way for companies to get the word out about their business. Jeff likens them to a megaphone, practical but not very targeted in terms of reaching your audience. Since all tweets can be seen by everyone, Twitter as a marketing tool is best for sharing breaking news and providing quick updates to a breadth audience.
“Twitter’s megaphone properties also work in reverse, where Twitter becomes a great listening station. Smart companies listen to their customers and partners on Twitter.”
– Jeff Shuey, IAMCP
Twitter’s 140 character limit might put a boundary on how much content you can communicate on the network itself, but there’s a valuable opportunity to share links to other, more long-form content such as blogs, videos, or white papers with followers. After recent updates, content such as photos, videos, polls, and Gifs no longer count toward character totals, providing even more opportunity for businesses to share content with their followers on Twitter.
It’s also important to keep in mind that Twitter is searchable. Hashtags and the use of key words has become an art. Engaging with customers by responding to tweets, listening to customer’s perspectives, answering questions, or otherwise engaging in the conversation helps businesses serve their customers in quick, easy to consume content.
However if you don’t have a good amount of time or effort to be strategic in your social media efforts, Twitter might be more of a time suck than you’d prefer. To have a measurable impact, experts like Guy Kawasaki suggest users tweet 3-4 times per day, or 20 times per week.
Facebook is the last of the big three, and if you’re wondering whether leveraging Facebook is the best way to reach your customers, Jeff puts it this way, “Facebook is great for keeping in touch with the people you know from real life. It’s an interesting place to keep up with what’s going on in the world.” It’s a very personal network and it’s where users (and possible customers) spend their down time.
Despite being a relatively informal social sphere, Facebook has the reach and scale to make a real impact. Businesses who use Facebook to reach their customers are doing a lot to put a human face on their business. It’s great for boosting your company’s likability, so long as you provide interesting and informational content on a consistent basis. If your primary goal in leveraging social media is to build brand loyalty and strengthen relationships, Facebook might be the right fit.
But you have to make sure your content is Facebook appropriate. Jeff Shuey says, “Facebook content has to have a hook. It doesn’t have the same character limit as Twitter, but if it’s not short and sweet, chances are that folks won’t click on the link.” He also says the tools available through Facebook, like Facebook Live, are pretty interesting compared to the other big social media networks. “From a use-case scenario, Facebook is more user friendly.”
Social Media in Summary
Whether you’re looking to invest your social media time and efforts on the formal content of LinkedIn, the more personable network of Facebook, or the newscast that is Twitter, make sure you are reaching out to your target audience where they are spending their time, and where you are able to deliver on the content that is most appropriate for the platform.
How have you found success with social media marketing? Which of these “big three” social networks to you use to reach and engage your customers? Share your best practices with the Microsoft Partner Community in the comments below.