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B2B Social Media: Got Your Toe Wet, Now It's Time to Swim


You tweet, blog, have a Facebook page, and created a Ning community.  That's great.  Nice first step.  Now what?

The great thing about social media is that the barrier to entry is not the platform any longer.  You have the ability to test drive ideas within or outside your online current environment before committing. That just didn't exist as you built your web presence in the past.  In some cases you can shift existing resources as you phase out old interactive practices, although I wouldn't bank on this as social media is more content intensive and requires consistent monitoring and responding to increase and maintain value. To take your interactive customer experience to the next level, it will require pulling the learnings you've had with Twitter, blogs, social networks, and social bookmarking and begin to sector out those that truly worked to drive sales, reduce churn, and contributed to market influence and leadership.

Many times, we've created our social media experience parallel to our overall web strategy.  Marketing campaigns still drive traffic to product and solution offers in landing pages or on a website, or they specifically focus on growing a community.  The website is still a place to become educated about the company, products and solutions, and there may be a link to a social network that has blogs and discussions.  The problem is that your website strategy and your social media strategy now need to become integrated.  You've built your communities, now what do you want out of them?  You need to drive qualified leads and incorporate successful practices into an integrated interactive strategy.  Remove the website and social media silo.

Here's how:

Content Conversion: A key staple of web content and marketing content overall is the white paper and case study.  Marketers covet this content and leverage it as a call to action in direct marketing campaigns.  Typically in PDF format users are required to register to download.  It is used so much because it works well to get qualified leads into the funnel.  However, the missing link is the SEO factor.  In PDF format you don't have the keyword rich content to attract paid and natural search visitation.  You don't have the ability to build upon SEO through conversations, linking and authority.  It is time to open up the white paper and case study to a blog format leveraging the reach you get with social media at the same time continuing to require registration to comment, bookmark, or RSS subscription on the content.

Trackbacks: Creating thought leadership and product/solution leadership has always been tightly controlled on our websites.  It is all about what we want you to know.  We'll through in an industry analyst study that showcases our solution or our perspective to create credibility and plop a sidebar banner in to get to the content.  Although, the content is usually a PDF contained in our CMS system.  There are a number of customer networks and media/analyst networks that have blogs and discussions on our business.  We even have created our own.  It is time to integrate those discussions into our website content through trackbacks.  This allows page content to stay fresh maintaining and improving SEO over time as well as allowing forums for customers researching more avenues to learn about what we have to offer.

Social Bookmarking: Leverage social bookmarking within your website to allow visitors to bring people to your website.  This will do a couple of things.  First, if you want people to bookmark you'll be forced to produce highly relevant and valuable content on your site moving past the online brochure.  Second, allowing your content to go viral will expand your reach.

Content Commenting: Let people comment or create discussions.  Having customers provide ratings or feedback can be good in helping customers make decisions.  Even if a comment is not glowing but is constructive, it may provide insight for customers to consider when choosing.  You may want to populate comments from support or customer forums that show how the solution solved a problem or configurations necessary for specific customer environments.  Then, open it up to visitors to ask questions or drill into the forum discussions.  This is a cornerstone in online retail and is a proven factor driving conversion.

Forums: Normally a behind the scenes venue in your customer portal or industry networks, take that same venue and apply it in your website experience.  Allow visitors to discussion their needs for a solution and what they are experiencing in their business.  Rather than keeping this separate, by integrating into your website experience it encourages engagement connection with you, your customers, and other prospects.  It could be a similar format as LinkedIn groups or Twitter Twibes.

The point of all this is that stand alone widgets, networks, and branded social media venues in the long run won't serve your business well.  An integrated and seamless approach will add value to your website experience and improve customer conversion by linking to your marketing funnel strategies.


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