Before we can even begin to explore this topic of which social networking sites are most appropriate for B2B sales, we need to first answer the question … “Why should I be active, and invest my time, on any of these social networking sites to begin with?” If your goals include:
- Being found by others who are in need of your services
- Establishing and sharing your expertise
- Expanding your contact base beyond that of your traditional circles
- Gaining more business and referrals from existing customers
- Building stronger client relationships
- Tracking key contact movements
- Identifying decision makers and influencers
- “Humanizing” your identity
- Uncovering new markets and opportunities
- Increasing your revenues
Then, you might want to be active in social networking. This is where Social Media becomes Social Business and hasn’t business always been social in nature? People buy from you first and then from your company.
Let’s talk about the three major networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) and we will also touch on a fourth, Google+. Each of these will be discussed in more depth in future articles. Mind you, there are probably as many social networking sites as there are rocks to throw at them but, unless you find one that fulfills a specific need for you personally, you are better off to concentrate your efforts on these four that are the most universally accepted. Wide Adoption = High Activity = Increased Opportunities. Before we begin, there is one very important premise …
We are more than our work. We have interests outside of our careers and we do have a personal life.
Are not work relationships, all real relationships, built around this fundamental truth? As a sales person, do I not try to discover snippets of information about my clients in my effort to establish common ground? Does my client not do the same with their vendors? This concept will be a critical element in ensuring your overall success.
Here are some quick keys to maximizing your return on all social networks: engage with others, be interesting, promote others, be polite, give credit where credit is due, be real, don’t spam, and mix up your messages between business and personal topics. Stuff you learned in kindergarten.
Twitter: Welcome to the Wild West! I have met more neat business and like-minded folks via Twitter than perhaps on any other platform. It is extremely powerful for sharing your message, driving people to your website, and discovering new and interesting people, companies, and news. No other network has the ability to distribute information to so many in so short a time. Connect on Twitter and then continue to build your relationship on the other networks. Recent announcements include plans for Brand (Business) pages and they already have promoted tweets. My B2B Sales Score (based on 1-5 with 5 being the highest) – 3.5
Facebook: Facebook is a much more intimate and conversational site than is Twitter and is very strong for building and maintaining relationships. This likely includes family and friends and that creates its own unique set of challenges for B2B sales people who might chafe at the thought of mixing friends and relatives on the same site as business contacts. Business discussions should be kept to a minimum and business related spamming will immediately bring the wrath of God upon thee. A good rule of thumb would be 80% personal to 20% business related updates. I know several B2B sales people who are very successful with Facebook. I also know even more folks who do not find it to be an effective B2B platform. B2C companies do very well if they do it right. Take advantage of free Facebook Business (Fan) Pages and consider paid advertising. There are a couple of business specific apps, such as BranchOut, that are worth investigating. I struggle with Facebook as a business networking site. That being said, Facebook is a part of my free piece of the digital pie and I never turn down pie. My B2B Sales Score – 2.5
LinkedIn: Here is where you can go, talk about business, and people will not look at you like you have two heads. What’s not to love? Your connections are there and so are their connections. Advanced searches will map your route, via your connections, to both companies and key executives that you may wish to engage with. Should your important contact change jobs or positions, you will be alerted which allows you to immediately commence with your damage control measures. Your profile becomes your online resume (expertise) complete with special skills and recommendations from others. Yes, LinkedIn also has pages for your company and a place to promote your events. Investigate the paid advertising. The LinkedIn community is extremely active and focused so join an industry group or ask others for advice on those pressing questions regarding your business. My B2B Sales Score – 4.5
Google+: Google+ is freewheeling like Twitter yet it is also conversational like Facebook. It makes it very easy to arrange your contacts into lists which they call circles and you can post (share) specific updates to one or more circles. While the other networks have similar capabilities, I find them to be extremely convoluted and difficult to configure and use. Eight-way video conferencing (Hangouts) is built-in or go with mobile chat (Huddles)! Google+ also offers Business Pages. Ultimately, the success of Google+ will be directly tied to its rate of adoption. What I am seeing is that very few of my Facebook friends are moving to it. For me, that’s a plus. But, good grief! Another social network!? Ask yourself this. Who controls a huge share of search, email (Gmail), video (YouTube), document storage (Google Docs), and much much more and who is aggressively integrating all of these seamlessly? It’s not Facebook. My B2B Sales Score – 3
A final word … Social Business will not make you something that you are not. In fact, being active on social networking sites will only magnify that which you already are. If you are a wonderful person, this is good. On the other hand, if you are already a jerk ….
Now it’s your turn: Which social networking sites do you find most effective for B2B sales? Any sites not listed above that you would recommend?