washerRecently I’ve been looking a lot more closely at the B2B field, and I’ve noticed that a lot of businesses in the sector are still at the ‘testing the waters’ stage as far as social media goes.

This isn’t true across the board of course, there’s plenty of large B2Bs doing some wonderful stuff, but it struck me that there wasn’t a lot of beginner-level knowledge out there for B2B’s starting out in social media. 

The reason I’ve avoided writing about the topic for a while is that most of this has probably been covered in articles we’ve published previously, but it’s always handy to have a quick glance at the principles of what we do and why we do it, and every week more people decide to take the plunge, so hopefully this will help them out as well. 

Everything you always wanted to know about social media and actually probably already did

I’ve also noticed that the dreaded social media gurus are beginning to hove back into view, usually offering the same pat advice. “Engage your audience with relevant content” is my pet hate.

It seems pretty astounding to me that this kind of advice has an audience, but then, when you’re just starting out, you’ll generally read anything and everything. It takes a while before the snake oil filters get up to speed. 

In addition, there’s still plenty of people who are scared of making a mistake, or who blunder in with an old fashioned sales mentality; there are definitely a few companies out there still creating fake profiles on Facebook and mass “Liking” their own posts.

It sounds ridiculous but it’s true, and without an experienced social media manager in place, these businesses will continue to make these mistakes. 

If you’ll indulge me, I’ll use a very simple metaphor to explain pretty much everything you really need to know about social media marketing. 

Let’s say you own a small business. One that sells, for the sake of argument, tap washers. 

You need to sell them to make a living (I know, this is pretty deep stuff, but bear with me). 

You have a phone and a limited budget. What do you do? 

Do you: 

  1. Look in the phonebook for people who might want to buy tap washers: Hardware stores and local plumbers would be a good start. Call them up and try to get them to buy your washers? 
  2. Call up your existing customers and ask if they need help, advice or possibly want to buy a few spare washers? 
  3. Answer incoming calls to deal with inquiries, problems and possible partnership and retail opportunities? 

I’m guessing you do all three. As word of mouth gets around about your washers, you might have to answer more incoming calls, maybe even take on some extra staff and get a dedicated number for them, right? 

Right.  

Any questions? 

Of course there are: 

1: “Hey, but how do I track all that stuff?” 

At the most basic level, put some custom URLs in your tweets, Facebook updates, Pins, Check-ins or whatever. Now it all shows up nice and clearly in your analytics (Not being one to let a good metaphor go to waste, you can also do this with phone calls).

Use custom bit.ly’s to get more info on CTRs and share rates. 

Same goes for feedback. Run some searches. We have plenty of posts right here that can help you with these.  

If you have multiple products or brand names you might need to invest in something that can keep track of all of them at once, and once again, you’ll need to hire enough people to keep an eye on things and respond in a timely manner. It’s honestly not that difficult. 

2:“What about influencers?”

In our imaginary washer company’s case, it’s probably hardware store owners. They buy from the wholesaler, they recommend to customers.

Who are yours? Popular fashionistas? Celebs? The president of the washer fancier’s union? They’re out there, and it doesn’t take too much thought to decide who they are (assuming you have more than a vague clue about your business) and track down a few hundred of them online.

Hey, you might even have more than one group of people.  So give them some love. Give them some discounts. Easy. 

3: Why am I chasing “Likes” and “Follows” when I want sales

Because then you’ll have more opportunities to sell to those people.

A Facebook “Like” is a billboard that pops up in front of your target customer again and again and again. If it’s interesting, they might even look at it more than once (and yes, that’s a big hint about the importance of regular, relevant content. Make sure you have plenty)

4: “What about screwing up? I’m worried about making a big mistake.”

Here’s a simple questionnaire: 

  • Do you answer the phone to customers, without knowing who they are, and say “P**s off, I’m busy”, before slamming the phone down? 
  • Do you ignore the phone entirely? 
  • Do you talk crap about people behind their back (or to their face)? 
  • Do you tell racist, homophobic, sexist or other offensive jokes in public? 
  • Are you, to coin a phrase, an asshole? 

If not, welcome aboard. If you are, stop it. If nothing else, you’ll have more friends. 

Problem solved. 

Not everyone will agree with everything you say, so make sure you have a valid reason to say it. Have the courage and dignity to rise above the cheap laugh, and to actually care about what you are doing, and about your customers. Do unto others etc. 

Something outside of your control gone wrong? Well, it happens, just make sure you let people know. People are usually pretty understanding as long as they have a bit of information.

My train was late earlier, but there was an announcement – something on the line – so it’s all fine, I didn’t burn the station down or anything. 

Oh and hey, if it’s going well, feel free to stick an ad or two in ‘Washer Buyer’s Monthly’, it can’t hurt after all, but it’s not the answer to everything. 

Congratulations, you’ve just figured out everything you actually, really, really need to know about social media. The rest will come with practice and a little thought (and love). 

Of course, there’s also a mass of products out there to help, and as data gets more complicated you can use it in more interesting ways.

You can learn more about your customers and cater to what they want more effectively (Blue washers are suddenly all the rage? OK, better stock some then), and you can invest in all sorts of flashy ads and apps to help spread the word.

Just remember, when you call someone, or when they call you, be nice to them and be interested in helping them out:

  • How can you save them time?
  • What’s going on in their life that your product has given them more time to do? 

Writing this down I’m fully aware of how trite it sounds, but it’s true. There’s no massive secret to success, or to failure for that matter.

There’s just using a bit of common sense and putting in a bit of effort, Use basic business and marketing principles and have a bit of fun with it. The key to doing social media right is to focus on relationships, concentrate more on the ‘social’ part of the name.

In the past, small-time travelling salesmen that did well knew their customers, their names, their hobbies, their wants and needs. Now, so do you.

Yes it’s sales focused, but it’s not in your face. Think of it as recommending something to a few million close personal friends.