THE BLOG
10/30/2014 10:41 am ET Updated Dec 29, 2014

B2B and Social Media Content Marketing

Visit any social media outlet today and you're likely to find numerous articles about Social Media Content Marketing, also known as Inbound Marketing, with outlines, diagrams, and frameworks that say very much of the same thing, albeit in different shapes, sizes, and formats.

In today's social and digital age, there is no straight path from A to B where business executives and technical sales professionals discover and share information. Along the consumer decision journey, often best defined by McKinsey's circular feedback loop, agility is key.

Multiple touch points mean multiple opportunities to attract consumers, as well as multiple chances to lose them with convoluted websites that make product information hard to decipher and points of contact difficult to locate. This is important to get right as one of the major roles of social content marketing is to bring B2B leads to you, before you need to call on them. If Word-of-Mouth and good content has brought them to you, great design must keep them there.

What is Content Marketing?

The Content Marketing Institute defines Content Marketing as attracting and retaining customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior.

The idea is simple, but the ability to execute and develop a streamlined content creation mechanism is much more difficult when those on the selling end want to communicate features and functions of their products above and beyond industry trends. Additionally, people in the market for business solutions are often looking to consume content that is just detailed enough to understand a feature, selling point, or trend, but comprehensible enough to act upon.

According to Kevin Davis in Slow Down, Sell Faster: Understand Your Customer's Buying Process and Maximize Your Sales, requests and purchase orders are often delivered in one of three ways throughout the inbound B2B decision journey process:

  • The CEO, CTO, or CIO, has identified an industry trend and tasks his leads to investigate
  • A need is identified by a business lead, typically through the research process
  • Technical leads learn of future buying and selling opportunities after a need has been identified and they are evaluating their options

With this in mind, here are five key things to remember when developing an inbound marketing strategy or content marketing program to address the different avenues B2B executives discover and seek out content:

1. It isn't just about the C-Suite
Chances are, the individuals making the decision to choose one brand over another are your business leads and your tech leads. Go where they go and improve your owned platforms to support their search needs. For example, incorporate them into our design and builds as beta testers of your website. Invite them to not only host roundtables and webinars, but to also provide feedback on how your business could be doing things better. Take a fine-toothed comb to external presentations and always ask yourself, "If I'm spending an hour out of my day on this webinar, would it provide true value?" There's nothing worse than a jargon-filled webinar. Be prescriptive, show case studies, and provide insight into what worked, as well as what didn't work.

2. Don't discount the value of forums and the power of search
Forums and blogs are your friend. They index well on search engines and are visited frequently by the individuals who have the ear of their bosses. The people researching solutions are speaking to each other and commenting on blogs and forums. This generates Word-of-Mouth and builds the reputation of your brand. The more you have a presence in this space, or create this space on your owned channels, like Cisco, Dell, and Apple, the better off you'll be, particularly if a crisis unfolds.

3. Conduct a SWOT Analysis with your target
How are you defining and developing a social content strategy if you don't know the barriers that stand in the way? Identify key insights directly from the horse's mouth. Interviewing individuals from each customer segment is key. Both physicians and attorneys learn rigor by examining cases that came before them and use that knowledge to diagnose an illness or build an argument. You, as a strategist, must do the same.

4. Develop a strategic approach for each vertical
Every vertical is unique. Enterprise businesses today offer a plethora of solutions. For example, educators have their own knowledge sharing platforms like Edmodo, just as medical professionals might frequent Sermo, the largest online community exclusively for physicians with over 270,000 licensed MDs and DOs. Don't always default to LinkedIn or Facebook as you might be missing out on a niche B2B community.

5. Social listening is your friend
Invest in a listening solution like Sysomos, Crimson Hexagon, or Visible Technologies, as well as a strategist who understands the power of developing insights based on data. This will allow you to listen to what your targets are saying in real-time, identify key trends, and develop magnetic content to support exactly what they're looking for in the language they're using with one another.