Leveraging Social Media: Follow Up to the BattleBriefing

We had a panel of social media experts on our latest BattleBriefing to help our partners learn strategies and tactics for social media marketing success.  This guest post is a follow up from one of our panelists.  – Lily Weibel, AVANT Marketing

Today I found myself on a panel of social media influencers for AVANT’s July BattleBriefing: Leveraging Social Media to Grow Your Channel Business.  Which is weird because I’m the furthest thing from a social media influencer you can get, aside from maybe your elderly grandmother.  In fact, my last tweet was on August 5th…. 2014!

Social media marketing has a utilitarian purpose that I can’t ignore, and it is critical to the success of other marketing strategies that we employ for our clients.  If you were to map out how your customers make purchasing decisions, you’d see that their first step is to research solutions and today at least 94% of B2B buyers do that research online before even talking to a service provider.

Customers are finding solutions, considering providers, and evaluating their options before they even talk to a rep and if you can’t be found when they’re searching for services you provide, you aren’t even getting a seat at the table.

To combat this and ensure our clients do get found (and get a seat at the table) we engage in content marketing, publishing thought leadership content that will come up when their audience search for terms related to the services they provide.   And, here’s the punchline, social media is critical to doing that successfully.

And that’s how I ended up on the panel, because my agency, in2itive marketing, is adept at leveraging social media as part of a larger marketing strategy.  But the content of the BattleBriefing was more focused on how individual sales reps and entrepreneurs can use social media to their advantage.  The panel of influencers were well prepared to answer from that perspective, but I think I might have a unique perspective on some of the questions posed by our moderator, Drew Lydecker, President of AVANT.  In the interest of time I didn’t lay it all out on the Battlebriefing, so here it is (grab a drink and a comfy chair, it’s long):

(Download the deck here to play along at home)

I am not in marketing, I am in Sales – why should I share content on LinkedIn? How does it benefit me?

Direct Engagement – It’s an opportunity to directly engage with C-suite level individuals through sharing content, engaging with their content, and via introduction by common connections. It’s like a virtual networking event.

Research – If you’ve ever been through an old-school sales training program you probably learned to establish rapport in a first meeting by scanning their desk and walls to find a personal item that you can find some common ground with.  For example, if you see a picture of your prospect’s family on a boat, and you too enjoy boating, you could comment on it and establish a personal connection. The concept is similar.  By browsing the prospect’s personal and corporate feeds, you can learn a lot about how they operate; enough to gain some insight into where their pain points may be and give you an advantage in establishing a sales approach.

Targeting and Segmenting – Did you ever hear the axiom “If you’re not paying, you are the product”?  It means that free services like Facebook or Gmail aren’t selling you a product because they’re selling you, or rather, your data, as a product to advertisers and marketers.  LinkedIn has a ridiculous amount of data points on its users and with a paid account you can access it and use it to do advanced searches on very specific targeting criteria.  Want to find CEOs and CFOs in the healthcare vertical in the Northeast that have over 100 employees?  No problem.

Local Search – One of my co-panelists was Bana Qashu, a Senior Partner Manager with AVANT out of Washington D.C. that has had outstanding success on social media.  Bana is also a pretty prolific poster and writer, and if she keeps it up her Linkedin posts and other social media content could start to appear in local search results when people make channel or technology-related searches.  For example, if she focused on content about selling SD-WAN in the D.C. Market, then when partners near DC search for related terms like “how to sell SD-WAN in Washington D.C.” they could see her profile and SD-WAN related social posts in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).  That’s a great way to get that partner into her recruitment funnel.  You could do the same with the services you sell in your own market.

Social Proof – Some evolutionary anthropologists posit that the reason for the success of our species is that we are cultural learners.  We evolved features that allow us to be able to learn from each other, so as to accumulate knowledge quickly.  As an example, we could watch a peer hunt successfully and learn their technique, and even interpret the intentionality of their actions, then apply our own experiences and knowledge to iterate on their technique. That saves you from having to figure it out from scratch.  Of course, if you are going to emulate a hunting technique you want to emulate the most successful hunters.  That’s why it’s said that ours is a “prestige culture”, and that explains why we are all so captivated by celebrities and sports figures.  It’s also a big reason why customer testimonials and case studies are so effective, and why a LinkedIn Recommendation from a happy customer goes a long way.

Help Out the Marketing Department – Remember earlier I talked about the value of social media in content marketing?  That’s because when people share and engage with your content posted on social media that links back to your blog, the search engines take it as an indication that you have authority on the subject.  Afterall, why would a bunch of people share a bad article?  So, by sharing the corporate posts and content you are amplifying their efforts, expanding their reach, and making them look a lot better to the search engines.  And, someday, one of the leads that ends up in the funnel because of your social share could make it’s way into your commission check.

What kind of CONTENT is appropriate on LinkedIn?

I covered this in the webinar, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version –

LinkedIn polled their users and, when asked the question what kind of content do they engage with, these were the results:

62% Educational or informational
61% Relevant to their field or business
48% Information about trends in their field or industry
40% Inspirational
30% Skill development

That’s why AVANT, for example, focuses on industry thought leadership content that gives their readers actionable information that will help them be more successful selling next-generation IT solutions – things like best practices, tips, industry trends and news, and educational content.

Also, the interest in topics can be broken out along generational lines.  Gen X’ers want content that helps them stay on top of trends and develop new skills (to stay relevant, presumably) but  Millennials want educational content, relevant business information, and inspirational content. Post accordingly…

What is the difference between an @ and a #? What happens when I tag someone/company with an @ vs. #? Who sees it?

Simply, an at-reply/message (@) will let you ping a specific use or company.  A hashtag (#) is how people can find a specific topic or subject in the social-sphere.  With so much information available, the # is a way users can find the signal through the noise.

You can use the # to target people with specific interests, where the @ let’s you target specific individuals and organizations. You can use tools like Hashtagify to search and discover popular hashtags.

What is your advice on how to leverage Twitter?

Be relevant and timely – Weigh in on current events and topics that are important to your market.  Twitter is so dynamic and real-time, it’s the perfect tool for keeping your fingers on the pulse and being part of the conversation.

Social listening – The power of the hashtag strikes again.  Use them to find what your market is saying about relevant topics, your competitors, or even you. There are tools like Tweetdeck that allow you to set up a stream that’s dedicated to specific hashtags so you can always be monitoring.  A great example would be the end of support for Toshiba phone systems.  By monitoring related hashtags, you could find prospects that need a replacement, but more likely (and maybe more powerfully) you could understand what Toshiba phone system owners are really concerned about, and then craft your sales message more effectively.

Be the go-to source – Use your feed to aggregate thought leadership content, industry trends and news, and best practices to become a destination for your connections to stay on top of the curve.  It’s B2B virtue

How do I leverage Facebook for my sales activity?  What is appropriate?

Deepen your connections – Your customers may be companies, but your buyers are still just people.  And it just so happens that most people use Facebook.  While it’s true that a large percentage of Facebook users are connected to coworkers and industry contacts, the topic of conversation is usually not business.  So, take the opportunity to strengthen relationships, but keep it light and be genuine.

Data, data, data – Aside from getting to know your buyers better, Facebook, like LinkedIn, is a trove of data.  Their Graph Search feature is a powerful search tool that can help you find the information you need to reach and relate to your target market.

Any suggestions for how to manage my public vs. private life online?

There’s no such thing as “public vs. private life” when it comes to social media.  Even if your posts are set to private, they’re just a screenshot away from being public.  If you’re inclined to care what your prospects think of
you, you should carefully curate your image online.

How do I build an effective LinkedIn network?  Who should I connect with/NOT connect with?

The other panelists covered this better than I could, but I did want to touch on a bit of the theory behind building a large network.

The nature of social media is to create concentric circles of connections between users.  The more connections or followers you have, the more visibility your posts get, not just because of the size of your network but because of the aggregate size of your network and the network of your connections and followers.  The key to creating that visibility is not just in the numbers, but also in the engagement.  You should write interactive and engaging content, and encourage likes, shares, and retweets.

I would pick quality over quantity anyday.  If you have a limited amount of time to dedicate to social media activity, don’t spend it all on getting connections.  Be selective and connect with people that are high value or strategic.  Nurture those relationships the way you would in real life.  You obviously don’t have to hold to that standard too highly because you do want a healthy sized network, but making a big network your biggest goal is misplaced energy.

What are common mistakes in Social Media?

Oversharing – If you write too much (like I did in this post) people will tune you out (like you probably did by now).  But seriously, one post and a few tweets a day is plenty.

Don’t feed the trolls – A troll is someone with nothing better to do than egg people on into arguments.  Nothing good comes of it.  When you see it you’ll know it and you should ignore it 100% of the time.  Block and move on.

Numbers over quality – Like I mentioned above, engagement is the key to success in social media marketing.  You don’t get points just for having followers, so make your time and interactions matter.

Not having a plan – My co-panelist Michael Bremmer, CEO of Telecomquotes.com, covered this handily by sharing his strategy.  Every weekday has its own theme, and our other co-panelist Mike O’Neil, President of Integrated Alliances, shared that he writes his posts out a week ahead of time.  You’ll want to post with intent and use your posts to curate an image.  Keep the themes or categories of content that you promote within limited boundaries.  Don’t be all over the place, focus on what really matters to you and your customers.  AVANT generally sticks to SD-WAN, Security, IaaS / Public Cloud, and UCaaS, with some fun AVANT culture-related posts sprinkled in. Write your posts out ahead of time and use a content calendar.  But, don’t be too rigid, you want to be nimble enough to respond to current events and news stories.  For example, when the latest ransomware attack hit, AVANT scrapped their entire content calendar to push out important, relevant information.

What about social media automation?

Dashboards – This is a must if you plan on ramping up a social media strategy.  You can post your content to all of your social channels from one interface, pre-schedule posts (so you can do your whole week of posts in one sitting), and get access to important analytics and insights.  Two of the more popular ones are Hootsuite and Sprout.

Amplification – Tools like GaggleAmp enable your employees and customers to more easily share and interact with your content.

Sales Navigator – I’ve never used Sales Navigator because it’s more sales-focused, but it’s a social selling tool that helps you discover and connect with leads, and Mike, Bana, and co host Alex Danyluk, Chief Strategy Officer of AVANT, rave about it.

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