Should I use social media if my customers don’t?
There aren't many companies these days that haven't started to look towards social media for business opportunities. If you're working or running a company that sells to other businesses and leverages B2B relationships, you may be thinking of stopping to read now because "my customers don't really use social media", but just hold with me for a second.
Whilst it's true that only about 2% of business decision makers use tools like Facebook for business, all is certainly not lost. No doubt you've probably already created a Linkedin profile and started adding contacts, but there are other ways you can leverage social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to strongly benefit your business to business relationships.
Why bother with Twitter, Facebook and Google plus if my customers don't use them?
The simple answer is to build relationships, not just with customers but with suppliers and other contacts in your industry. Relationships bring trust and with a good network on social media you can expand your marketing channels and increase your chances of getting recommendations from others who operate within your industry.
Another important reason to use social media is for search engine optimisation purposes (SEO).
SEO, backlinks and social media
"Hey, hold on a minute I've been told that links on social media are set to nofollow so don't have any SEO benefit?" – Whilst this is true, the way web content is shared on social media does have an impact on SEO so if you write an interesting article that gets shared through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ you're very likely to see an increase in search engine rankings as a result.
I believe that you've got to think sideways to leverage social media if you're in a B2B organisation. For instance, we develop software for business administration and order processing; we know that many of our target prospects don't actively use social media for buying and selling products and services, so how can we engage with people on social media?
The simple answer is you've got to think around your industry:
- Who are your suppliers?
- Are there any consultants that operate in your sector?
- Do you use resellers? Are they using social media?
- Have you any recent experiences you can share on marketing in your sector?
- Who are the industry experts?
- Are there any academic institutions you collaborate with?
- Do you think anyone would be interested in hearing your story of how you started or expanded?
For instance, I contacted Microsoft and asked did they want to hear our story of how we used their technologies to start a cloud business. I was surprised when they contacted me back (almost straight away) and agreed to publish this article. Through this, we managed to secure a backlink from a highly ranked site. Out of this, I got a high quality backlink and Microsoft got a detailed testimonial about live usage of their products.
Search engines like Google need to know what good content is so they frequently rely on journalist sources such as newspapers and TV news outlet like the BBC and CNN as they have strict editorial control. Many of these editors use social media channels like Facebook and Twitter for sources of news and article inspiration.
How can I leverage social media to get an article published?
If you've come up with an idea for a news piece, you'll need to try and get noticed so instead of rushing off to find the editor's email address, follow them on social media and see if you can give insightful comments on any of their latest articles; with the emphasis here being on the word "insightful" as they'll get plenty of responses saying "great article!" so be different and try to comment first wherever you can.
7 Tips before sending an article off
- Follow the editor or site owner on social media and get a feel for the stuff they like and what information they seem to respond to.
- Make sure your article hasn't already been covered before
- Check out their guidelines for article submission – they may want you to pitch to them first. This is really important!
- Keep it interesting – they likely receive hundreds of new article requests a week
- Get it reviewed by someone else ensuring it's easy to read and free of typos and grammar errors
- Use graphics and illustrations if you can
- Don't over-promote your company
Give the editors time to respond after you've sent your article in.
This was a really helpful comment I received from an editor of a major technology news publisher:
"We're interested in stories on a wide variety of topics, but the key for us is innovation -- innovative technologies, people who find an innovative use for technologies, etc. Most of all, I want to walk away from a story feeling I've learned something new.
As for writing style, we're looking for accessibility (good context and easy-to-read wording so that a broad readership can enjoy the piece) and the ability to provoke interest by making it clear to readers why the story's timely and important."
Using social media for link building
By leveraging social media, you can also find similar opportunities to backlink. Whilst newspapers and news outlets are typically one of the highest value links you can get, they are much harder to pitch to than individual site owners due to their popularity.
Twitter has a really powerful search facility that allows you to track down tweeters that you may have synergies with. Many of these tweeters will have their own blogs, websites, social media profiles and industry contacts. By building relationships with these people through engaging with their social media activities, you're far more likely to secure a chance to write a guest article for them or get a future referral.
Tip: Remember relationships should have a mutual benefit - so think of what you can offer in return.
This article on finding opportunities to promote your website helps explain in further detail how you can find outreach opportunities to promote your website or blog.
Once my article is published
When your article is published, site owners and editors will usually help promote it for you as they'll want to draw traffic to their own site. Keep checking back and see how many social media shares you've had. Many article sites display these clearly at the top or bottom of the article itself.
Using twitter's search we can see who's shared this article just by searching for the article URL.
Tweeters who shared the article are likely to be involved in your sector, so it's worth taking a look through those people who have shared, liked or re-tweeted your post.
You can use tools such as followerwonk and opensiteexplorer to check out their social media and web page authority and likely rankings. Nobody is sure for certain (well apart from Matt Cutts and his team) how search engines like Google determine spam and content quality but Moz does provide some good tools to take a reasonable guess.
As a rule I've found the higher the ranking or authority of a site, the more work you'll need to do to get an article published.
Determining Facebook likes and Google+ Shares
It's a little harder to search for article sharing on sites like Facebook and Google+, but you can put in a search term in Google such as:
This will tell Google to search Facebook for occurrences of the URL where the article was published. Through this, you can take a look at people who have shared your article on Facebook and see if you have any synergies to make contact.
Even if you don't think you'll be able to directly target customers of your product or service through social media, all is certainly not lost. Try to think of social media as a place to build relationships with others who operate or supply to your industry and you'll start to see some great results.
Image courtesy of Raúl!, Flickr.
By Neil Cavanagh
Neil Cavanagh is the owner of Xpress Data Systems Ltd. He has over 15 years’ experience as Chief Technical Officer in large organizations in both the public and private sector. Having recently launched CamisOnline, a web-based production management tool, Neil is actively contributing advice to help businesses thrive on the web.