How to start B2B conversations on social media

As a growth B2B company, social media provides a window into the conversations and thoughts of your clients, their clients, your competitors, influencers within your industry and most importantly an opportunity to take a lead in the conversations that shape sales decisions.

Forrester estimate that over 80% of decision makers have a social presence, be it Twitter, a blog or LinkedIn – so not participating in the wider discussion means you are missing out on real opportunity – but how do you become heard in what is a noisy crowd?

1. First impressions count before you even meet
Your existing social presence, or your lack thereof, is already making a statement about your business – so make sure it’s a positive one! This realisation is even more critical in B2B, given that many customers or clients only get to see a small part of your business – be it your sales department or service team – but ultimately they are connected to the groups, people and decision makers who are most influential in their sector.

2. Social media says a lot about you as a business and a manager
The starting point for any successful conversation has to be establishing your credibility. The most influential businesses demonstrate the importance they place on the relationship with their customers and offer continual benefit, building valuable audiences and engaging people in real time two-way conversations. They understand the need to be monitoring the conversations and taking action on them in real time and participating consistently.

3. Don’t use social media as a broadcast mechanism
About 50% of your activity should be conversational, finding discussions online where you can add value, while around 30% is about promoting content useful to your audience. The final 20% can be self-promotion in a way that promotes your brand and doesn’t harm your credibility.

A conversational business creates much of its own content, shares it with customers and sector partners and via this content gives their audience something to share and to learn from. If you share insights, case studies or discuss trends that bring real value to your audience then people will bring future discussions to you.

4. Know your friends and share value
Every business using social media is looking for an audience to engage with. Use social as a tool to research clients and prospects and add value to them by sharing their best content with your audience; by doing so you are adding real value by allowing them to access a broader audience than they would otherwise have been able to reach. By participating in discussion forums, posting comments in response to their content or sharing their Tweets, you have already made a soft introduction and your prospect will likely acknowledge the value you bring and encourage you to foster further engagement.

5. Forget the cold call; warm up with a social introduction
LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook should never be considered a replacement for a call or a coffee but social media enhances and amplifies other channels. This all comes back to observing the conversations going on around you, participating when you know you might add value and knowing when to convert this from a ‘virtual’ to an in-person contact. You can utilise social media to gain a greater understanding of the messages which are important to your prospect by researching areas of interest and mutual connections before meetings.

6. Scale connections and keep front of mind
Keeping at the forefront of your prospects mind is key to standing out from the crowd. If you participate in a dialogue on Twitter, be sure to follow it up with a request to connect on LinkedIn and thereafter share posts or add recommendations to help your contact build their influence and reach. If geography allows, this is then a great opportunity to convert a connection into a valuable contact.

Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist and founder of The Nurture Network, the on-demand marketing department for ambitious SMEs, which works with GrowthAccelerator to support high growth SMEs.