“Why should we bother with social media?” We frequently hear professional services firms repeating some version of this question, but neglecting social media for B2B is a mistake. For B2B, social media is a professional workhorse that can play a wide variety of roles.

The 5 Roles of B2B Social Media

1. The Cocktail Party
Social media’s original intended role, as an online networking system, is still important for professional marketing firms. Treat Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook as an online cocktail party—a way to meet new people and develop important business and client relationships—but without the hangover. And, just like a cocktail party, social media is highly reciprocal. People expect replies to their tweets, comments, and questions, and there is an expectation that you will share other people’s content as well as your own.

2. Content Promotion
Social media is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to promote your firm’s content. Creating a B2B social media marketing strategy to promote your content via different channels will help build your reputation and visibility—i.e., your brand.  

  • Twitter – Twitter functions as an industry-specific micro-blog community, so it’s a natural fit for blog posts and company updates. Twitter offers an easy way to promote your company’s blog posts, news, and ebooks by creating links to articles, with short taglines describing their importance.
  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn offers a number of options for content promotion. Use your corporate LinkedIn page to post blog posts, e-books, and promotions, and join industry groups where you can contribute to the discussion, using your content to educate consumers and peers. Free apps that automatically post your blog posts to your LinkedIn profile make it even easier.

A word of warning on content promotion, though—it’s important not to overdo self-promotion. Social media is very reciprocal, and you need to balance self-promotion with the sharing of important content created by other industry thought leaders. At Hinge, we’ve modified the idea of balance offered by content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi. For professional services, remember the 4-1 rule: share 4 articles from other sources to every 1 self-produced article or offer.
3. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Social media has become a valuable way to boost SEO, since search engines are using social media popularity as another way to gauge a page’s authority. When a certain page is shared or “liked” on social media, the authority of that page is being reinforced. So boosting your social media presence should also help your page rank. Another hidden benefit of social media is that its content is searchable—at least for Twitter and LinkedIn. That means that your tweet, linking back to your website’s blog, can be found by someone doing a simple Google search—a free opportunity to gain website traffic.

4.  Research
Social media is a great way to do research. Before you meet with a new client, interview someone for a case study, or hire a new employee, you should check out their social media streams. Regardless of whether it is a corporation or an individual, you will learn a lot about their personality, authority, reputation, and visibility. Social media is also an easy way to research and engage with the competition, keeping you abreast of their initiatives and, perhaps, allowing for advantageous collaboration.  

5. Recruiting
Social media is a natural recruitment tool, whether it be finding new employees or seeking out business partners. LinkedIn lets you post highly targeted jobs focusing on users with certain résumé attributes, and provides real-time analytics showing, among other things, who has viewed the post. Twitter, as a highly industry-specific community, offers great opportunity to engage with other industry thought leaders. In this way, Twitter becomes a valuable tool for gaining knowledge, having questions answered, and building business partnerships within the industry.

Social Media Gains Our Respect

For B2B, social media has gained our respect in its ability to play a variety of roles. Like other channels, social media works best when you have a deliberate utilization strategy in place, and someone dedicated to fostering the relationships that will naturally take place. We recommend that you give it consideration in your content marketing and brand building strategy.

For tips on incorporating a B2B social media strategy, check out our LinkedIn Guide for Professional Service Executives below.