By Jon Goldman, CEO, Brand Launcher
Most people are familiar with social media’s frivolous, time-wasting side. But do you know social media’s serious side?
In the business-to-business (B2B) sector, social media can help you generate new leads and nurture existing relationships. But for the pallet industry, it can also play a critical networking role, such as helping you find new sources for purchasing raw materials, or sharing ideas for solving problems.
Can you benefit from social media? You can. But to be effective, you’ll need to strategize your efforts. Start by determining what your company’s primary and secondary needs are, and then allocate your time to get the biggest bang for your buck.
Here are some key rules to follow:
1. Know which sites are important to your company.
LinkedIn is the preferred network among most B2B marketers. In the pallet industry, LinkedIn is probably the most powerful networking tool. In addition, it can serve as a resource to research and target individual sales. You can also join groups that focus on pallets to find resources, share information or get advice. In addition to NWPCA’s LinkedIn group, there are other related groups or companies worthy to check out, such as the Reusable Packaging Association; Wooden, Plastic and Steel Pallets of America; Packaging Professionals; Bulk Container Professionals; Institute of Packaging Professionals; Green Packaging Forum; GMA Pallet Users; Pallet Recyclers of America; and Pallet Security, Returnable Assets Management & Pallet Control.
Facebook is not as useful as a B2B tool, but it can be valuable for strengthening communications with your clients and potential clients. You can also search for vendors to service your company. In general, Facebook is a better forum for distributing information (to those who “like” your company) than for acquiring information.
YouTube is best used as a supplemental tool for your company. You can capitalize on the power of video by uploading yours to YouTube and then posting them on LinkedIn and Facebook. Videos offering tips on pallet safety or pallet use can be interesting to your prospects, especially if you keep them short and informative. So in addition to posting a photo of a new product, provide a video of one of your staff demonstrating the benefits. Consider a video featuring the use of your materials/equipment in various ways. Of course, creating the video is the easy part. You need the time and creativity to then distribute the video to a wide audience.
There are many other popular social media sites, such as Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. But Linked In, Facebook, and YouTube are probably the most effective sites for the pallet industry today.
2. Know the tools that are most useful to your company.
Many companies focus on having a good Facebook “cover,” a beautiful website, and other graphically appealing visuals online. But frequency is just as important. Your social media accounts can reflect poorly on your company if you over-post one week and then don’t post for weeks at a time.
It’s important to maintain a “social media calendar.” Set up a plan so that you’ll be posting regularly. Make it easy for yourself with a tool like www.hootsuite.com, which enables you to automate your posts and manage multiple accounts at once.
Another important tool to use is Google Analytics. As you increase your social media efforts, monitor the analytics of your company’s website, so you know which social media sites are actually driving traffic. You may need to alter your social media strategy (the content you post and the sites you are prioritizing) to increase the quantity and quality of the audience you are attracting.
3. Know your audience, and speak to them.
Your social media posts make real impressions. What you say and how you say it makes a difference. Unlike face-to-face conversations, with social media, you are speaking “to the masses.” While this has key benefits, it also has drawbacks. In a one-on-one sales meeting, you can tailor your pitch to the other person. In social media settings, you can’t control your audience. You need to take care not to say anything that could alienate potential clients. Moreover, in face-to-face meetings, what you say might not be remembered for long. But social media postings create a permanent record. If you’re not sure whether something will fly, think twice before clicking “post.”
4. Content is king.
90% of B2B marketers use one or more forms of content marketing to reach and engage their prospects and customers. Make sure that the materials or information you are sharing is of value and interest to those you are trying to target. Strategize what you will be posting, and spend the time creating the appropriate materials for your social media audience. Social media sites can be like virtual trade shows – so many people can walk by your “booth,” but how do you get them to actually engage?
5. Don’t get sucked into the dark hole.
Social media can be like a dark hole – once you fall in, it’s hard to climb out. Like any other marketing effort, social media needs a strategy so you can determine if you are getting a return on your investment. Social media is NOT free, despite whatever you’ve heard to the contrary. Although you may not be paying fees to LinkedIn, Facebook, or YouTube, to properly use these tools, you’ll need to invest time. And, as we all know, time = money.
Finally, remember that social media is about the three E’s: engage, entertain and educate. Use the tips in this article to connect with your target audience, and start making your social media efforts pay off.