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—It’s a waste of time!
—We never get leads from Facebook or Twitter.
—No one wants to know that much about my company.
When it comes to using social media for business, the skeptics far outnumber the supporters, including some IT channel cynics that fail to acknowledge its benefits. The latter is most baffling since their organizations’ growth is likely tied to innovations like these communications platforms. Yet they continue to claim social media has more negative attributes than positives — as a distraction to employees that negatively affects company productivity.
The problem for many small businesses, including IT services firms, is they continue to overlook the potential. For example, millions of professionals have been using LinkedIn for a decade or more, using the platform primarily to validate resumes or to respond to incoming messages. The sales and customer service opportunities that these platforms present are often ignored.
With a little time and minimal, if any financial investment, channel firms can have more meaningful engagements with their clients and prospects. Not just driving awareness of their products and services, but helping them close deals and increase “pocket share” with existing customers.
Where to Start?
Consistency is crucial. Businesses should pick a single platform and take advantage of all potential sales and marketing options. The first rule in selling through social media is to stick with it. Build out a plan starting with one of the major players — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram — and add others as your team’s comfort level and success builds.
Like any outbound marketing program, professionalism and engagement are crucial to success. “Many people’s messaging strategies on LinkedIn are the dating equivalent of sitting at a bar and staring at women,” says Jim Punzenberger, Founder and CEO of NeutronDigitalMarketing.com, a firm that supports MSPs with social media strategies. “Just connecting and sending someone a long sales message won’t generate leads for your business.”
The former MSP understands the issues IT business owners face, and suggests the key to social media success starting real conversations and making a connection with online followers. “You need to write in first person and speak directly to your ideal prospects, touching on their pain points and the ways your company can solve them. Only then can you extend an offer or suggest a specific call to action.”
By sending a brief message to new connections with 3-5 short, open-ended questions, IT firms can better gauge their prospects’ specific needs and the true business potential of these online relationships. “Think of your LinkedIn profile as a sales letter, not a resume. Be selective with who you accept and send invitations to. I only connect to people I know; clients, ideal prospects, or people who are connected to them in some way.”
Punzenberger strongly emphasizes the latter point. When you connect to random people with diverse business affiliations, LinkedIn will follow suit and offer haphazard connection suggestions — not those more in line with your business objectives. His suggestion is to become proficient using LinkedIn’s advanced search capabilities to identify the proper target audience for your business. “Boolean allows you to get ultra-specific, including or even excluding certain words and phrases to refine your audience parameters.”
Video is Key to Facebook Success
Those who doubt the business value of an online platform touting nearly two billion monthly users need to look closer at the opportunities. Facebook is a different animal, for sure, but when certain criteria are met, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways there is to generate demand for your services.
The key is consistent, creative content. There’s no need for elaborate productions or expensive photo shoots to increase likes and engagement in Facebook. In fact, a business can build a strong following and drive demand for its services with just a small amount of time and effort each day.
That will require many MSPs to expand their skill sets and commit to making regular posts. Social media requires users to be —believe it or not — social. “The biggest thing you need to do to build your business through Facebook is to get comfortable doing live video,” suggests Chris Wiser, Founder and CEO of The Wiser Agency. “Those who drive content and build collaborative groups to share their insight get the best response.” Videos and audio of 3-5 minutes in length are the best performers.
As Wiser explains, achieving relevance and driving sales on Facebook takes time and focus. “You have to get comfortable with doing a live video every day for at least a quarter. That alone will drive page likes and your expert status through the roof. My other recommendation is to build local support groups to discuss issues local businesses care about, such as cybersecurity or IT basics.”
Facebook advertising is a cheap marketing investment, even for the smallest MSPs, and it can be used to increase awareness in your own community. “When you post a video, just spend $5 and it will be promoted extensively to those in your targeted area,” stresses Wiser. “A lot of people may believe Facebook is not a good option for B2B, but if you develop and share relevant content, it is highly effective.”
Brian Sherman is president of Tech Success Communications, a channel-related content and social media development firm. He served previously as chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.