For anyone who really loves social media, there’s simply no substitute for Twitter. It’s fast-paced even by social standards, and there will always be something interesting happening or someone new to meet when you log in. From a value perspective, the part about meeting someone new is critically important. Twitter is a very good place for advertising (as long as you understand the market), but I think the platform’s real value comes from its potential as a relationship-building medium. So are you better off consigning the initiative to Sales or Marketing? Or should it be a combination of both?
By the Numbers: Why Twitter is a Natural Fit for B2B Sales and Marketing
B2B buyers use social media for research much the same way as their B2C counterparts, though sometimes with a more discerning eye. They may be interested in what you have to offer, but first they want to learn more about your level of expertise, customer service priorities, and responsiveness before making a decision. Here are some statistics to ponder:
- 2016 B2B Marketing Trends Report: Brand connection matters because 86 percent of B2B buyers see little difference between suppliers. Direct engagement is the best way to build a real connection.
- According to IDC: Social is big in the boardroom, too. Eighty-four percent of C-suite/VP-level executives use social research to influence purchasing decisions.
- Pew Research Center: While relationship-building is Twitter’s most important function, it’s still a great place for marketing, as well. Twitter is responsible for 16 percent of all social referrals to longer articles, and 14 percent of referrals for shorter articles, so it’s a good fit for content marketing.
- Social Media Today: Whether you go for traditional marketing, building relationships, or (ideally) both, there’s no doubt about Twitter’s value. B2B marketers who rely on Twitter generate twice as many leads as those who don’t.
The biggest thing that jumps out to me about this data is that a quality product or service alone isn’t typically enough to move the needle on Twitter. You need to back it up with the kind of brand connection that can only come from building relationships, so it’s critical to learn, engage, and most importantly, listen. The fast-paced nature of Twitter becomes much more manageable when you lock in on your target B2B audience, listen to what they have to say, and plan your engagement accordingly.
Twitter Best Practices for B2B Sales and Marketing
For sales reps, it’s all about establishing trust, finding common ground, and building relationships:
- Make connecting intuitive: Use a Twitter handle with your name in it, make sure your profile pic is of your face (not your dog, cat, or body parts) and put your Twitter profile link in your email signature. Also, build a good bio with descriptive keywords. Don’t make it difficult for someone to search for your profile.
- Look and listen first: When you identify a prospect, visit their profile and look for commonalities before you reach out. Show them that you took the time to learn about them before contacting them, and keep on listening once the conversation begins. Finding common ground provides a basis for conversation, and allows you to personalize your message so prospects don’t lump you in with other suppliers who simply play the numbers game.
- Share good stuff: In addition to a professional profile, what you tweet regularly is important too. When you reach out to someone, they’ll likely visit your profile and do some looking and listening of their own before following you. When you tweet about things your audience is interested in (and not just pitching), they’re much more likely to think of you as a resource for information and a problem solver.
- Be responsive: If a buyer reaches out to you, respond promptly, personally, and professionally. Keep an eye out for @ mentions and messages on a daily (not just a weekly or monthly) basis.
For B2B marketers, Twitter is an excellent place to connect your audience with your content. While all the above bullet points for sales people apply to marketers as well, here are a few more:
- The benefits of engagement aren’t limited to sales reps: There’s huge value in building connections with the people who consume your content, whether they’re sales reps, influencers or end-users. Build lists of each of your segments, and check those streams for opportunities to like or re-tweet posts.
- Make it easy for others to share your content: As marketers, you’re responsible for creating all the longer-form content for your sales reps and influencers. Make it easy for them to share what’s in your editorial calendar by pre-crafting short tweets for them to use that can easily be copied and pasted and/or re-tweeted without going over 140 characters. Data-based insights make for great B2B marketing tweets, and provide a natural link to your longer content.
- Searchable Tweets: Use hashtags to make your content easy to find, and to find good content to share from other influencers in your niche. Collaborate with your SEO colleagues to look for high-performing keywords.
- Don’t forget images: Sometimes an image can tell the story faster than even a few words. Take the time to look for compelling images and/or videos to accompany your posts. Science has long shown us that pictures beat words for recall. In memory tests where people are shown hundreds of pictures, 90% can be remembered three days later, and 63% after a year.
So, who really owns Twitter? You could say sales, because it’s really a medium built for one-on-one engagement. There’s no better channel for research, staying up to the minute, and connecting with people who like to do the same.
However, for sales to succeed there needs to be strong support from marketing with good quality content. For best results, Marketing should also be using the platform for persona research, content ideas and advertising. The secret to success on Twitter is building real relationships with your audience, and through open communication and collaborating with marketing, both sides come out winners.