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Connect with Customers on Social Media

Social media can be a very powerful marketing tool, allowing your business to form deeper relationships with customers and increase brand awareness at a low cost. While some of the most prominent examples of great social media marketing come from the business to consumer (B2C) world, social media has gained widespread adoption and success in the business to business realm as well. According to a study by BtoB Magazine, 93 percent of all business to business (B2B) marketers are using some kind of socialicons.jpg social media marketing.

You have likely seen several articles about using social media to grow your business. By now you are ready to get serious about integrating social media into your marketing and may even have accounts on the big three social networks; Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This is not another high-level overview touting the benefits of social media for your business. Instead, we offer five specific tips that you can apply today in your social media marketing.

1. Listen
Your customers may already be talking about your company and your products online. To find out what they're saying and where they're saying it, set up Google Alerts for relevant keywords such as your company name, product names, competitors' names and products. Google will send you an email whenever your selected keywords are mentioned online.

2. Blog
Blogging is often overlooked as a social media tool, but it can be a strong foundation for your social media marketing efforts. A blog doesn't have to be overwhelming if you think of it as your "content hub." You probably already have plenty of content you could post to a blog: photos and descriptions of projects you've done, case studies, troubleshooting information or self-help tips. Aim to add a new blog post at least twice a month and share all of your posts across your other social networks.

3. Vary your posts across social networks
It may be tempting to use the same message on each network simultaneously, but doing so risks alienating your audience. Your Facebook fans may be put off by Twitter hashtags. Twitter allows only 140 characters; your followers may not want to click a link that takes them back to Facebook simply to read the full post. LinkedIn users log-in less frequently than Facebook and Twitter – posting the same volume of updates on LinkedIn could overwhelm your connections there. This includes posting updates and links to your latest blog posts. Your messages can be similar, but remember to create a unique update for each network.

4. Allow and encourage comments/discussions
Many businesses are reluctant to allow comments because they're afraid of negative postings. Create a plan that outlines what kind of negative post requires a response and what that response should be. The worst way to respond is defensively and without a plan. Take a look at the response plan created by the US Air Force for a great example. By allowing comments your fans/followers are much more likely to interact with your brand. You'll quickly learn they are far more likely to praise than criticize.

5. Tools can make the job easier
Tools like Hootsuite, SocialOomph and Ping.fm allow you to manage all your social networks from one place and schedule updates in advance. You could utilize these tools to create a month's worth of updates in under an hour. Remember though, with social media you can't simply "set it and forget it" – you still have to engage with your audience on a regular basis.

Above all, remember social media should be a part of your overall marketing strategy, not your only strategy. Done well, you could increase visits to your website, add more e-newsletter subscriptions and help turn your customers into brand advocates.

For additional help getting your business started with social media or to help improve your social media marketing, check out the free resources provided on HubSpot and MarketingProfs.

See how 3M Commercial Graphics is using social media to engage with our customer base. Visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

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