11 Things B2B Marketers Can Learn About Social Media From the US Army

B2B companies looking to use social media to increase awareness, preference and qualified leads can learn a lot from one of the foremost social media marketers outside the business world: the U.S. Army.

The use of social media by B2B companies is on the rise.

In the third annual B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends published by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, the use of social media by B2B marketers was shown to be on the increase.

Additionally, in this most recent study, social media surpassed the use of articles to become the most popular content marketing tactic.

And with one exception, every social media channel showed an increase in usage by B2B marketers.

11 Things B2B Marketers Can Learn About Social Media From the US Army image Popular B2B Social Media resized 60011 Things B2B Marketers Can Learn About Social Media From the US Army

As B2B companies continue the rapid adoption of social media and look for guidance on its implementation, there are best practice examples outside the business world, including the U.S. Army.

In the United States Army Social Media Handbook, guidance is given on social media policy for service members, as well as how to set up and maintain a social media presence for various commands, from company to corps.

Despite being a guide for soldiers, the Army’s social media guide has direct applicability to businesses.

The guide includes checklists and an extensive Social Media Glossary. A particularly helpful section for B2B marketers is the guide’s “Do and Don’t” checklist for Facebook and Twitter.

So without further ceremony, here are eleven key points, verbatim, from the Army’s social media guide that can help B2B marketers:

1. Why social media failures happen…

“Most of social media failures can be attributed to organizations rushing into social media before determining what exactly the organization aims to achieve with social media platforms. Using social media effectively is a process and it requires strategy, goals, manpower and foresight.”

2. Have a solid purpose for engaging in social media…

“Determine what you plan to achieve with your social media presence. Make sure you have a way forward and a set of goals. Developing a social media outreach plan requires a lot of thought, so make sure you know how you plan to use social media to communicate.”

3. Focus on strategy first, then tactics…

“Once an organization establishes a direction, it can begin to develop a detailed social media communication strategy that provides input into all the social media platforms supported by the organization. The purpose of using social media is to place your unit’s messages in the social media space. But in order to keep people coming back to the pages, units should develop a strategy that mixes messages with items the audience finds interesting. Language should be conversational, fun and engaging.”

4. Social media is a marathon, not a sprint…

“Developing a successful social media presence does not happen overnight. It is a detailed process that requires extensive planning and execution.”

5. Don’t start a social media effort unless you can stay with it…

“Once you’re up and running, the process isn’t over. Make sure you post often and keep your social media presences active. A stagnant social media presence is an ineffective social media presence….A static social media presence is ineffective, because visitors will lose interest quickly and stop coming to view the page. Social media platforms are designed to support various forms of content. take advantage of this by posting stories, videos and photos related to your organization’s mission.”

6. Be interesting…

“By reading the comments on a Facebook wall or blog post, social media managers can get a feel for what the online community wants to hear. It is also useful to talk to your audience directly. Ask for feedback and suggestions, and then act on their responses. A social media presence accomplishes very little if the audience is not interested in what is being said….Balance “fun” with “medicine.” It is important to post command messages and organizational information, but try to keep the page entertaining enough for people to want to follow it. Don’t be afraid to have fun by posting interesting links or asking trivia questions. Try posting a photo of the day or asking a weekly question. Social media is social, so it is important not to fall into the trap of talking at your audience.”

7. Don’t just announce – listen to what people are saying…

“Social media is more than just a platform to push command messages; it is a social community. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter help people bridge geographical gaps to connect, talk and interact. Using social media can be valuable to a communication strategy, but it needs to be more than a sounding board for organization messages. Social media should be used to facilitate the conversation, engage the population and keep people interested in the discussion…Avoid just posting information on a social media presence. Monitor content posted by users to get a better understanding of what information they want/need.”

8. Answer questions…

“It’s not enough to just listen to what your audiences are talking about. Be prepared to engage and answer questions. Respond as quickly as possible through the most appropriate means of communication. This is the best way to stop rumors before they run rampant….Once a social media presence grows to a certain size, the population will likely use it as a resource and forum to ask questions. It is important to spend time responding to questions to establish a valued relationship with users. The one-on-one conversations will show the community that their voices are being heard.”

9. Establish an employee social media policy…

“All leaders should communicate social media expectations with their Soldiers. It is important to outline unit policy and make sure all Soldiers know what they can and cannot do when using various social media platforms.”

10. Promote your social media presence…

“It is important to tell the social media community that you’re out there. Organizations should advertise their social media presences on outgoing press releases, email signatures, websites and in conversations with reporters. The more you spread the word about a social media presence, the faster the community that follows it will grow. Make sure the public knows that your organization’s social media presences are a good resource for information.”

11. In a crisis, use social media…

“Using social media to communicate with stakeholders during a crisis has proven to be effective due to its speed, reach and direct access. In recent crises, social media has helped distribute command information to key audiences and media, while also providing a means for dialogue among the affected and interested parties.

Click here to download the United States Army Social Media Handbook or see the SlideShare version below.

What do you think? What are your thoughts about B2B social media? Please share your comments below.

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