Success Story: B2B Social Media Rock Stars

25 Aug 2016
Alan Martin

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It is often said that there is a difference between how Business to Business (B2B) companies use social media compared to their Business to Consumer (B2C) counterparts. To test this theory I decided to interview Sandie Holmes from the award-winning consultancy 121 HR Solutions.

121 HR Solutions were singled out for special attention by Theo Paphitis in August 2012 as part of his ‘Small Business Sunday’ Twitter campaign to champion outstanding businesses. The company also won the ‘Digital Communications’ category at the Lanarkshire Business Excellence Awards earlier this year.

Q. It is a real pleasure to speak to you this afternoon Sandie and to be able to share your considerable experience of using social media within a B2B context. First of all, can you set the scene for us by telling us a bit about 121 HR Solutions and how you became involved with social media?

A. Thanks Alan, 121 HR Solutions provides human resource consultancy services throughout the UK. We provide businesses of all sizes with professional, cost effective HR support. We can help businesses from the point of thinking about taking on their first employee right up to much larger organisations with complex HR requirements. We save our clients money because they do not need to employ their own HR staff in-house. Our clients have access to unlimited support from an appointed consultant and we also offer both retained packages and pay-as-you-go options to suit all requirements.

The company was established three years ago in August and we now have offices in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Dundee and employ five full time permanent staff plus a number of associates. We were involved with social media from the outset, following a Twitter workshop we attended. We immediately realised that it could work for us and after a bit of experimentation we just ‘got it’ and it made perfect sense to us.

Twtter is still our number one social media channel but we also have a Facebook Page, company presence on LinkedIn, as well as our individual profiles, and we publish a regular blog on current business issues. Throughout all our social media channels we aim to provide information on our services and other areas we think will be of interest to our audience.

Q. That’s great Sandie! You mentioned that Twitter was your most effective social media channel. Can you describe how you use Twitter within the business?

A. Yes no problem! We use Twitter to prompt action by asking questions about particular topic areas and include links to our website to the content that addresses the issue being discussed. An example might be a post like “Does mediation work?” We would then add a link to content on our site that explains how the mediation process might be conducted effectively. We regularly get enquiries from potential clients using this technique.

We also use Twitter to search for potential clients using the Search tool and the Advanced Search tool to find people that are talking about topics that relate to our business. We regularly take part in ‘Small Business Sunday’ on Twitter, which has helped us to dramatically increase awareness of our business.

We use the TweetDeck dashboard to help us manage our Twitter presence and see at a glance when someone is mentioning us on Twitter. We can set up columns for target keywords so we can easily see who is tweeting about subjects of interest. We typically post about 2 – 3 times per day spread out throughout the day.

Q. Have you got any other Twitter tips that would help readers?

A. Yes, keep your updates short! Although Twitter allows a maximum of 140 characters if you keep your tweets shorter than that they are more likely to be re-tweeted. That is because you are making it easier for people to share! If you use all 140 characters then other users will need to edit down your copy before it can be re-tweeted, so you are putting an obstacle in the way and people will be less likely to go to that extra effort.

Try to keep your updates fun! Remember, Twitter is a social network, so it is OK to have a little fun now and again as well as business. This helps to show the personality behind the brand! Include links in your tweets to relevant articles and preferably to resources on your website or blog. Follow and engage with your current clients, interact with local businesses and retweet other people’s content when they post something of value to your audience. I would also recommend that you follow other influential well-connected Twitter users as this will increase your visibility if they start to re-tweet your content.

Q. Tell me a bit more about ‘Small Business Sunday’?

A. Well, it has become another one of these Twitter traditions like ‘Follow Friday’. On a Sunday between 5pm and 7.30pm you can introduce your business, say something interesting about what you do and include the hashtag #SBS, and Theo Paphitis chooses his favorite 6 businesses to re-tweet, which has the result of massive exposure for the businesses chosen.

Q. Can you tell us how you use the other social media channels that you are active on?

A. Yes of course, we see Facebook as the more light-hearted side of our social media presence and we use it to share client success stories, tell people about our new blog posts, keep people up to date with our events, changes in legislation etc. and our regular posts help us to stay top-of-mind with our clients and potential clients.

We have our Facebook Page connected to Twitter so what we post on Facebook also automatically goes out on Twitter. We did it this way around (rather than link Twitter to Facebook) because we felt that the messages that we were putting out on Twitter did not translate very well to Facebook. Things like hashtags look a bit strange on Facebook but are an accepted part of Twitter etiquette. We tend to post status updates on Facebook approximately 3-4 times per week.

We have a company page on LinkedIn and we also started a closed Group, which we use to provide added value to our clients. We moderate the group regularly and post discussions ourselves as required. In addition to the above we publish a new blog post approximately every 10 days. There is also an app that we are very proud of, but that’s not really a social network. The app is like having 121 HR at your fingertips and also allows the user to ask questions. The app is accessible through our website and i-tunes.

Q. What was involved in winning the Lanarkshire Business Excellence Award for Digital Communications?

A. We were over the moon to win this prestigious award! Entrants were sponsored to enter and in our case we were sponsored by Business Gateway but we had to initially detail why we felt we should be considered for the award. This stage was followed up by a rigorous interview process in which we had to demonstrate our innovative use of social media through a presentation.

The judges were impressed with the way we were combining the different social media channels for business growth. Our Twitter activities help us gain new clients, our Facebook channel is used to interact with local businesses and our app adds value in a unique way.

Q. What advice would you give other B2B businesses to help them improve their social media marketing?

A.  I think the key, like most areas of the business, is proper planning. You also need to obtain constant coverage so that you remain top-of-mind with your customers and potential customers. Don’t just post about the business all the time. It’s alright to post or tweet the odd non-business update. This just helps to communicate your personality and shows that you are human too. And lastly, you should aim to use social media to attract subscribers to your monthly e-newsletter.

Key Takeaways

  1. Ask questions about particular topic areas on Twitter and include links to the solution on your website
  2. Use Twitter to search for potential clients using the search tools
  3. Take part in ‘Small Business Sunday’ on Twitter
  4. Use a 3rd party dashboard like TweetDeck to manage your Twitter activity
  5. Tweet about 2 – 3 times per day spread throughout the day
  6. Keep your tweets shorter than 140 characters to encourage sharing (120 characters is ideal)
  7. Have a little fun now and again as well as business
  8. Follow and engage with your current clients, interact with local businesses and retweet other people’s content when they post something of value to your audience
  9. Follow other influential well-connected Twitter users
  10. Share client success stories on Facebook
  11. Post regularly to maintain top-of-mind awareness
  12. Create a Closed Group on LinkedIn to add value

Originally Published on the Chat Marketing website – 8/4/13

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