While there are plenty of resources online for leveraging Twitter, many focus somewhere between individual and consumer-oriented material.
B2B marketers have a different perspective. It's difficult to relate to those types of Twitter resources when faced with more complex buying cycles and the demand for marketing initiatives emphasizing lead generation as the top priority.
We've seen skepticism in our clients' eyes when it comes to Twitter. This can be overcome by demonstrating how Twitter can assist B2B organizations with their priority initiatives.
Instead of focusing on using Twitter only as a promotional mouthpiece, consider how this communication tool provides support for one of the primary sources of high quality leads for the B2B organization: organic search engine traffic.
Here are five ways we've seen and assisted B2B organizations in leveraging Twitter as a tool for the search engine marketing (SEM) initiatives.
The Foundation: Twitter Lists
Twitter lists should be one of the B2B search marketer's most valuable tools. There are many ways we can aid a search engine optimization effort through the careful organization of Twitter lists.
Establish public and private lists to categorize your network by primary (and secondary) objectives. Private lists are great for grouping Twitter profiles in a manner you don't want publicly accessible, such as a client list or prospecting list.
If your organization already has a large, but disorganized network, services like MyTweeple and Tweepi allow marketers to review Twitter profile information and better manage an organization's Twitter network.
Link Building Initiatives
Create lists of contacts that are associated with websites and online publications your organization would be interested in obtaining links from. These lists might include writers for industry publications, or bloggers from key industry-related blogs.
In some cases, you may get the scoop on writing initiatives these individuals have prioritized, that your organization may be able to contribute to (and get links from). In other cases, if you can build a rapport, it may help when pitching either a direct link or the solicitation of content to get published for link building purposes.
Follow and track industry-specific organizations on Twitter as well. Just this past week an advertisement from the Twitter profile of an applicable business directory caught my eye, and I was able to submit (and acquire) a couple links for a client as a result.
Conferences and trade shows frequently use Twitter as a way to broadcast news, information, and what's happening at their event in real time. If your organization is speaking, sponsoring, or even attending a show that leverages Twitter, participation can lead to link opportunities, and connections for business and sales.
The key is to remain active and contribute during the event. Don't assume that solely focusing on promotional blasts will get results.
Keep up to date with the event's hashtag(s) for important information to help distribute and share. Make sure to include the hashtag in all related updates as well.
Finally, create a Twitter list of attendees and speakers so your organization is able to focus specifically on those with interest in the event.
Monitor important keywords and brand information using Twitter search. Keyword monitoring can help organizations find link building opportunities and ideas for new content. Brand monitoring is important for understanding how people on Twitter relate to the company, and key products and solutions.
Services as simple (and free) as Google Reader can be used for aggregating RSS feeds of Twitter search results. Commercial social monitoring tools are also available, which help better filter sentiment of the conversations.
While an organization doesn't need to use Twitter to gain the benefit of this tactic, communicating to others through Twitter is more effective, should the organization want to respond or contribute.
Customer & Prospect Tracking
Communication tools like Twitter help create the consistent dialogue that might make people come back to your website. Think of Twitter as an alternative or a complementary tool used in coordination with e-mail newsletters or direct mail campaigns.
Tools for tracking website visitors and analyzing how and why customers and prospects visit a company website have come a long way. Even though Twitter initiatives might not lead to the direct sale or form inquiry, web analytics and marketing automation tools can help realize value if customers and prospects respond to a message on Twitter by clicking through to the website.
Note: While promotional strategies have their place, the concern is that an organization won't invest the time necessary to establish a receptive network. As a result, promotions often go ignored, and the company loses interest, thinking they've failed or that it is a waste of time. This leads to my final point.
Wrapping Up: Twitter for B2B Search Engine Marketing
The critical ingredient for measurable "results" from Twitter is engagement. While aggregating lists, tweeting promotions, monitoring the brand, and knowing (by observation) who your important link targets and/or customers are, the ongoing dialogue is what makes Twitter valuable. This leads to real success in aiding B2B search engine marketing efforts.
The more an organization contributes, the more they will get out of their Twitter tactics. Results won't likely happen overnight. Just like in real life, relationships are made over time, with consistent effort.
How can the B2B organization contribute effectively? Examples might be the sharing of interesting and valuable resources for their community, helping partners get the word out on their own initiatives, or replying to Twitter users asking questions or needing advice relative to the industry or expertise.
Hope you find these recommendations valuable. I'd also love to hear your thoughts and comments on Twitter strategies that have worked for your B2B organization.
Join us for SES London 2011, the Leading Search & Social Marketing Event, taking place February 21-25! The conference offers sessions on topics including search engine optimization (SEO), keyword analysis, link building, local, mobile, video, analytics, social media, and more. Register now.