Did you know that 85% of adults aged 18-49 use social networking sites, according to a study from the Pew Research Center? (I guess the other 15% are intentionally off the map.) Social media has fundamentally changed the way people connect, communicate, and share information. Not only that, but it’s also revolutionized the way that companies reach and engage with consumers.

Through social media, businesses are able to appear more accessible to new customers and more familiar to existing ones. What's more, these platforms give companies direct insight into their target audience's interests and how they behave, which in turn allows them to develop more targeted campaigns.

Before the advent of social, it wasn't as easy to extract public opinion or glean consumer insight so quickly. However, with the right tools companies can now tune in to the daily conversations of their target audiences to improve a campaign’s effectiveness. For example, companies can determine what topics resonate most with their followers, and which publications and websites they read, which can be used to identify which messages and channels would be ideal for advertising.

So, let's say you're trying to target B2B marketers. While there's been ample research released on the various ways B2B marketers use social media for business, what about the personal social habits of these individuals? How can you target and engage them?

Research from Leadtail's report How Do Sales Leaders Engage on Twitter found that:

  • B2B marketers are primarily focused on curating a social media presence that displays their skills, relationships, and expertise. Thought leadership content is ideal for this segment.
  • These people consume industry media from popular publications, such as Mashable, Business Insider, Business 2 Community, and others, to stay current and informed. Businesses would be wise to consider these types of publications for advertising and content syndication.
  • B2B marketers actively engage with those they consider thought leaders, such as Jay Baer of Convince & Convert, Michael Brenner, Jeff Bullas, HubSpot, Marketo, and others. If you're thinking about launching an influencer program, try getting these individuals and companies on board.
  • Topics that are top of mind for B2B marketers include content marketing, big data, social media, mobile, and leadership. Use these types of content to fuel your content marketing campaigns.

When you consider the sheer number of businesses using social media—and how often—you might immediately think they’re all benefiting from social platforms. After all, according to an infographic from Go-Gulf:

  • 80% of SMBs use social media to drive growth
  • 83% of B2B marketers use social media to increase brand exposure
  • 69% to increase Web traffic
  • 65% to gain market insight
  • 3 in 5 SMBs have gained new customers through social

But the truth is that a majority of companies don’t integrate social media into their marketing strategy effectively. Instead, they haphazardly introduce new social platforms with no documented plan in place for how to maximize their reach. So, as you set out for a year of unprecedented social success, keep the following social strategies in mind:

1. Choose Platforms Wisely

One of the critical mistakes brands make is slapping up a Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter page overnight only to find that they lack the strategy and human resources to populate commentary on these sites regularly. Instead of rushing to the various social platforms, choose the ones that make the most sense for your business. For instance, Instagram and Pinterest tend to be more effective for a B2C crowd, while LinkedIn and Twitter are more helpful for a B2B company.

2. Appoint a Chief Person

Just as you most likely have a CMO to oversee your marketing strategy and a director of sales to keep your reps in line, you need someone who is in charge of your social strategy. This person should manage your social editorial calendars, perform daily social monitoring checks, and report back to your marketing team as to how your social profiles are doing.

3. Measure and Monitor

When you decide to launch a social strategy, take note of your starting place—e.g., your number of followers, likes, and fans. Then decide how often you will measure your progress. Determine what you will track—from number of retweets to number of Facebook shares to number of LinkedIn comments. And don’t forget to set aside time for monitoring, or combing the social feeds to see what the chatter is about your brand.

4. Fine-Tune Your Voice

Tone is everything across social media. After all, your tweets can’t sound stuffy and archaic. In addition, each platform should have a distinctive feel and voice while still demonstrating elements of brand consistency. As you’re honing in on your social voice, limit the amount of employees who can post on behalf of your brand. You may also want to spend some time developing social best practices and posting guidelines.

5. Schedule in Advance

While it’s important to socialize in real time, you can also leverage social media platforms to pre-schedule posts. To really cover your bases, schedule at least two posts every day and then commit to sending two more in real time throughout the day.

As Director of Engagement at Dun & Bradstreet ( @DandB ), Dustin Luther manages teams that focus on content, social media, and events. He is always looking for opportunities to engage with business owners and influencers around all things business credit and marketing solutions. Find him on Twitter ( @tyr ), Facebook ( dluther ) and Google+ ( +Dustin Luther ).

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