It’s Marketing Month on the COATS blog! This month, we’re looking at the many ways you can grow your business by growing your market share.

You probably know that social media is an essential part of modern communications. However, you might consider it more of a venue for your personal life: reconnecting with friends from school, sharing silly pics from the web, letting everyone know what you had for lunch.

If that’s your primary use of social media, you’re missing out on a huge channel for marketing and communications—in fact, several channels. How can you use social media to connect with clients and prospects, and what are the best platforms to use? We’ll start with the platforms:

LinkedIn – this is the big dog, the world’s #1 site for professional networking. With 175 million members worldwide, LinkedIn is bound to include at least some of the people you’re trying to connect with. So how do you use it?

  • Connections: Someone you know knows someone who knows the person you’re trying to get to know. In real life, it could take years to make these connections; on LinkedIn, it takes minutes. You can search the connections of your connections up to 3 degrees of separation, then start working your way through them. You can ask the people you know to connect you with the people you don’t by sending them messages, or you can cut right to the chase and send your prospect an inMail (not free!). If you go the inMail route, be sure to mention the connections along the way so you’re not a completely random stranger approaching your prospect.
  • Groups: You can join groups based on your locality, the niche you’re trying to target or another criterion, such as “business leaders.” Once you’re in a group, post fairly regularly but not to the point that you’re dominating the conversation. You want to come across as knowledgable, not a blowhard. Post links to your blog articles, and ask other group members for their thoughts. This isn’t as direct a marketing route as working your connections, but it can still have an impact.
  • Answers: Another way of showing you know your stuff is to search the Answers section of LinkedIn for “staffing,” “recruiting,” “hiring” or whatever words you feel best describe what your business offers. The results will show questions people have asked that relate to the topic, and you can add to the answers. But be sure to add something of value, not a shallow comment or a cliche.
  • Company and product pages: While it may have been created to further networking between individuals, LinkedIn is becoming more company-friendly. Companies can now have pages on LinkedIn, and sub-pages showing different products or offers. The template is pretty rigid, and utterly un-customizable, but it’s still a good idea to have a complete company page, and even a product page or two, especially if you serve different markets. For example, you could have a product page for your industrial associates and one for your clerical associates.

Twitter – Twitter is interesting because you can post your own stuff, but perhaps more importantly, you can pass along other people’s stuff. You can re-tweet a link to an article on the blog of a prospect’s company (nice way to get noticed!) and you can re-tweet links to articles about issues your prospects are facing. You can also send messages directly to people, either by using their handle and saying it in public, or by sending a direct message (although you have to follow each other for that to work). If nothing else, follow the companies you’re prospecting to, as well as your clients, so you can stay up-to-date on what they’re doing.

Google+ – This one’s a bit murky at the moment. Google+ started strong, but has plateaued over recent months. It’s still got a fairly good foothold among high-tech folks, so if that’s one of the markets you want to target, then definitely join Google+ and post your blog articles, as well as links to articles on other blogs you think are worth discussing.

Pinterest – While Google+ leveled off, Pinterest took off, becoming the fastest-growing social network ever. So, how do you use it for prospecting as a staffing firm? Honestly, we’re not sure. Our sister staffing firm has gotten a few hits off of its Pinterest board aimed at clients and prospects, but we suspect it’s better suited to candidates.

What other social media channels do you use for your B2B marketing? Let us know in the comments!

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