Like anything else, social media marketing is easier, more efficient and more effective if the marketer has the right set of tools. While hundreds (if not thousands) of tools and services exist for social media marketing, many are still primarily aimed at either consumers or B2C marketers. Fear not B2B marketers -- there are still plenty of great tools out there than can best address the unique needs of the B2B space.
We've raided our own toolkits to come up with some of the best tools and services for B2B marketers that want to get the most out of social media.
The mac daddy of web-based CRM products hasn't been afraid to embrace social media. In the last six months, Salesforce.com has introduced a number of different solutions via its Service Cloud 2 platform for helping integrate social media with the Salesforce.com ecosystem.
One of the best applications for B2B marketers who use Salesforce.com is Salesforce for Twitter. Don't confuse this with Chatter, Salesforce.com's Facebook for Business, Salesforce for Twitter will let you pull in and monitor Twitter feeds and accounts within the Salesforce.com CRM.
What makes this fantastic is that you can assign cases or leads based on a tweet directly in the CRM that can then be followed up on and monitored along with the other aspects of your work flow. What makes social media more difficult for B2B marketers isn't that the tools can't translate from B2C to B2B -- they can -- it's that many times those tools don't integrate well with existing platforms and solutions that a B2B business might have in place.
HootSuite is a great tool not only for managing multiple Twitter accounts (or allowing multiple users access to an account), but also for managing multiple social networks. In November, HootSuite introduced support for LinkedIn and Facebook. HootSuite also now supports WordPress blogs, which works great if you want to have a way to schedule posts and messages to multiple networks. HootSuite also supports alerts and stats tracking. HootSuite is free.
Billing itself as a Twitter CRM tool, CoTweet has been used by a number of big brands, including Ford and JetBlue, and it offers an easy way to manage multiple accounts and also allow multiple users to access a single account. CoTweet also lets you monitor keywords and trends and assign updates to colleagues for follow-up, which can be great for lead-generation. CoTweet was acquired by ExactTarget last month. While the service is available for free, an enterprise option is available for large brands or organizations, starting at a pricey $1,500 a month.
SocialTALK from Syncapse is a social media workflow tool that is designed to help companies control their presence on different platforms and monitor feedback. We covered SocialTALK when it launched in February and it remains one of a handful of services really aimed at helping businesses manage multiple social media accounts from a single dashboard. You can create and schedule video and photo posts for Facebook, have multiple user-access levels, access multiple pages from the same dashboard and monitor incoming traffic and analytical information.
[Disclosure: Syncapse is a Mashable sponsor]
Social media is one of the best tools that B2B marketers can use for lead generation. By monitoring Twitter, forums and online communities, you can seek out not only what people are saying about your client, but you can find people in need of a solution that your client or company can offer.
Radian6 is a really comprehensive monitoring tool that can scan blogs, comments, public Facebook Pages, Twitter and other sources that you feed it. You can then get real-time updates pushed to your dashboard so that you can follow-up or reach out to a potential customer. Radian6 can integrate with Salesforce.com, meaning you can create new contacts or leads in Salesforce directly from the Radian6 dashboard.
Spredfast is a tool that can monitor, manage and measure various social media solutions. You can use it to manage multiple accounts or to schedule content. Spredfast can also be used to do real-time monitoring of persistent keyword searches in search engines, RSS feeds and Twitter and Facebook streams. It can also index relevant and competitive sites. Spredfast also offers metric reporting and tracking so that you can better understand what methods are working best and what methods might need some tweaking. Spredfast starts at $50 a month.
7. Social Radar
Social Radar is another tool that can do a real deep dive of social monitoring and analysis. The SR Alerts package can monitor conversation fluctuations, important topics from designated influencers and sentiment analysis.
The Social Radar tool isn't cheap (SR Alerts starts at $200 a month), but for businesses that want to monitor a lot of ground, it's worth investigating.
truPULSE from Visible Technologies can monitor and listen to conversations surrounding certain topics or keywords from Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, video sites and blogs. What's nice about truPULSE is marketers can track the tone and perceptions of a brand amongst your brand, your product or competitors.
truPULSE can also highlight crisis and customer service issues -- which is an area that B2B marketers can excel at by either fixing the situation before it gets out of hand, or use as a way to get a lead or pitch their own service or product.
Viralheat is a social media monitoring and analytics service. It can monitor Twitter, Google Buzz, Facebook Fan Pages, the real-time web and even viral video statistics. One area in which Viralheat differs from some other options is that it can both restrict profiles by location (which can be huge if your B2B is local or is trying to target a certain sector or location) and it has its own API. Having its API means that you can make Viralheat extensible and potentially integrate it into other existing business solutions.
Sentiment analysis tools can be really helpful for B2B marketers because without context, just having a number of Twitter mentions surrounding a certain topic or brand is pretty meaningless. Sentiment Metrics is a tool aimed at larger businesses and the enterprise but it can be useful for B2B marketers because it can monitor not only sites like Twitter, but also online forums and blogs.
While people might inquire about products or services on Twitter or Facebook, the in-depth conversations often take place in forums or on blogs. Monitoring these areas for not only mentions but sentiment analysis can be pretty powerful.
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