“Social media, like any new marketing channel, is a sticky slope for B2B marketers,” says Justin Hitt in a recent blog. “I personally prefer keeping social media ‘business social’ rather than polluting it with advertisements.”

But, wait a minute: if ads are out, what else can B2B marketers do to monetize (and justify to the boss) their participation in online communities? Hitt offers a list of ways that he and his clients have been successfully using social media to boost their bottom lines. Among their “social” activities:

  • Conducting research to understand more about a prospect’s or client’s “buying desires.”
  • Finding decision makers for certain products and services.
  • Extracting names from a given community for lead generation.
  • Getting answers to questions, reaching out to other experts.
  • Finding joint-venture marketing partners and creating various “cooperative opportunities.”
  • Connecting with past customers, keeping them up-to-date.

The key word here? Research. There’s a wealth of data (leads, client preferences and shared wisdom) just waiting to be tapped by B2B marketing teams in these communities. “Social media is something I added to my existing mix,” Hitt reports, because “in some ways, it does it better (saving time, money and resources).”

But a word of caution: “An important thing to remember is that not all your prospective buyers are even online; don’t give up one channel for another,” he advises.

Even without ads, social media can pay off. One key is tapping online communities for the vast amount of insights they offer.

Source: Ask Justin Hitt.