By now, most businesses are fully aware of how important it is to utilise social media in their online marketing and that they need to be prudent about the channels they use both in terms of cultivating the right image and reaching the right audience.

This advice presents a unique challenge for B2B companies because most of the discussion around social media is about reaching the general public and not other businesses. What channels are best used for B2B social media marketing?

LinkedIn is generally the first and sometimes the only social network that B2B companies think of. It’s designed specifically for businesses and for professional contacts, and more than 90 percent of B2B marketers in North America use the site. Its members tend to be decision makers within their companies as well as older and more affluent.

LinkedIn drives a huge amount of traffic to corporate websites compared to other social media, and in addition to marketing opportunities like targeted ads, it offers an excellent way to connect though its groups and over personal email.

However, LinkedIn is not the only option for B2B marketing. Many experts point out that failing to harness the power of other types of social media is often a result of companies forgetting that they are still ultimately marketing to other people. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube can all be ways of making these professional connections.

Twitter can be an excellent place for professionals to chat in short bursts and seek new business prospects.

In B2B marketing on social networks, if LinkedIn is more like a day at the office, Twitter is the work-sponsored cocktail party where a mix of professional and appropriate social exchanges can lead to connections and new business. One advantage of Twitter over Facebook is that it allows more for one-on-one exchanges.

Facebook by contrast may be somewhat less effective, but it does offer opportunities to interact with other groups and organizations. Event announcements and online promotions can be carried out over Facebook and business pages can get opt-ins from email marketing.

One good way to decide whether investing energy into B2B marketing via Facebook is by checking the activity of target companies and populations on the site.

One of the main advantages of Google+ is the extent to which its usage is tied into higher search engine rankings. Actions such as sharing content there can raise a business’s profile. Business pages give companies the opportunity to build relationships with one another.

Making business connections or even making friends on a YouTube comments page is highly unlikely, but the site’s video capabilities can be an excellent way to market some services and products. Keep in mind that videos can be uploaded to YouTube and then embedded in numerous sites including the company blog or website. Good video can drive inbound leads.

From the outset, have a social media marketing plan: it’s really important to find out where your target audience is, as this may not always be on a mainstream social platform.  There is an abundance of less well-known social channels and business niche forums in which you can participate in and contribute to. Additionally, if your business produces great content, then it is more than likely your audience will want to find you.

B2B marketers should be wary of trying to maintain too many social media accounts; they should identify two or three that are best for their purposes. By targeting the right platforms in the right way, they should see a significant return on investment.

This article was first published on Social Media Today