Most of the topics I’ve covered on the blog over the past month or two have been on the intersection of Email + Social. The focus is understandable, given the new Email + Social tools we’re about to launch.

This 2-part series is only about the social part of Email + Social. Our new tools will go a long way towards lifting both your email and social initiatives, provided that you have email and social initiatives. We know that a lot of B-to-B companies are still wading knee deep in social, not yet ready to take the full plunge. (In fact, that’s one of the main reasons we’ve built the tools – to provide the analytics B-to-B organizations need to move more confidently into social media.) If you are one of those organizations just getting started in social media, looking forward to ramping it up and integrating it with your email program, the pair of articles in this series is for you. They are about social media strategies for B-to-B – what to do, and what to steer clear of.

B-to-B brands need to approach social recognizing that the vast majority of the population there does not know them or care about them, but that harnessing customers’ and prospects’ social graphs through targeted and highly relevant initiatives can nevertheless help find hundreds or even thousands of needles in the 250 million person haystack. Here are a few examples of how B-to-B brands can integrate social media’s unique qualities with their own programs and assets, to expand reach, deepen connections and generate leads.

B-to-B Social Strategies: The Do’s

1. Do aim for a desirable demorgaphic you don’t reach through your traditional channels.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers turned to Facebook for a recruiting initiative designed to lure younger career-starters and even students towards the industry it represents. The youthful audience was not part of AMSE’s regular reach so Facebook proved an attractive venue. The association aggregated industry content and developed a microsite on job opportunities and career information for people considering mechanical engineering. A Facebook page was a principal channel to promote the microsite, and the efforts earned the page over 10,000 “likes” in a few months. AMSE did partner with an agency for the initiative, but even with thinner resources a similar effort aimed at expanding demographic reach through social could be successful.

2. Harness social communities to demonstrate the community of your events.
No small part of the lure of events is connecting business colleagues and partners on a personal level. Here’s where social media shines most brightly, with viewing, tagging and commenting photos, as well as making new connections consistently showing up as some of the most popular social media activities. If events are important to your organization, consider devoting a Facebook page to events, as a sort of Events Central for your organization. Take advantage of all the social tools already in place to allow your attendees to make connections before, during and after the show, and use the page for distributing content before and afterwards to keep the community alive and engaged until the next show. For examples, see TED on Facebook, and the 1.4million fans it has amassed.

3. Answer the questions you provoke.
Questions – particularly customer inquiries – are a business’ best friend. They reveal genuine engagement and provide an opportunity for deeper education. Most companies are organized to jump on every sales lead that comes in through the website or the phone, but many companies do not treat questions and comments in the social sphere with the same gravity. I think that’s a mistake. A comment on a Facebook page or a Twitter mention might not be the white hot buying signal that a “have a salesperson call me” form on the website is, but they are productive nonetheless. Not only can they start conversations with prospects, but every comment or mention or RT is like an email a prospect is sending, and cc’ing all of his fans and followers, and yours. Social conversations are public, so the education you are able to provide in response is visible to a much broader audience. B-to-B brand Vistaprint recently initiated a new procedure that all social comments, mentions and retweets be replied to – whether they were positive, negative or neutral. The result is that the number of the brand’s fans and followers more than doubled, and it saw an increase in its Net Promoter Score as well. Contributing to conversations pays dividends.

Next time in Part 2, I’ll turn the perspective around, and look at some popular B-to-C social strategies that B-to-B brands would do well to avoid.