Including social media as a component of an integrated marketing communications programme that also includes traditional media, web site and email campaigns should start with some research.
The big question for many b-2-b companies now, is where are their customers and prospects looking for information? There is a general acceptance that display advertising campaigns in the trade press are not the best way to invest so much of the marketing budget as they once were. That there is migration to other media and the web site is the vital hub, but how do people get there and how do they learn about your business before reaching your site? This is where some fundamental research is called for. In this fragmented media landscape it is important to understand current customer preferences for discovering information and their route to a purchase decision. At the very least discover how many rely on traditional editorial recommendation in the trade press, or like the 'hands on' opportunity afforded by exhibitions, are content to search the Internet or maybe like the more relaxed style of social media? And there is another thing - what formats and platforms do they tend to use - print, desk top computers or mobile devices? It might be worth just checking how well the company web site displays on mobile devices. In fact this piece of research is going to need to be done regularly as migration continues and media continues to offer new communication channels.
Armed with this research insight - what next? With an up to date understanding of what media customers and prospects prefer, then there is a rationale to determine how scarce marketing resources of funds and time are best deployed and to set objectives. The overall aim is to lead through to sales leads, but some channels may work better at the early stages of engagement and social media probably works best as a soft sell, hence it needs to work within a fully integrated marketing communications programme.