By Emily Manke, JournalismDegree.com

As everyone who’s reading this probably already knows, social media is changing the face of business, and business-to-business journalism is no exception. According to a 2011 survey by Arketi Group, 92% of B2B journalists are on LinkedIn, 85% on Facebook and 84% on Twitter. These numbers suggest social networking is a must in  B2B journalism. The question is no longer whether or not social media is worthy of our time, but rather how do we use it effectively? Here are a few “like” or “share” worthy tips.

1. Be Active on LinkedIn

There’s a reason there are more B2B journalists on LinkedIn than any other social media site. The reason for that is simple: professional industry connections are crucial for B2B lead generation. Case in point: 65% of B2B journalists report generating a lead from LinkedIn, which is more than blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Despite the high number of members and lead generation on LinkedIn, only 47% of companies actively use LinkedIn. The solution is simple. Use LinkedIn more frequently. One way to stay engaged and eager in the LinkedIn community is to join some groups. There’s a small B2B Publishing group with just under 1,000 members that would be a good start. Whatever your industry is, there’s most likely a group for it, and that group is teeming with potential clients. Spend your time networking in the right forums.

2. Leverage Social for SEO

According to a BtoB magazine’s article “Search Still Half of Digital Spending,” 64% of B2B marketers now count social media as being vitally important to organic search results. Second only to strong content. The main potential for SEO through social media, is simply volume. Having your company’s profile accurate and attractive is important. As is having numerous professional followers. The most promising potential SEO boost from social media however, is a link to your site going viral. Going viral is a matter of marketing to people, as opposed to clients. In its article “How Content Is Really Shared: Close Friends, Not ‘Influencers’,” Advertising Age explains,

“Online sharing, even at viral scale, takes place through many small groups, not via the single status post or tweet of a few influencers…Content goes viral when it spreads beyond a particular sphere of influence and spreads across the social web via ordinarily people sharing with their friends…”

So, keep providing original and interesting content to a captivated audience and people will keep sharing it.

3. Post Captivating Content

Posting to the social media sphere is easy. Getting people to care about, and interact with your posts, isn’t quite so easy. The only tried and true way to keep potential clients interested is to keep your posts interesting. There’s no one-size-fits-all template for a linkable social media share. You have to customize your content based on your clients’, partners’ and co-workers’ interests. There are many ways to find relevant and interesting content. Use Twitter’s “Discover” feature to find hot topics in your industry. Also, LinkedIn is a hotbed of industry news, and often has great whitepapers linked in the discussion section of group pages. If all else fails, funny and/or cute animal pictures are always a big hit on the web. Any excuse you can find to post a hilarious or adorable animal pic will pretty much ensure some social media success.

4. Connect with Industry Professionals, Big and Small

Obviously everyone will want to be “friends,” “follow,” or “connect,” with top industry professionals, but don’t forget the little people. Less visible professionals, as long as they are truly professionals, can be a B2B journalist’s ally. Less-known pros are more likely to share, recommend and follow back than their highly notable peers. As I said before, volume is the name of the game, and there are likely more professionals in your industry that you haven’t heard of than you have, so be sure not to discount someone just because you don’t know them or their company. While it’s important to try and grab the attention of “influencers” in your industry, they’re often so inundated with posts from other pros in the field their level of interaction will be much smaller.  The only people you want to avoid contact with altogether are those who are obviously spammers, or have no known affiliation with you, your company or your industry. Just as in the physical world, you never know who will be your next client, so be sure to give everyone an equal chance

Navigating the social media world is a journey full of twists and turns. The guidelines, forums and priorities are sure to change in the future, as drastically as they have in the past. Because of the ever-evolving nature of social media, and the Internet in general, it is vital that you stay up to date. For now, the above information should provide some good guidelines in your quest to get the most out of social media as a B2B journalist.