B2Bs can take advantage of social media, but not in the same way B2Cs do. It’s very important to understand this; otherwise, a B2B can easily go down the wrong path and incorrectly, and perhaps disastrously, conclude that social media is irrelevant.
What Works for B2B in Social Media
Generally speaking, B2Cs cast a very wide net: just about everybody is a potential customer, with husbands, wives, sons and daughters being purchasers or influencers. Relatively speaking, B2Bs are looking for needles in a haystack. Their potential customers belong to a particular niche, and what’s more, they may not even be using social media on a regular basis if at all.
This is why B2Cs can attract large communities on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Many of them, like Coca-Cola, already have a gargantuan brand following. Ones that don’t can build a following quickly just by virtue of their broad appeal.
And, while thinking about social media as B2Cs do, as a way to generate leads, establish credibility and extend brand awareness, makes all the sense in the world, it is still too narrow a view. While social media can indeed further these objectives, the channel also helps B2Bs in ways that are less connected to marketing but still crucially important:
- Social provides a new customer service medium
- Social is a rich source of market intelligence
- Social can help identify new suppliers, new product lines, new service providers
- Social can serve as a strong recruiting and retention tool
For B2Bs, social media should not be thought of as a numbers game; he with the biggest following does not win. Instead, social media is a way of connecting with targeted users, primarily customers, prospects, referrers, employees, potential employees, suppliers and stakeholders. These groups represent your target social media community.
Good and Bad Social Strategies
Keeping all this in mind, here’s a few examples of how B2Bs should think about their social strategies.
Using Facebook to build a big brand following: Bad. Your target community isn’t hanging out on Facebook, and your brand isn’t something people want to talk about with their friends.
Using Facebook as an intra-company communication platform: Good. Giving employees a place to post photos, talk a little shop builds morale and makes a great impression on job candidates.
Using Twitter to pump out content links: Bad. Unless you have something incredibly interesting to share, you’ll never get noticed amid the millions and millions of tweets.
Using Twitter to converse with the target community: Good. Even if only a handful of your targets hang out on Twitter, why ignore them when paying attention could help you sell them additional items, earn referrals, and build relationships? Twitter takes less time than phone calls, and nobody would ignore customers whose communication preference is the phone.
Going through the motions on LinkedIn: Bad. There are still a lot of companies that think a token presence on LinkedIn will magically produce sales leads. It won’t.
Seriously working the LinkedIn network: Good. For B2Bs, no social platform has more potential for generating high-level leads and connections, to say nothing of recruiting and information gathering. But realizing the potential takes a concerted effort … just like anything else.
Over to You
How has social media worked out for your organization?