Social media marketing might feel simple for the B2C crowd, but with B2B, it’s an entirely different beast. Businesses are entities that are not entirely social — and certainly don’t do the immediate impulse buy like the typical consumer. Nevertheless, B2B marketing is absolutely possible on social media, but certain rules should be followed before proceeding along that route.
The MarketingProfs B2B Forum asked several “masters” about their number one B2B social media tip and included them below.
1. Jason Falls, Social Media Explorer
“B2B is more P2P – people to people. The buyer still wants to buy from a trusted friend, not a logo or a company. Making your business more human, putting a name, face and relationship on the relationship goes a long way. United Linens isn’t a company. It’s Scott, the marketing director. I can trust him. Some random linen company? Not so much. That brings B2B down to a level we can all relate to.”
2. Chris Brogan, ChrisBrogan.com
“Content is my best B2B social media lesson. I’ve seen many companies learn that providing interesting content (like video testimonials or how-to information) is a great way to encourage prospects, warm up leads, and convert to sales opportunities.”
3. Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends
“My best B2B social media lesson was … learning to quickly get clear on what I wanted to accomplish with social media, so that I didn’t spin my wheels.
“In the B2B world especially, it’s crucial to step back and look at your business and who your target customer is. A B2B target audience is usually narrower in scope than a B2C audience. So your use of social media needs to be narrower and more focused. Ask “who am I trying to reach with social media and why?” That’s a clarifying question. If you are very very specific in answering that question, you’ll pretty quickly get to a roadmap of which social sites you need a presence on; which you should monitor; and most importantly, how to use the social media sites you decide on.
“Here’s why. There’s no one right way to use a site like Twitter. A business insurance broker might use Twitter to establish expertise and credibility and awareness – and the business broker’s target audience will be highly specific. A gift basket business, on the other hand, would see Twitter in a different light. It might use Twitter to develop ongoing loyalty with retail customers; publicize discounts and special offers; and monitor for customer service issues. Another example: for most B2B businesses, MySpace or other youth-oriented social sites are probably not worth the investment of time. So, understanding which sites and when to use them will save you many hours of time and possibly wasted staff resources and money.”
4. David Armano, Logic+Emotion
“B2B professionals often only look within their niche and sometimes fail to borrow from the consumer world. For example, I worked [with] Grainger a huge B2B company and we made their commerce site best in class by looking to Amazon as opposed to direct competitors. Also, I think what AMEX is doing with OPEN Forum for small business owners is brilliant and it’s essentially a community strategy. B2B is a niche for sure, but at the end of the day, people are people.”
5. Rohit Bhargava, Influential Online Marketing
“People buy expertise. If I had to choose a core difference between how most B2B business operate versus B2C companies, this would be it. While you might buy a box of cookies or even a digital camera because of features or taste, most B2B sales are based on demonstrating some type of expertise either in a type of service or in the category of a product that you are providing. Once you realize this fact, the lesson for using social media effectively is clear: if you can demonstrate your expertise through social media, you can have a measurable impact on your sales efforts.
“Fortunately, one of the things that social media can be great for is making expertise visible to the world. White papers can be largely replaced by blogs, long winded demos by online video. When you consider social media as a way to extend and prove expertise, the possibilities are vast. In a world like B2B marketing where reputation and credibility go a long way to helping seal deals, social media is nearly becoming a necessity.”
6. Seth Godin, Seth Godin’s Blog
“Social media isn’t about you, it’s about them.”
7. John Jatsch, Duct Tape Marketing
“I guess I would say that it’s to find ways to fuse social media tools with offline engagement. When you meet someone at a Chamber event, connect with them on LinkedIn or Facebook to make it more natural to communicate with them until it’s time to propose some business. Bring your client’s social media profile information into your CRM system to help your sales folks learn more about your client’s day to day life for the next sale contact cycle.”
8. Valeria Maltoni, Conversation Agent
“My B2B advice is “learn to be human again.” Many marketers in B2B companies tend to forget that each customer they’d like to attract and retain is a person. From using jargon in marketing literature, to creating blogs that are mere places to republish press releases — then tweeted as links — a B2B marketer can learn to be more spontaneous and make deeper/better connections with customers.”
9 Jessica Faye Carter, Technicultr
“B2B companies benefit most from social media when they don’t try to emulate the engagement strategies of their B2C counterparts. Certainly they should engage clients using social media, but the degree and style of engagement will likely differ, depending on the products or services offered by the company. B2B companies can also leverage the improvements in company-client interactions brought about by social media, including those related to user experience, real-time client service discussions, and the integration of social media with existing business practices to create new product or service offerings.”
10. Todd Defren, PR Squared
“Have a goal: When it comes to corporate engagement in Social Media, what doesn’t have a tangible goal will often fall apart; it is too easily axed (and the client might ask his PR team: “what did we get from spending all that time on Twitter?”). Often, they want Social Media engagement to bring in leads — and that isn’t happening as reliably for B2B.
“Get buy-in and put the right people in place: just because the CEO or CTO has a great name in their industry doesn’t mean they are the right person to blog or tweet. People that WANT to do it and have something to say are more likely to be successful.
“Move beyond broadcasting: Even clients that are actively doing several projects (Twitter, blog, Facebook page) seem to get a “B” on their efforts because engagement is still lacking. Marketing folks seem intent on broadcasting mode. B2B marketers in Social Media need to be doing more “@’s and RT’s” and industry dialogue vs. ‘look at us!’
“Create and distribute a set of Social Media Guidelines to employees: Even if the company hasn’t begun engaging with social networks from a corporate perspective, that doesn’t mean that the employees might not, and you want them doing so in a transparent and positive spirit.”
11. Brian Solis, BrianSolis.com
“Many people may not realize this, but B2B is the leading source of social media lessons for me. Whether it’s horizontal, vertical, mainstream, or long tail, social media begins with not only listening, but research and analysis. Every experience in B2B is revealing and educational when research serves as the catalyst for strategy, media programming, engagement, and metrics.
“Recently, I was asked to help a major B2B company make the case to engage on Twitter. I worked with the team to compile a list of keywords related to the brand, market, competitors, and partners. After combing through a 30 day window of conversations tied to these keywords, I could only attribute a total of 80′ish conversations for the entire month, including all terms. I presented the findings to the team along with the associated themes that each individual advocated. The response was surprising. According to the company, my research was flawed. They just couldn’t believe that only 80 conversations related to their industry transpired on Twitter in one month. Thus, I was presented with an expanded list of keywords and my research continued. After further investigation, the number jumped to 117. This time however, I decided to search other networks on my own. Obviously, these keywords were too important to not represent any online dialogue whatsoever. Low and behold, forums and discussion boards were alive and active, representing tens of thousands of active questions, answers, and conversations within the same timeframe.
“Lesson learned. Go to where people are interacting now. Creating and investing in a presence where a minority of your community shares, discovers, and creates content is buying futures in a market where the present is far more lucrative.”
12. Mitch Joel, Twist Image
“True story: the CEO of a major organization and I are having breakfast and he’s asking me about the implications of Social Media from a B2B perspective. As I go through how important those natural voices and conversations are [to] the decision makers, he starts laughing and cuts me off. Here’s why: about a month prior to our meeting, his CTO came to him with a fairly advanced technical upgrade that needed to take place along with the pricing and deliverables. Without having much knowledge of the potential new supplier, the CEO found himself doing some online searches for what others have thought. Beyond the jargony-corporate website, the CEO was much more taken by the Podcasts, YouTube testimonials, Blog posts and Twitter chatter about the product.
“Without knowing realizing it, the CEO was entirely reliant on Social Media for their final decision. While it’s easy to think that this is an isolated incident, do [your] own online search for “social media b2b” and you’ll quickly realize that Social Media is probably easier to link to true ROI in the B2B space than it is for B2C.”
13. Tara Hunt, HorsePigCow
“It’s less about the tools and more about the attitude emerging from the social web. Learn to cooperate with your competitors and collaborate with others in your industry towards better customer experiences. For instance, take a page from the social networking notebook and see that projects like OpenSocial (Google), Facebook Connect (Facebook) and Twitter’s extensive APIs are what makes them powerful players in the space. By allowing their users to move their data around to other networks (or keep it on multiple networks), they end up getting more activity. I’ve been advocating for a passport system where we aren’t locked into loyalty programs with a singular brand. Win with putting the customers needs first.”