We could begin with a clichéd and obvious analysis of the prevalence of social media in the twenty-first century. However, you know it is rife. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be reading this. It seems every member of the public does need social media. All your events are there. So are the birthdays for the friends you have never physically met. But what about B2B brands?
I can wholly understand the scepticism. These are platforms where people are firing out pictures of drunken friends, dishing out Confucius-esque moral statements, and showing us the beef-swims-in-gravy-dinner, they have sat down to. It would seem to many that social media is populated by ego-centric, and very individual, community. So, again, what about B2B brands?
It certainly has to be handled in a very different manner to B2C brands. For a start, those businesses that sell directly to the consumer tend to accumulate followers as if they were just raindrops falling into their massive bucket. Businesses that sell to other businesses seem to have it much harder.
Where are all the B2B brands’ disciples?
Businesses don’t operate the same way as consumers. You’re selling to business people. The products they’re looking for aren’t luxury items that will look nice the next time they go running. They’re looking for pragmatic, functional products that will alleviate the stresses of their day-to-day operations.
This is function over fashion.
Rarely will you be able to rely upon an impulse buy. Ultimately, a B2B customer isn’t buying for themselves. They’re buying for a company in the hope that they will be able to increase productivity.
If you’re honest with yourself, you will know that your product doesn’t look as aesthetically pleasing as that beach in Malibu, or the coke can with the water running down its side. But then, you don’t need it to. Appealing to the B2B market probably means screenshots of one of the less crammed parts of the CRM you’ve built, or an easy to translate page from your accountancy software.
Why are B2B customers on social media?
It isn’t a bad thing that your target market doesn’t act like consumers. In fact it might actually benefit you that they’re not.
If consumers are making impulse buys based upon the aesthetics they have enjoyed on Facebook, then that makes them a very fickle audience. Also, if B2B brands’ customers acted like that, then you would have an increasingly high customer churn as they bounce from one product to another. If B2B customers are on social media looking for products, then they are there seriously.
Considering the upheaval of installing your product into their company, just for them to change their mind in a few months. They must train their staff to use your product. They must load it up with their data or implement it into their strategies. B2B customers are enthusiastic about change, and serious about durability.
If your customer is on social media, then are there for two reasons:
- They’re also trying to appeal to their buyer personas.
- They’re discussing relevant industry knowledge with others in their industry.
Both these reasons can provide you with a real advantage.
Understand B2B Brands’ buyer personas
Your customers are selling to someone. Moreover, as important as your business customers are to your operations, thus their customers are the centre of their world. It doesn’t matter whether your customer is B2C or B2B, they’re trying to attract someone. Imagine what you could do if you could find out what is important to their customers.
Social listening is a key part of social media management, and it can pay dividends. If you can see the conversations your target market is embroiled in, then you can see what’s important to them. If their customers identify a problem within the industry, is there some way that you can market your product to solve that problem?
It is simple to eavesdrop onto these conversations by searching for relevant topics. You need social media to effectively intrude upon these discussions and watch to see what matters in your target’s industry.
Discussing relevant industry knowledge
It is important to the B2B customer to be able to trust their suppliers. And, whilst some social channels lend themselves very much to entertaining the masses, there are also many communities that are dedicated to your industry.
Facebook has groups dedicated to your industry.
Twitter has hashtags pointing to your industry.
LinkedIn is completely oriented towards B2B information sharing and marketing.
It is perfectly acceptable for you to share your blog articles on one of these social media channels. This way, you can get yourself involved with many people in the industry that you’ve targeted. More than that, sharing a well written blog dealing with an important issue on social media will drive people towards your website.
Increasing B2B brands’ awareness
Monique Holtman’s fluent article on how B2B brands can use social media more effectively, discusses the brand awareness of a large tech company. The company in questions has almost 7 million social followers. That is a large audience that they may not have had access to if it wasn’t for the fact they were on social media.
A lot of people consider the number of social followers to be little more than a vanity metric. However, your target market might not be ready to buy right now, but it doesn’t mean they won’t buy in the future. This company has access to seven million of them.
Even if they aren’t buying themselves, that is 7 million possible followers, which then you can ply with downloadable or gated content. That’s a large pool of possible leads though isn’t it?
Followers on a B2B social media platform may be a vanity metric to a point, but these are the people that might convert later. If you use short links that can be tracked, you can see how many people are heading to your landing pages. Then you can see how many of your landing pages are converting and have an excellent metric to analyse your campaign success.
Social media requires attention
Many B2B brands have felt that social media failed. Many of these brands posted twice a day on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, then ticked social media off their to do list. With such a lax attitude towards your marketing channels, it is no wonder that social media failed to gather any moss. The key is in the word “social”.
Social media requires time and effort. Putting a post on social media, applying a few hashtags on it and then walking away is not being social. It is no different to the outbound techniques that have slowly ground to a halt over the last decade. You’re pushing your brand out, you need to use social media as a lead generation channel.
Social listening and social monitoring are important. You need to know what the conversations around your industry are. You need to join these conversations. These discussions are yielding important information or asking pivotal questions. Without social monitoring and listening, of course your social media plan is failing.
Inbound marketing channels all take a little bit of work. Why would anyone think that “playing” on social media would be any different? Especially if you’re B2B brands.
I suppose this is the very definition of a foregone conclusion. We know how this article is going to conclude. The title is a question, and of course we are going to give the answer:
B2B brands need social media just as much as B2C customers do. Fair enough, we will interact with it in a different manner, but we will still interact with it. For the B2B customer, social media reflects what the internet was invented for in the first place.
Transferring information from one professional to the next.
I would be interested to hear any counter arguments. Does anyone think that B2B brands don’t need social media? Does anyone still think it is just a distraction? Please leave comments for me and get this conversation underway.