We are forever being asked the importance of social media in business to business marketing. And forever we get results which say it has no relevance at all. The chart below is fairly typical of answers to the question:
Which of the following sources of information do you use for information on industrial products?
The thing is, social media is exactly that – it is social. It is for people to people connections. Of course, people in businesses do connect with each other but it happens to be mainly for commercial purposes rather than socially. For example, people who follow Twitter, in the main, are following celebrities. They want to tap into someone who is saying interesting, humorous or outrageous remarks. It is why 80 to 90 million people follow Kate Perry, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift and why a b2b company might think itself lucky if it has 2000 followers. Who would want to follow a b2b company anyway? Potential suppliers maybe. Potential employees similarly. Sadly, it is rare for customers to sign up to a supplier’s twitter account. There simply isn’t much going on there that engages.
This is not to say that social media has no place in b2b marketing. Quite the reverse. We think social media is underused and full of potential. However, for this potential to be realised, the message needs to be interesting. Human content stories, new ideas, and light-hearted comment is the stuff people want to hear but unfortunately it is exactly this that is damped down by the legal eagles and the naysayers in b2b companies. “We can’t say that! What would our customers think?” “We can’t say that! We are giving stuff away to the competition!”
LinkedIn is the one area where social media has gained momentum in b2b marketing. Its success began with and still is largely in the generation of leads and it is making good strides in sharing stories that build brands. There are increasing numbers of interest groups on LinkedIn that provide opportunities for engagement and brand building.
So far we haven’t mentioned Facebook. Facebook is a clear winner in the consumer space and it is gaining ground amongst businesses. Because Facebook is one of the most visited channels on the planet, it is not surprising that amongst some decision-makers it is moving up their list as a source for researching business suppliers. It is also a great place to share stories that attract good employees and weld existing ones together.
Finally we should draw attention to YouTube which is important for all b2b marketers and especially for those who have equipment to showcase. Companies such as GE have an entire YouTube sub channel showing work on the factory floor. This is an opportunity for an industrial company to turn something that could be regarded as dull into a real story. It is how FedEx can attract nearly 300,000 viewers to its advert featuring “goofy glasses”.
We conclude today’s blog with five tips for making the most effective use of social media in b2b marketing:
- Find good content – people in business are always hungry for relevant information. If you post good content, it will go viral.
- Don’t be boring – social media is your chance to let your hair down and show the human side of your company. Find an interesting angle and tell a great story.
- Feature people – it is no surprise that people love people. More than anything they like to hear from your customers. Testimonials never go out of fashion. Make sure you feature them.
- Pinch good ideas from B2C – those guys in consumer marketing really know how to engage with their audience. So, keep a look out for what our consumer cousins are doing and be brave; copy them.
- Experiment and test – we can’t emphasise enough the need to try out new marketing approaches. Social media is new to many business to business companies and it is a chance to see if something works – FAST. And when you try that something, evaluate it and make sure you learn so that next time you will do it better.