Eight Reasons Why B2B Social Media Actually Matters
This post kicks off a six week B2B social series, in which I’ll be identifying trends, how-to’s and what to avoid in the social sphere. I will attempt to shine a light on the occasionally murky world of B2B social – starting with a brief introduction and eight reasons WHY B2B social can be so powerful.
There is a reasonably common misconception in our industry that social media marketing is the exclusive preserve of – or, at the very least, much more suited to – consumer-focused ‘passion brands’. Those enviable elites that have already achieved high rates of consumer recall, brands that have managed to carve out a special place of usually (but not always) affectionate regard in our collective consciousness. The Apples, Cokes and Nikes of this world. Certainly, when we talk about the staggering numbers that have become synonymous with successful social media campaigning we’re usually talking followers or fans and we’re almost certainly talking established or up-and-coming passion brands. But to reduce social media marketing to the simplistic level of ‘size of fan base/following’ misses the wider opportunity, particularly when we’re talking business-to-business (B2B).
The socialisation of the web is a phenomenon that has changed the media and communications landscape for all businesses no matter who you are or where your target audience is, it’s an opportunity; we can choose to shy away or make the most of it. This series aims to give you some hard insight into how you can make social a perfect fit for your business regardless of size or budget.
Firstly, let’s start with the ‘why’ of B2B social.
We’ve been working with companies of different sizes in the B2B space helping them to tap into the social media opportunity presented by the platforms outlined above. Here are some of the key opportunities we’ve explored and some of the main reasons why social media marketing is such a perfect fit for B2B:
Networking and relationship-building has long been one of the most important activities the B2B marketer needs to be adept at. Professional social media networking is the logical online extension of this. Think of the social environment as a new form of real-time interactive rolodex of contacts. Online networking certainly won’t ever replace real-world networking but it’s the smartest way to supplement it.
2. Demonstrates service level best practice
Prospects are constantly trying to gauge the level of professionalism and service that they’re likely to get from suppliers throughout their decision-making journey. Consistently providing value to contacts and followers in the social space demonstrates a service level best practice before you even get down to negotiations.
3. Low volumes = less risk + more control
Most marketers approach social media with a justifiable level of apprehension. This is mainly due to the loss of control it presents and the speed at which bad news now seems to disseminate across the web. In the B2B space audiences are smaller, which mitigates this risk, giving a degree of control back to the marketer.
4. Supports long rational buying cycle
Business to consumer (B2C) marketing is often about the emotionally driven snap-decision. Global brands and marketing campaigns are built around this understanding. In the B2B space decision-making is usually more rational, meaning the sales cycle is much, much longer. Your social media content strategy can act as supporting sales collateral in between the meetings, supporting your case even when you can’t be there in front of the prospect in person.
5. Helps build long-term relationships
Many Commercial Directors insist their teams spend a good proportion of their day on the phone to clients and prospects. It’s all about maintaining and nurturing good long-term relationships. Again if we use social media as rolodex model we can immediately see the advantages of being active in the space. This advantage of course is that social can be both one-to-one (when you want to make it really personal) and one-to-many (when you want to just stay front of mind).
6. People using social to search
User behavior online is getting significantly more complex. People are now often using social platforms to search or to refine their searches; Google is no longer always the first point of call. On the flipside of this, search results are increasingly featuring and being influenced by social media activity. The boundaries between SEO and social marketing are getting more and more blurry by the day.
7. Trust from recommendations and testimonials
There was a lot of debate when social media marketing first took off around whether or not B2B could even possibly exist; surely it isn’t B2B anymore, in a social media world it becomes P2P (professional-to-professional)? Whatever the debate around terminology, the underlying truth in B2B is that we do business best with people we trust and would recommend to others. Social media is a great space in which to build a portfolio of recommendations from people that have enjoyed doing business with you. In turn, this will help your next set of customers make the decision to start working with you.
8. Opportunity to pioneer
The best bit about B2B social media is that very few organisations have cracked how to do it really well yet. Right now, this puts you at a significant competitive advantage. It’s your opportunity to take on the challenge and pioneer. There are hundreds of businesses that are already seeing the value of incorporating social media activity into their core business approach and that number is only going to get bigger as we move into the future.
Any questions on the B2B series, speak to us @STEAKLondon
By Pete Wood, UK Social Media Director, STEAK