Can social media be used for business-to-business (B2B) brands? The answer is, yes!
The reason why I think social media is not, yet, a mainstream activity for many B2B marketers is because the outcomes that most B2B marketers seek to deliver on are more suited towards “traditional” online and offline marketing techniques such as pay-per-click advertising, lead generation and traditional public relations.
But when you start scratching the surface of social-media marketing you begin to discover that bottom-line results can positively be affected by social-media activities, even if used for less traditional return-on-investment outcomes such as engagement, interaction, sentiment, research, authority ranking, influence and innovation, to name just some. And surprising to most B2B marketers new to strategic social-media marketing is that these outcomes can have a positive influence on more traditional metrics such as sales and customer retention.
In a post titled “8 Simple Rules for Social Media Marketing in the B2B world” Todd Malicoat once wrote: “Social media applies to everyone. Yes, even B2B folks. The question is how? The answer is — in speaking to your customers, clients, vendors, partners, friends on a one-to-many basis. The magic bullet is in figuring out how to do that. There is no process. There is no direct correlation to productivity or efficiency. There is no solution that will raise revenue in a quantitive fashion for next quarter. What there is, is the opportunity to speak to other humans like humans and have them appreciate you doing so.”
This said, more and more B2B marketers are utilising social media in some shape or form, the most popular being blogs and social-networking sites, specifically for the purposes of positively influencing the purchasing decisions of B2B buyers. As Paul Gillin writes: “Some of the most ambitious corporate blogging campaigns have been primarily aimed at B2B uses. Microsoft and Sun, which between them have about 10 000 corporate bloggers, use this tool to reach developers, business customers and prospective employees. The blogs are easily searchable and they allow readers to pose questions to the best sources of information. Among other B2B companies that are using blogs effectively are Emerson Process Management, the New York Stock Exchange, Marriott, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Boeing and Accenture, to name just a few. You won’t find a lot of playful repartee and trivia contests here. These blogs are intended to communicate useful information and reinforce their authors and their companies as authorities in their fields.”
I don’t believe in a one-shoe-fits-all approach. What works for one business-to-business client won’t necessarily work for another, largely because each business, each market and each online marketing strategy is unique. The key is to have a solid, business-focused social-media strategy in place that complements other traditional online and offline communication channels while pushing the boundaries in a pioneering yet “controllable” manner. Come to think of it, its what’s become the foundation of some of the most successful global B2B conglomerates.