B2B: Finding a Home in the Social Neighborhood

Inplace #2

neighborhood_smallADOTAS – Often there can be a stigma that social media is not an effective means to deliver messages and connect with consumers, especially as it relates to the B2B (business-to-business) industry. But, to put it simply, B2B marketers can’t ignore the changing media landscape, especially as it relates to social media.

eMarketer estimates that by 2014, 65% of U.S. Internet users will be using social media in some way, shape or form. This means that the decision-makers of a B2B relationship will ultimately be impacted by social when making a purchase decision — whether it’s through personal-social endeavors or professional ones.

Not all B2B marketers have dabbled with social media, but the adoption rate is substantial. B2B marketers are starting to change their media mix to reflect the changing marketplace, as they should be. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of B2B social-media spending is expected to grow 21 percent between 2009 and 2013, the highest among online B2B spending.

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Source: AMR International, “Online B2B Marketing in the United States: Assessment and Forecast to 2013,” 2010.

Social growth in the B2B marketplace is important, but that doesn’t mean you should discard other standard marketing practices completely; social media should complement your other marketing endeavors — whether that includes email, trade magazines, direct mail, search and more.

B2B and B2C Marketers — Where Do They Differ, If at All?

B2B marketers are often apprehensive to use social media as a marketing tool. Most think that it’s better suited for businesses targeting the average, everyday consumer, aka, B2C marketers. The truth is, both B2B and B2C companies have common goals they seek to achieve with their marketing efforts: both want to drive brand awareness, build online traffic and connect with current and potential customers.

The difference between the two marketing efforts lies in the tactics that each marketer uses to get this job done. From a social standpoint there are a few things that B2B marketers should take into consideration that will differ from a B2C marketer’s approach to social media marketing.

The Target Consumer

B2B companies’ target consumer, in most cases, is a business with industry-savvy professionals making the decisions for a whole company. These decisionmakers are going to weigh all of their options and perform extensive research before making an important purchasing decision that will affect all of the people within their company.

Company’s Position in the Marketplace

Ask yourself how you want your company to be perceived in the business marketplace. In most cases, B2B marketers strive to be known as experts in their field. Social media is an excellent platform to position your company in the marketplace as an industry leader and expert. Social media can help instill faith in these decision-makers that your products/services are the right ones for their company.

Usage of Social Media Platforms

Unlike B2C marketers, Facebook is not always the top social platform for B2B marketers. Don’t limit your social ventures to Facebook and Twitter. Do, however, think of your professional consumer when implementing social tactics. Platforms such as LinkedIn, Wikipedia, SlideShare, YouTube, your own company blogs and microblogs are ideal sources for B2B marketers to generate a persona as an expert in their field.

In fact, according to OneSource’s “B2B SalesPulse Survey,” LinkedIn and company blogs are the top two social platforms that U.S. B2B sales professionals find most effective, followed by Facebook in third place.

To give you a couple of examples, participating in industry groups and conversations on LinkedIn are great ways for you to: learn about what potential business consumers are looking for, share what your business provides and even gain insight into how competing businesses are positioning themselves in the marketplace. Your company blog can also serve as a vital tool in positioning yourself as an industry expert. Uploading content such as company news and accolades, research, white papers, POVs and videos (among others), all reinforce your knowledge of the industry.

Finally, it’s important to remember that in the end, the business professionals you’re targeting are information-absorbers. Which means that the more transparent your business is through social media platforms, the more likely they’ll be able to trust your business — and then they’ll be more likely to spread your product/service offerings through word-of-mouth.

Let’s recap:

  • Don’t ignore social media altogether, because, let’s face it — it’s not going away anytime soon. Whether it’s a big piece of your marketing strategy pie or a small one, it’s one of the key ingredients.
  • Make sure you know your company’s prospects and your position within the industry, then, tailor your social efforts to reinforce this.
  • Think outside of the social box – for B2B marketers, Facebook is not the end-all-be-all of social media. Look into the other options listed above and see what works best for your target audience.

If you’re planning to implement social media marketing in the coming year, then you have nothing to be worried about. The only B2B marketers that should be worried are the ones that refuse to embrace change by sticking to their old ways.