Making Social Media Work for B2B Strategies
By: Zhanna Dubinsky, Digital Strategist
Budgets continue to shift toward Social Media in the Business to Consumer (B2C) space, but Business to Business (B2B) marketers are lagging behind because they struggle to identify how it fits into B2B specific goals. Today, 35% of B2B marketers do not see social media as a critical part of their business and 26% don’t know how to measure social media success. In general, social media is an important marketing strategy for B2B companies, but one that must be approached in a unique way. The B2B approach to social media is much different than B2C in that it is more focused on developing relationships with customers. It is not only important to note the major differences between the two, but to also identify key strategies that B2B marketers can implement.
Differences between B2B and B2C Social Media
Target Audiences: A key difference between B2B and B2C social media marketing is that B2B marketers tend to know their target audience much better. This makes it easier to develop and distribute content as well as engage and develop relationships with customers. This is helpful to B2B marketers because they know which outlets their customers are most likely to network through. For example, if a B2B software company is looking for potential customers, they will have more insight as to where their customers might be looking for information, such as LinkedIn discussion boards, Google+ groups, or Twitter hashtags. B2B sales are all about building close relationships, whereas B2C sales tend to be much more focused on price points and building brand awareness. Social media is a great tool for both types of businesses, but specifically allows B2B marketers to reach out and grow relationships with both customers and prospects on a more personal level.
Measuring Campaign Success: The chart below describes the top methods that B2B and B2C marketers use to measure social media success. Not every measurement of success applies to both B2B and B2C campaigns the same way, however, because Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) between the two segments differ. For example, a lift in website traffic might be seen as significant for a B2B brand, but not so much for a B2C company with a similar lift. Furthermore, B2B marketers may not even value a KPI as much as they might value the customer service and branding aspects of social media.
Sales Cycle Length: B2B buyers tend to spend larger amounts of money and a longer amount of time in the buying process. This is important to note because during a longer sales cycle, all the touch points along the way matter, including any social media interaction. B2B social media marketers should be more mindful of content published, conversation volume and interaction with customers than B2C marketers. Again, this circles back to the relationship development aspect of B2B social media marketing.
B2B Social Media Strategies
Identify a Brand Personality: An effective social media strategy does not just appear overnight. Typically, it is a lengthy process to reach the amount of followers, fans, etc. that you want your business to have. This should not be discouraging, however, since all brands must start somewhere. The more you use the various outlets, the more subscribers you should generate in the long run. The most crucial thing to remember when getting started is to identify your brand’s personality and make it clear online. One of the best things about social media is the amount of versatility you get when building up your brand’s reputation. Companies can include videos, photos, customer service assistance, behind the scenes information, and more through these different outlets. It’s a best practice to take advantage of as many aspects of social media as possible to keep customers engaged and interested. Salesforce.com is a good example of a B2B company that has built up a significant social media presence and has used various methods, such as video, in their outlets (see above). It is also important to not post the same message on every single social media outlet so that your message does not get repetitive to users who may follow you in multiple places.
Interact with Customers Interacting with customers as often as possible is an important element of any B2B social media initiative. Companies should ask questions, answer questions, hold contests, and continuously engage with users in order to be effective. If a social media plan is put in place that just advertises products or promotions, the content will become too much like spam and alienate your audience. The key thing to remember is that social media is a way to get your customers and prospects to familiarize themselves with your brand as well as get all of their questions and concerns squared away. It is a useful tool for developing long-lasting business relationships and having customers turn to you again and again.
Utilize Social Listening: Social media is a great place to conduct research and learn more about both your audience and your competition. B2B marketers can use social media to capture customer feedback in order to improve business processes or products in the future. Currently, 63% of B2B marketers are not aware of what is being said about their companies online. Social listening can be used to serve as a type of survey panel in order to gage customer reactions to products or services (which is incredibly valuable for companies). Companies can resolve any issues that they may have had with customers in the past, as well as make improvements in the future, by implementing this strategy. It can also be used to monitor competitors and see what they might be doing differently. Social listening can give B2B marketers valuable insights that they can apply to all of their marketing outlets and improve their business objectives.
Regardless of which strategy you choose to use in the social sphere, prioritizing relationships is a key element towards success. While B2C social media marketers might emphasize the quantity of relationships, B2B marketers should stick to building quality relationships instead, and focusing on customer relationship marketing. It is more beneficial for B2B companies to have a smaller amount of solid relationships with customers who they actually want to do or have done business with. Remember, participating in social media should be all about serving your customer, a concept that can be very successful for B2B brands.