Social media can sometimes be very confounding. This confusion is borne of a diversity of perceptions and goals. People have varying definitions of social media. Some think it’s worthless, others think it’s something their sons and daughters do, and some believe its power borders on marketing sorcery. It’s still too new to be 100% proven (no tactic, no matter how old and “proven,” is ever truly 100% proven). The goals we set range from an uptick in brand awareness to emptying a warehouse full of goods.
You won’t often see a plurality of people pushing back when a B2C social media marketing campaign is kicked off. “Oh, you’re marketing a fun product to people – social media is perfect for that!” However, when a manufacturer of chemicals wants to sell more chemicals, social media sometimes doesn’t get the call. In the majority of cases, that is a call your marketing and communications department should be making.
Below are seven reasons why social media marketing is actually a great fit for B2B organizations.
1. – Your employees need to do research to solve problems
Smart employers are always looking for self-starters. And self-starting employees have a geniune wish to do their jobs better. However, even the most talented employee needs the proper tools in order to excel. If your corporation restricts social media usage at work, you’re actually restricting your employees’ ability to conduct research. They will still be able to Google this and that, but having a network of live human beings to turn to is sometimes superior to Google. Word of mouth is not dead, and social media is word of mouth for the 21st century.
2. – Your employees want to network to enhance their own careers
I’ve had a client say to me, “We don’t want our employees on LinkedIn, because our competition will poach them.” It could happen, and maybe the information they find on LinkedIn could help, but this is a notion that is ever so slowly getting turned on its ear. I hate to break it to you, but if your employee doesn’t get poached, they could just (eek!) decide to leave.
The question companies ask themselves is, “Will we let our employees use social media at work?” when maybe it should be, “Why should we let them?” Employees are not your property, so being overly protective of them or keeping them in the shadows is going to eventually make them feel like you only value them for the job they do, and not as human beings. Jobs aren’t forever, and employees and employers alike are increasingly realizing this. Employees sometimes network. Do not be scared! Their network can help them and your company. (see #1 above and #7 below). If you offer a fulfilling, challenging and kind place to work, you give yourself a great chance of keeping your best and brightest.
3. – Spread the word about your business, and increase brand awareness
Increasing brand awareness does not directly lead to an increase in sales, but it should result in an increase in leads. A B2B social media marketing effort can generate leads, and those leads need to be handed to a salesperson or account manager for nurturing and closing. To reiterate, social media does not close the sale. Real people, answering every question and reassuring the prospect that you’ll be there to back up the product, are the deal closers. Honestly, if you take nothing else from this blog post, remember this! Go here for a deeper discussion of this issue.
4. – B2B transactions are, on average, larger
Which pond would you rather be fishing in? The one with fish that weigh, on average, about $150, or the one where they weigh $150,000? While the B2B sales cycle is a bit longer and more complicated, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is often a 6-figure purchase order. Is that worth spending time on social media? Yes, let’s spend time working to secure such orders. If a steady stream of helpful, relevant online content plays a role in finally convincing a prospect to cut that purchase order, then your marketing department will have done their job. Help your marketing department do their job by providing them the tools they need.
5. – Prove your INTENT to others
People buy from those they know, like and trust. How do you get people to trust you? For one, you can do business with them once and prove you are able to deliver. If you’ve never done business with someone, you can put on a public face that says “We eat, sleep and breathe this business. We are NERDS for this stuff. We’re specialists. Why trust anyone else?” Brochures can’t convey this quite as well as videos can. A steady stream of content describing not just what you sell, but why you sell it, will help make your case. You’re not just in it for the money – you love what you do and what you sell. Your prospects are sitting at their laptops right now, Googling various terms in order to arrive at a solution to whatever challenge they’re facing. It would be best if they stumbled across your business and your website.
I was once delivering a lecture at a Washington University Olin School MBA class, and a student raised his hand and asked about social media for B2B. Before I was able to begin answering the question, the gentleman next to him answered it for me. He worked at a B2B corporation, and they were considering three different vendors for a big project. They saw only one of the three actively answering customer service questions on social media. He said they considered this fact, and extrapolated that this company probably would be the most responsive to their needs. That company got the six-figure purchase order.
6. – Attract great employees
Oh, how often this is overlooked. The prevailing thought in some organizations is, “We have jobs available, and people really need jobs. So we’ll be able to get people to fill these positions.” Personally, I like working for organizations with taste. I like an employer who’s picky. When can an employer afford to be choosy when hiring? When they’re receiving an avalanche of resumes from well-qualified applicants. Good employees have always wanted to work for strong organizations. Increasingly, they perceive that social media aids in making a company stronger, and worse, a lack of social media makes a company look weird and behind the times. If your company isn’t using social media, it does not necessarily mean you don’t “get it.” However, perception is often reality, and you don’t want a potential employee to perceive you in this way (much less a potential customer).
7. – Generate leads – your prospects are on social media!
Let’s cut through it all. You’re going to hear social media experts tell you social media is about engagement and transparency. It’s a cocktail party. You can’t sell, sell, sell. All of that might be true, but you have bills to pay. Sales must increase. Yes, it’s all about the money. Here’s what you need to know: your customers ARE on social media. Often, they’re just participating as themselves, and not as XYZ Corporation. This point deserves reiteration. Whether you believe it or not, your customers are on social media. Get to know them as people. Repeating, people work with people they know and trust. Warm calling is more effective that cold calling. So, warm up those prospects in the more traditional ways (treat them to dinner, a sporting event, talk on the phone and ask how their kids are doing), and interact with them and support them online as well. Don’t hesitate to get to know them a bit. Be genuinely interested in them. They have families and career goals just like you do. Besides the in-person interactions, social media offers you a great way to further develop a friendship, which could develop into a working relationship.
These lists are always different. Google “B2B Social Media” to get other perspectives. This post purposely takes a more human angle. Companies are stronger when their employees are happy. Great employees leave their jobs when they see no way up, and when they aren’t provided the tools they need to succeed. Rally around your best employees, empower them to solve your company’s problems, and communicate with your prospects in a very genuine and direct way. Strengthen your company by strengthening both your employees and the human connections between your sales team and your prospects.
I should mention that we help clients with this sort of work all the time. Our B2B social media work for Belden won “Best in Show” at the 2012 TAM Awards. Out of 200+ entries, our B2B social media marketing work was judged to be the best work of the year. So yes, your B2B organization can do it, too!