B2B Social Media: Explore Unbound Potential

Admit it. Marketing for B2B space has never seen so much action, especially when it is all about Digital Technologies.

There have always been quite murmurs pertaining to Marketing budgets that typically involve the likes of Branding, Advertising, Awareness Creation & Media strategies for businesses that serve enterprises: whether the business requires any of those, in the first place. During one of my several meetings with prospective B2B customers, I have had to face severe resistance from senior representatives from Operations, Technology, Finance and Business Development to the idea of fixing a Social Media Strategy, somewhere around 2009, to be precise. Despite showing presentations that threw statistics pointing to the potential that Digital Marketing holds (with approx. 62mn Internet Penetration!), there was only one emotion drawn: blank. No matter how much of competition activity, innovation by peer companies was presented, there was plain reluctance on behalf of this prospective customer who regarded Digital as a stop gap arrangement, given the dot com bubble which had burst less than a decade ago. An idea that required a wait and watch mode, going by their arguments; perhaps, I echoed to myself: only to realize that they have been left far far behind of the business that is being disrupted inside out, by ideas that are way ahead of their times. Déjà vu, then!

B2B Social Media: What Works?

It is a different mindset that prevails today: getting under the skin of Digital Marketing, deploy Omni channel strategy & stay on course with Communication strategy. It is no longer whether “Should We get into Digital”, rather it is all about “Will a Video blog help us get us the required numbers” or, “Is there any Influencer who can help propagate our Content strategy”. Should I add, it is not about touch points but more about “What Internet behavior does a Business’s core Target Audience exhibit” — it is critical to have information that supports hypothesis that Marketing ought to keep drawing — Webinar to address Customer Testimonials, for one: to attract lost customers! It is always recommended to have business goals along with Target Audience insights right at the forefront.

To my mind, the questions that you pose will only get you the limited solutions: it is a good idea to broaden the perspective and create a risk driven culture that encourages an enterprise to fail & implement optimally. I will be more than amused when a B2B Marketing Head comes up with a Rajnikant series of viral video campaign to spread message amongst it’s Corporate customer. Or, a wackier concept that takes the product/ service away from the cluttered chaos, from Instagram to Snapchat.

Despite the success that B2C companies have seen with social media, B2B companies are still relying on traditional tactics like cold calling and attending business networking breakfasts. Those tactics are still effective, but they shouldn’t be used in place of social media. Instead, you should be integrating social media into your strategy for even better results. If you’ve been shying away from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram because you think it won’t work for companies that serve other businesses, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity1.

In what follows is a starter kit of sorts, or five key steps for building an effective Social Media strategy for B2B enterprises.

1. B2C is no benchmark for B2B: Whatever might work for B2C might not work for B2B. This is one key differentiation that B2B Marketers should take into account, since increasingly comparisons are drawn with other categories who have tasted success from Digital Marketing. It is a call that the Marketing team will be required to take upon due consideration of category, audience composition, business challenges et al before zeroing down on the blue print: every business is unique.

2. Target Audience Definition: Instead of building a demographic/psychographic based definition, it will suit complex B2B businesses to create structures that display the interplay of internal stakeholders and their customers. Primary, Secondary & Tertiary customers and the mapping of influence on the Buyer journey will provide a wholistic input to create a blue print for Social Media success.

3. Touch points exist beyond LinkedIn: a perspective that is broadened with experience always counts; however, it should be pre-empted here that every experiment results in loss of faith in a specific touch point. Extremely critical that no touch point be considered in isolation in order to get a full rounded perspective and communication strategy that worked or otherwise. Incorporating multiple touch points as in E-mail, Twitter, Slideshare, Blog shall help in evaluating traction generated by these in relation with the communication strategy deployed.

When you put branding first, it gives you a different perspective on which social media platforms to choose. All of a sudden Instagram and Pinterest are no longer off limit. Social Media Examiner found that more B2B companies are starting to pick up on this and are expanding beyond LinkedIn.

  • 89% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn
  • 88% use Facebook
  • 83% use Twitter
  • 61% use Google+
  • 55% use YouTube
  • 39% use Pinterest
  • 26% use Instagram

The companies using Instagram, Google+ and other platforms that aren’t traditionally used for B2B marketing realize the importance of using social media for branding instead of just looking for leads.

1. Identify the Problem Statement: As a part of Social Media strategy, undertake an activity amongst leadership teams of the business to enable getting a bucket full of problems that the business faces. Independent of competitive forces & Governance factors, these leaders should be asked to pen down critical challenges that business faces for growth. These leaders can meet and debate on identifying the Problem Statement thereby: it is easier said than done; however, arriving at a consensus after a 12-hour closed room meeting will iron out any differences that the internal stakeholders might encounter in the process to arrive at the statement. Based on the Problem statement, it is imperative to then evaluate how Digital Marketing can help tide through that Problem statement. We might also have situations wherein there are conjoint Business problems, that could be absolutely valid and supporting the hypothesis that fractures business growth.

2. One Campaign One Objective: Considering the sea of challenges that a B2B enterprises confront, it is very easy to flow in multiple campaigns targeting a single objective: Email for Retention & Social Media for Acquisition, if you will, to just elucidate. However confounding it might sound, it is critical to address just one campaign that addresses a single business objective, rather than ending up in a situation wherein the Chief Marketing Officer has to crunch numbers from Awareness via Email, Blogs, Twitter instead of Awareness via Email, Acquisition via Adwords & Retention via Social Media. Whilst the latter gets mind numbing, mismanaged and disoriented, it also gets senior management’s focus away from the Business Challenges that requires to be addressed and start paying Vendor bill for the Campaign execution.

While those of us in the social media marketing world might argue over B2C versus B2B needs, there is a new buzzword that is getting some traction online: H2H. Human-to-human marketing is really nothing new, but it does force us to remember that at the core of all social media marketing we are quite simply people talking to people. With a solid plan in place, some creative ideas lined up, and the right team and partners at the helm, every B2B company has the chance to shine bright in this space2.

(Masthead pic: http://mediavisionadvertising.com/who-we-are/)

1. B2B Social Media Strategy: http://sproutsocial.com/insights/b2b-social-media-strategy/

2. 5 (Relatively Simple) Steps To B2B Social Media Marketing Success: https://www.fastcompany.com/3026450/dialed/5-relativity-simple-steps-to-b2b-social-media-marketing-success