There is a popular misconception that social media is only beneficial in a B2C environment. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I'm going to explain why. Let’s start by examining how most people perceive social media being used in a consumer-related capacity:
- To create natural conversational engagement
- Product introduction and education
- Retention of brand advocates
- Recruitment of brand audience
- Maintenance of brand voice to extend style and culture
- Development of community (both nurtured and self-sustaining)
- To "soft sell" products and services based upon campaign initiatives
- Support and customer service based on brand, product and or messaging
- To integrate the social footprint of the brand within the context of other marketing efforts (interactive or traditional)
While this list is a bit granular, the social graph as a whole should support these and many other efforts not included here. People often perceive B2C marketing as being about the physicality of the brand. The focus is on a brand’s brick-and-mortar locations, availability of high-demand products, or simply a brand architecture that contains all of the above. We define the term "consumer" as an individual who desires a specific product; typically a product unrelated to their profession.
So how does one tap into using social media as a B2B driver? The answer is simultaneously simple and complex.
One needs to take into account that when speaking to a member of the social audience in B2B capacity, they are still a consumer of your product. They have a defined attachment to it; they have likes, dislikes, and probably countless thoughts on what it should be.
For the purposes of this post I'm going to use my position as Global Social Media Director for an enterprise software solution.
It's fair to say that the list above, although created with consumer-based products in mind, could easily be transposed into a B2B discussion. But in this case I want to tap even further into the psychology of a B2B-driven consumer. People forget that even when you sell to another company, you are still doing it on an individual consumer level.
Although it might not always seem that way, businesses are not void of human beings. There are real people looking at your website, reading your e-mails and absorbing your marketing messages. The B2B consumer is a person with multiple requirements that need to be fulfilled.
Take into account the following punch list is when creating social media messaging to a B2B consumer:
- In almost all cases your audience will be constrained by a budgetary limit. It’s likely they will do a great amount of due diligence prior to seeking you out.
- Remember you're speaking to another individual and not a faceless corporation. It is essential to make them feel exceedingly special for aligning with your brand. Therefore even greater care should be taken when creating social media messaging to your audience, as the decision to affiliate with you far exceeds cultural trends.
- In many cases the individual you're speaking to has a great deal of pressure applied from an organizational standpoint to make the right decision. Make your customer a hero inside her organization and you will create loyalty.
- Customer service is probably the most essential key to retention within the social media environment. It's important to respond as quickly as possible.
- Often there are multiple levels of sales organically in play within the fabric of a B2B environment. It’s not always in the best interest of the social media department to be all things to all people. Frequently it is more advantageous to act as a telephone operator directing parties to the appropriate person or department.
- The core goal of B2B social media is to empower your audience to learn about your product or service. Thought leadership can be fine as an educational medium in a standardized B2C community. People look for a leader to tell them what the product does and how great it is. However, that is not the case in a B2B environment. You have an individual who is spending a great deal of money on your product or service. Therefore they want you to give them enough education so they can speak intelligently about it.
- The old adage "you cannot be all things to all people" is more relevant in B2B than in a consumer environment. Your product is never going to meet the needs of every one of your clients. Therefore the members of your social media team need a healthy knowledge of the product line so they can effectively communicate capabilities and limitations. It also helps to understand the product roadmap plans for evolution. Having the right answers builds trust.
- Create ongoing assurances that your B2B solution is best-of-breed.
- It is essential to create communities and groups around the B2B social initiatives. As with any standard consumer environment, having like-minded people in the same place with the common questions and concerns will create normality around the product. Additionally, it isolates potential customers from conversations that in some cases can be perceived as combative or disgruntled.
It all boils down to creating the right perception. Always ask yourself how you would feel if you were on the other side. If you were a current or potential customer of your company, would you find the appropriate information and communication to help you make a good, educated decision?