It’s undeniable that social media works for companies that are selling directly to members of the general public. Shopping, for example, is very social, which is why consumer brands in fashion and leisure focus so much on social media platforms. If you are a business selling to other businesses, however, then you will likely get a very different experience and lower level of interaction from your social media efforts.
Just because you are selling B2B (business-to-business) though, don’t write-off social media. More than half of the UK population now have an active Facebook account which means a proportion of your customer base will be on there, but the huge amount of marketing channels available to us can seem overwhelming. Should we be blogging, be on Facebook, doing video, Instagram or even SnapChat? (My teenage daughter lives on SnapChat, so surely we should all be taking note, so we’re not left behind?).
When faced with this huge wall of channels most people take one of two routes: they try to do them all, usually badly, or they decide to do none. Both are the wrong option.
The first thing to decide is if ‘social’ media (the clue is in the name) fits in with your sales and marketing strategy. And if it does, choose just the ones that connect with your specific customer base and do them well.
For social media to be worthwhile for your B2B business, you have to be able to make your company sociable. If you can’t (or are simply not willing to) then put that time into something else instead.
Why social media for B2B is different
You may think that you post something on social media and everyone sees it when in reality all social media platforms use algorithms to work out which posts are actually seen by your friends and followers and which are not. These algorithms quickly judge how interesting someone is (both individuals and businesses) by how many people are liking, commenting on or sharing their posts. If people are not interacting with what you post, then the platform will show less and less of what you are saying, meaning you can end up putting a lot of time into talking to no one.
For social media to be worthwhile for your B2B business, you have to be able to make your company sociable. If you can’t (or are simply not willing to) then put that time into something else instead. Which platforms you chose to be sociable on are also important. For example, I met a company whose engineers worked in stunning and unusual locations, and they were hammering Instagram with their photos. Right strategy, wrong channel. Although Instagram developed as a photograph-sharing platform it’s prime user-base is still teenage girls, few of which are interested in buying engineering services.
So how do you make your business sociable? Well, we’re a B2B company ourselves, and it’s interesting to note that when we post outtakes from our marketing videos, they often get more views, shares and comments on social media than the finished videos themselves. Not that we would want to promote us making mistakes over our core messages, but the trend is obvious.
The most popular post on our Facebook page is still from when we received a delivery of a huge box at the office, and no-one knew what it was. So we posted a picture of it to Facebook and asked people to guess.
When we post outtakes from our marketing videos on social media, they can get more views, shares, and comments on social media than the finished videos themselves.
But where are the sales from all this?
If you are asking that question, then you’ve misunderstood (or have been miss-sold) social media’s role in your marketing strategy. Your main goal on social media should be to strengthen the relationships you already have with your customer base. If you are a B2B company, then social media is a nurturing tool more than a selling one.
It’s still a person (or group of people) who decides whether to buy from you or not. Keeping your company in the minds of those people is vital to securing business, and social media done right is a great way to do that. It’s when you make that part of your wider strategy, however, that it becomes an incredibly powerful tool.
For example, if your business does email marketing through a service like MailChimp, if someone on your mailing list also has a Facebook account using the same email address the two can be automatically linked together. This means that someone can receive your marketing message in an email, and then see the same message reinforced in their Facebook timeline the next time they log-in – even if they don’t follow your company page.
You may decide that social media isn’t a good fit for your company, and being frank I would never recommend a B2B company put resources into social unless they were already doing everything else right first. But it’s when you tie all your channels together, so that you are hitting your customers from multiple angles, that your marketing strategy starts to gain momentum.