Is Social Media Really For B2B Marketing?
What does every B2B want? More business, more reach, and more consumers. The last few years have seen an explosion of business-to-business getting involved in search marketing in one form or another. Mainly, they've gotten their feet wet with pay-per-click (PPC), usually run in-house, on a relatively low budget, targeting keywords and phrases they "think" possible consumers are looking for. And over the years, they've had relative success, albeit small. Some B2B'ers understood what Google was going to do to ALL businesses and how it was going to change the face of doing business. Those who understood, got a tremendous head start, and got themselves hooked into search engine optimization. And, if you look around the B2B landscape today, there are still plenty out there who've yet to get the message. And then, within the last two to three years, social media has emerged as the next big thing. And everyone is desperate to drink the kool-aid. Every head of marketing wants in to the social media game; a seat at the table. After all, how hard could it be. A great article on Search Engine Land by Jon Miller points out just how hard it can be and why it might not be ideal.
Should B2B Companies Play in the Social Media Pool?
With everything that's been said, it's a great question. You'd certainly think that now is the time to get involved, and that the sooner you start the easier it will get, right? Maybe. The problem with B2B and social media, beyond that very few people are writing about it, is they have very little to write about. For instance, a manufacturer of steel-infused red brick has no more than a blog or two about his product. And, I've noticed, that very few actaully want to write about B2B market conditions. Most don't write articles about the latest technology they're using to make a better product, and probably feel it's along the lines of releasing proprietary information. Social media is contradictory media: you need to be yourself and you need to extend beyond your "comfortability" boundaries. Most businesses don't like to give opinions about subjects, and most certainly don't like "open forums' for people to give you their opinions. It's risky, but if done correctly, can expand your "sphere of influence" beyond a selected geographic area.
Tread Lightly. Have a Bag of Tricks.
The bottom line is that B2B have to tread lightly. If you're a B2B, you can leverage some social media tools to help you get viral and get you involved in the game. Here's a list of some social media platforms that will allow you put your toes in the water, find a space, and find comfortability within the medium:
- LinkedIn: Create a profile for both yourself and your corporation. LinkedIn provides a great space to interact with the community and question/answer feature that creates a space for you to be recognized as a thought-leader. Additionally, it can also be a useful tool to find the right personnel and make business-expanding connections that may have not been possible otherwise.
- Wordpress: I would caution B2B owners on the blog. The blog, while providing a great opportunity to gather links for SEO and become recognized within your niche as a leader, is also a double-edged sword. Your blog has to be personalized (a.k.a. not reading in monotone), timely, informative, and, hopefully, challenges the reader. It's not a decision I would recommended be engaged in carelessly; I wouldn't jump on that train until you know you have something to write about. There's nothing worse than reading a company blog about nothing but longer and larger "product/service" descriptions. Resist the temptation to meta-blog.
- Facebook: It's easy to set up and easy to manage. You can create a business page and all sorts of goodies on it that they won't find on the site. Additionally, Facebook does offer extraordinarily precise demographic targeting of their ads. While it hasn't been a sound performer, it is certainly worth throwing a few dollars at, and the payoff could be huge.
- Yahoo Answers: This is what LinkedIn based theirs off of. Yahoo Answers is a valuable tool for businesses where your expertise is what you're selling and answering questions that benefit the community, you brand yourself as an expert in that category. For B2B these questions may be not be in abundance, but they are there. You just have to search (i.e. here's a group of questions about dynamometers). Any B2B with knowledge about dynos could offer up expert answers while dropping a few links back to sections on your site as reference points.
You'll notice I left Twitter off the list. Or maybe you are asking yourself why it's not on the list? Twitter, while highly viral, is unique in that it requires constant interaction with the community. And as any time-starved marketer knows, constant interaction is hard to come by with anything. Not to mention that you have to "tweet" items that your "followers" care about and find relevant. If your B2B trends more into B2C, or can straddle both spheres, then Twitter might be good for you. But a straight B2B is going to have a hard time on Twitter. In the end, using the four platforms above will be enough to give you taste of the social media game and get you involved. The goals for SMM (social media marketing) are:
- To be precise with your messages
- Creative with your messages
- Be involved
- And be patient