Can you market B2B using social media?

Scott Donald

Scott Donald is the chief strategist at Creativ Digital, an Australian digital agency specialising in ecommerce website optimisation. He designs builds and provides marketing for websites to perform at their best.

The question is no longer whether you visited Facebook, posted a photo on Instagram or tweeted something interesting, but how many times you checked your social media today.

In fact, reports show social media or social networking has become the number one Internet-based activity for 72 per cent of all US Internet users.

And it's not only younger generations that are hooked. Those in the 30 to 49 age bracket boast an 82 per cent usage (according to Pew Internet Research, and those 50 to 64 years of age have a 65 per cent usage rate. Forty-nine per cent of consumers over 65 are also using social media.

All in all, there are about 1.73 billion people using social media worldwide, says eMarketer, a figure projected to reach 2.55 billion by 2017. We could keep going through such impressive statistics, but there’s just really one point here: Social media is as much a part of our daily lives as it has ever been. And when used properly, it can mean better business.

Social media, however, is often only positioned in the context of B2C marketing. Those marketing directly to consumers know four in 10 people buy something they saw on various social networking sites. And because the majority of consumers complete their purchases based on emotions, B2C marketers are focused on evoking those responses across social media platforms, which works like a charm.

But what if you're involved in B2B? Can you just as effectively use social media for B2B marketing? To answer the question, let's first understand how B2C and B2B are actually different from each other.

B2B vs. B2C

In the B2B space, the relationship between the businesses involved in the transaction often takes longer to establish, and the focus is on product or service features rather than on a personal relationship or emotion. B2B marketing, therefore, has historically taken a more in-approach depth because it caters to customers that are information seekers.

To be effective in B2B marketing, you need to focus on explaining the logic behind your product. In other words, you have to show other businesses how they can save time, resources and make more money with your product or service.

In the B2C space, organisations sell consumer products by retail rather than in bulk, and relationships are established faster because the sales cycle is shorter. Consumers are more interested in the benefits than logic, and often buy based on impulse or emotions. As a result, marketers uses social media in B2C have focused on developing campaigns that show consumers how the product or service meets their need and benefits them personally.

The difference between B2B and B2C basically comes down to size, speed and need. This is what B2B companies should keep this in mind when using social media to market their products and services.

Social Media and B2B Marketing

Thankfully, many have recognised social media’s importance. A recent study showed 87 per cent of B2B marketers use social media as a critical part of their marketing strategy. In fact, 93 per cent of marketers have already done so. About 70 per cent of brands have established a presence on Google+, and 70 per cent of marketers have used Facebook to capture new customers. Thirty-four per cent have also used Twitter to gain new leads.

There really is no question as to social media’s usefulness for B2B businesses. It's a matter of how to use the various platforms to ensure your marketing efforts are going to pay off. Below are four steps to help you do just that:

Know your audience

Successful marketing campaigns are those that target the right market at the right time, and take time to know their audience. The chances of reaching your audience, after all, are higher when you know exactly what interests and appeals to them.

Just because your main audience is other businesses doesn't mean you can't get personal. In fact, getting personal - especially with the decision makers of B2B companies - is fast becoming the new standard. Of course, it doesn't have to be as personal as what you do with a B2C campaign, but the key thing is to know you are still dealing with people at the end of the day.

There are two ways you can connect with your potential buyers via social media: As your brand, or as yourself in behalf of your brand. You can, for example, connect with another company via your company's Facebook account or via your personal Twitter account. Either establishes a stronger connection between you and your buyers.

Know your goals

Because the B2B sales cycle is longer than in B2C, it is critically important to set your marketing goals before going any further. We all know the ultimate goal for any business is to make the sale. But before you can convert any potential buyer, there are other key points within the sales cycle you must consider.

Knowing whether your B2B campaigns accomplished what you've set as micro and macro goals is important because these little victories are what will eventually get you the sale. So when structuring your social media campaigns, make sure you touch on the following points:

  • Establish a connection with your audience
  • Make offers that will convince them to interact with your brand
  • Compel them to share, like or retweet your content and material
  • Initiate social interactions that will improve conversion rate
  • Convince them to opt-in for further interaction - a newsletter or to sign-up for a webinar, for example

Know your metrics

Having a set of defined metrics to measure your campaign's success is another key component of social media marketing. Remember the path to a sale in a social media environment is a complicated one. If you want to achieve your target ROI in this area of marketing, there is really no other way but to track your social media analytics. There are four common metrics businesses use to quantify social impact and they include:

  • Visitors and sources of traffic
  • Network size
  • Quantity of commentary
  • Quality of commentary.

But if you really want to make the most out of your social media campaign, you must be very specific. You must determine first your social media campaign's purpose in order to measure the right metric. For instance, if the campaign is designed for traffic generation, then you need to measure unique visitors from social network sites. If you want to build a following, you must measure the number of new subscribers your social channels got you.

Know your strategies

While Facebook has the most users and is the top social media site marketers use, that doesn't always mean it will generate the most impact for your business. Sometimes, Twitter may result in more sales than Facebook. Other times, LinkedIn will outdo all the other social media platforms.

Rather than choose one social media site because it's popular and it's working for other brands, focus on understanding the bigger picture. There is much more to social media marketing than spending 50 per cent of your campaign efforts on Facebook or Twitter.

To truly have a successful social media campaign, you must tailor your strategies according to your business goals, products or services, resources and of course, target market. Examples of new approaches and strategies that might work for your social media campaigns include:

  • Aiming for a continuous social engagement rather than one-touch contact
  • Being where your target audiences are
  • Offer B2B incentives in a structural manner rather than giving coupons and deals which only work with B2C
  • Going more personal so you can collect more attribute data about your potential buyers.

Some marketers may shun social media but there's no denying it has become a major part of our future. It's just a matter of time until all modern enterprises become more social. B2B marketers are better off using social media to market products and services than not because when done properly, it can lead to better business.

Tags: B2B marketing, marketing strategy, social media marketing

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