Many professional service providers look on at the B2C set and attribute their social media success to the fact that they can focus their campaigns around consumables. The argument against getting the B2B crowd involved in social media seems to be focused on the fact that professionals do not serve up cupcakes, shoes, cars or soft drinks. The line of thought bends toward the idea that since professionals have nothing concrete to offer, then a social media presence is not worthwhile. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
B2B entities can absolutely benefit from a social presence.
According to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report released by Social Media Examiner last year, “Those investing a minimum of six hours per week in social media marketing saw improvements in search engine rankings. Marketers selling to other businesses were more likely to achieve this benefit (59%) than those selling to consumers (50%).” With the increasing weight and importance of the social factor in the SEO equation, social media has become an important tool for helping B2B providers get found, establish credibility and generate new business.
Because your clients and prospects trust you. Trust is the driving force behind successful social media campaigns in the B2B set. B2B clients trust their providers more deeply than they trust their favorite soft beverage company or their favorite auto manufacturer. Additionally, the gap between your clients and the head of your business is vastly smaller than the chasm between the average consumer and the CEO of Coca-Cola®. Because your clients can see you face-to-face, and then see an update about you on your company Facebook® page, B2B social marketing can actually be perceived as more accessible than the B2C social approach.
The B2C Social Approach
The social approach of the B2C set is, of course, focused on the products they provide. However, they are also looking to reach a much larger market than B2B providers. Because of this, their social campaigns tend to center on being lighthearted and entertaining. B2B social campaigns also promote special offers – sometimes exclusively to their social following. The B2C approach is casual, friendly and seeks to build brand engagement with followers.
The B2C approach differs from B2B tactics because consumables need to elicit an immediate or timely response from consumers. They are seeking mass exposure, urging follow-through from consumers and expecting a quick return on marketing investment.Deadlines, expiring deals, and sun-setting offers urge consumers to act before offers are no longer available. Consumers can conceivably make rapid buying decisions based on social promotions, access a discount code or coupon, visit an online store and then purchase a product in a matter of minutes. This type of instant access helps to shorten the B2C sales cycle.
- The B2B Social Approach
The social approach of the B2B set tends to be focused on building relationships with followers through providing reliable, credible resources and updates. They share information and talk about the people and events that make their businesses great. They feature their services as a backdrop to their educational resources with the goal of educating and nurturing clients and prospects.
B2B campaigns often have the added benefit of being able to focus their social presence on a niche market, specific subset or geographically centered clientele. B2B campaigns can also incorporate event-related campaigns and utilize social resources as a way to draw new prospects into seminars, webinars and other events.
The B2B sales cycle is longer than B2C due to the fact that multiple factors are usually at work when closing a deal: there may be a review process, buy-in from other partners may be sought out, approval might be required from other parties, etc.
Ultimately, the B2B approach seeks to strengthen brand awareness in their community, engage clients and prospects, build credibility and generate new business.
What works for B2B?
The cornerstone of any worthwhile B2B social media campaign is great content. Followers of your B2B social campaigns come seeking the specific information and resources that they expect your social pages will provide. When a business has a content strategy in place and is already utilizing communication resources like a newsletter or blog, then social media content strategy is an obvious next step toward strengthening the brand and building new business. Decide what kind of a presence you would like to establish and align your social strategy in tandem with your marketing and communications strategies.
Keep the great content coming
It is important to frequently update your content and keep your social efforts going strong. It is no longer worthwhile to create a social media presence and then walk away – believing that it will exist as an ancillary website. Once you stop regularly posting updates to your social platforms, social media will essentially “forget” about your page and do far less to get your business in front of other fans and followers. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm factors in the age of your posts when determining post relevance for your followers. The older a post is, the less likely it is to get seen in anyone’s stream of updates. Twitter has a similar focus on providing up-to-the-minute information to its followers and will not display more than about two weeks of data in any twitter search. LinkedIn engagement is also vastly improved when information is being regularly shared. If you decide to establish a social presence (or if you have a presence that is waning) don’t allow your efforts to drop off. Keep current information and valuable content streaming through your pages in order to reap the full benefit of your social platforms.
Focus on engagement
You will also want to make sure that you are able to interact with your followers. Do you know how quickly your followers expect you to respond to their comments and inquiries? Some subsets will expect to hear back within minutes, and others may be fine with same-day responses. In any case, it is important to know what kind of a response time your audience expects, and deliver.
Featuring your philanthropic involvement, office events, or even tid-bits of information about your team help to bring warmth to otherwise drab professional service profiles. You want to educate and inform your followers, but you should also consider how the human side of your business can sometimes bring a smile to the their faces.
Shorter messages are usually more effective when communicating with a B2B audience through a social platform. Your fans are likely to be other professionals with busy lives. They’ll appreciate it when you get to the heart of the matter.
Keep the social machine running
As with any vehicle, you will want to track and measure your progress in order to get a full return on your social investment.
Stay aware of social media trends and keep on top of changing preferences related to your subset.
You will also want your social machine to perform for you and deliver what you ultimately want – new clients. Establish a process for following up on leads generated through your social when your social followers download a whitepaper, register for an event, sign up to receive your email newsletter, reply to an offer for a free consultation or respond to any of your social media calls to action. Your social engine can generate hot warm leads for you, and having a lead tracking process in place will ensure that those opportunities are not lost.
It is also important to change things up periodically so that you keep audience engaged. A content formula that works for you this quarter might not be hitting the same mark several months from now. Keep an eye on your metrics, watch out for declining engagement, and respond accordingly with a fresh approach.
Although the reasons and approach for B2B social media involvement may differ from the B2C set, you can rest assured that it is a worthwhile endeavor that can help you grow your business. Create a social content strategy and align social messaging with existing marketing and communications resources in order to minimize effort and maximize exposure. Keep your social media plans rolling through consistent, valuable messaging and responsiveness to followers. Track your progress, respond to warm leads, and you will soon learn that all this social stuff is really as good as it’s cracked up to be.