Using social for business is nothing new. I’ve talked before, here on ContentEqualsMoney.com, about how social and sales fit together. Businesses have understood since the very advent of social media that different social outlets can be used to interact with consumers and clients, build brand awareness, and build sales.
Some businesses, though, have been slow on the uptake to understand the value of social for B2B versus traditional B2C. There are some key differences between the two, and anybody engaging in social to grow their business has to understand them.
Because of the major differences between B2B and B2C, your expectations should be adjusted, your goals modified, and your strategy and tactics adapted accordingly. Here are 6 practical Do’s and Don’ts for your B2B social media campaign.
DO: Engage Without Dominating
This is a tip that is applicable at both the B2B and the B2C level. Craig Jamieson at WindmillNetworking.com lays out a great metaphor for engagement without dominating. Scroll down and look for his bullet point about attracting others without interrupting. It’s an apt point: just as in B2C social networking, you must be able to interact with your audience without dominating the conversation; it’s about participation. How many times have you walked into a party, inserted yourself in a conversation, taken over, and had that work out for you?
DON’T: Be Impatient
The B2B cycle is, by definition, longer than the B2C cycle. Consumers, even when they’re not immediately ready to make a purchase, generally sit in a sales cycle that’s much smaller. You or I can go from “Hm, I think I might want X product” to the actual purchase point within a few social interactions. Businesses, even local SMBs don’t have the good fortune to be able to turn on a dime and devote resources to a new expenditure.
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When using social to establish, build, and grow a B2B relationship, it’s incredibly important to be patient, provide value, and let a relationship develop without pushing and turn genuine interest into a sale. Be patient, and be consistent. This point comes directly from Forbes.com: always consistently engage, and be patient while you work through the sales cycle.
DO: Create Content For Your Audience
We’ve talked before about the absolute necessity of good content, and nowhere is that more important than in social for B2B. Business to Business sales require more work, take longer, and require more patience than the B2C cycle. One thing that can help you go through that cycle smoothly—while ensuring you’re building your business and increasing sales—is proper content.
In the B2C cycle, consumers are looking for products that they might like or want, in addition to products that meet needs. In the B2B cycle, the only reason a business is shopping is because there’s something they need. By creating content that’s customized for your potential B2B clients, not only do you show them exactly how what you offer can meet their needs, but you can shorten the sales cycle and help convert early stage buyers into customers.
Don’t believe me? Read #1 on this list from SocialMediaToday.com. Content isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
I know, I know. Everyone is saying “duh!” right now, but hiding on social media is easier than you think. In fact, even with an active social presence, “hiding” is the default position!
You need to be where your customers are, just like we see in this post from SingleGrain.com. In order to engage, and start your B2B buying cycle, you have to engage your potential customers where they’re at. You don’t have the luxury of finding B2B clients just anywhere. Because of their purchasing agility, you have to be where your potential clients are, ready to provide content, engage in conversation, and share information about your products.
DO: Understand Multiple Users
In the personal social media arena social media accounts are 1:1. One user, one account. Now that’s not to say one person can’t have multiple social media accounts across different profiles, but in business you’ll often see multiple people using the same social media account.
On Tuesday, when you tweet @PotentialCustomer the user may be different than when you tweet the same account on Thursday. B2B marketing runs into a unique problem because different users staff the same account. This must be kept in mind: while you’re trying to build B2B relationships on social, and venture through the sales cycle, you might have more than one user behind the curtain to interact with. The solution is to understand the problem you may face and sculpt your updates, interactions and content to fit multiple users while still working towards the same objective.
DON’T: Forget Yourself or Your Audience.
Let’s refer back to the Forbes piece I linked to earlier. Just as key as being where your audience is, you need to understand who they are. Social media is very public, even when you have various privacy controls on your accounts. During the B2B cycle this is even more obvious. You need to remember your company, your goals, and your voice. You also need to remember your audience, what they’re looking for, and how you can help them meet their needs.
Overall, the B2B cycle shares many similarities with the B2C cycle, but it has many important differences of which you should take notice, and for which you should plan. Understanding what the B2B cycle entails, and planning accordingly, will help you harness success and grow your sales.
Even with just these few simple Do’s and Don’ts of social media for B2B, you’re well on your way to harnessing social to build your brand and find new clients. What are some of your strengths and weaknesses? How have you harnessed the tips above to succeed? What other tips do you have?
Use the comments section below, and keep the discussion going.