Up until recently, I was one of the people who strongly felt that social media should only be a small part of a B2B communications plan. I know, I know—but now I own the mistake. My opinion has changed, but only slightly. I think a good B2B plan has to incorporate targeted social media. Targeted being the operative word.

I was recently surprised to learn that more buying activity occurs online in the B2B space relative to B2C (especially on Twitter!). I was not, however, surprised to learn that the most influential links were organic as opposed to paid*. This implies that the rules of typical B2B buying behavior (necessitating credibility-rich PR) still apply—third party credibility drives decision making.

All together, this suggests to me that SEO results are going to be the undercurrent of every marketing or PR play we execute. The game hasn’t changed, the equipment is better. Therefore, any communication tools we use must be, in some part, internet- and SEO-based to be sustainable. There is no way around that fact. My friend Robert Dempsey touches on this in his most recent blog post: Google Proves Not Being on Social Media Will Kill Your SEO.

So, I admit amending my previous opinion about B2B social media but with the following caveat: if you aren’t using it to talk about issues that support your brand promise(s) it is a 100 percent, complete and total waste of time.

This should become clearer when you take a look at how social media influences SEO results, as discussed in Robert’s blog post. Yes, absolutely, without a doubt—social media influences SEO but you don’t get any benefit if you aren’t talking about what you are good at doing. Here are my suggestions:

  • If you are a dentist, talk about teeth. If you are a dentist that works only with kids, talk about kids’ teeth. Do mix it up and talk about a variety of issues—as long as they all point back directly to your brand. One of the biggest mistakes I see in B2B social media activities is straying from the brand promise. Not only does this drive you away from your keywords (and good SEO performance) but it confuses your audience. If you run a construction company, don’t talk incessantly about architecture with the misguided notion that architects will then read your content! Yes—the two are related, and you should discuss commonalities but your area of expertise is construction. That’s what people are buying from you.
  • Don’t force it. Some people find social media intimidating. Take baby steps. Although there are plenty of people out there who can manipulate SEO results pretty effectively, it is undeniable that search engines reward authenticity. So, I think doing a social media or blogging activity that works for you, even just a little bit, is better than doing something that comes off forced. Further, it will be easier for you to fit it into your day as opposed to having yet another time-sucker on your to-do list.
  • If you don’t have time, hire someone. You have to be more visible online to compete. If you don’t have the time or desire to blog or post to LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. get someone else to do it right on your behalf.  Small and mid-size companies have the hardest time with this concept. Break free from the, “Let me do it, really, I can do it” mentality and ensure it gets done well by hiring someone to take it off your plate.

If I can offer you one take-away: I think this all boils down to a very traditional adage courtesy of Hunter S. Thompson, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” Focus on what you do best and get professional assistance with the rest.

*There are a lot of great stats in this presentation from Hub Spot.