This article first appeared in the Summer issue (231) of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.
It’s a common myth that social media only works effectively for businesses if they offer a product or service aimed at consumers. Social media in a B2B environment is variously seen as difficult, irrelevant or requiring a different set of skills or insight.
But if you look at it logically this makes no sense. If you want to use social media to reach a specific target audience or raise awareness of a product or service the steps to coming up with a strategy are exactly the same. Start with your objectives, research your target audience, and devise a content and communication plan that aims to engage with that audience.
Where the confusion sometimes arises is we are all simultaneously more than one audience. We are often both a consumer and someone who works for, or owns, a business. So the additional consideration with B2B is to think about the mindset of the person in relation to each platform. For example, someone who uses Facebook to keep in touch with their friends and family may also be the marketing manager of a company who you’d like to work with but when they’re on Facebook, they’re probably not thinking of work and therefore your Facebook page passes them by as being incongruous.
With B2B, typical objectives include making contacts with potential new clients, positioning yourself as an expert and more generally, raising awareness of the product or service you sell. To this end it’s often better to think about Twitter, LinkedIn or developing a decent industry blog. Depending on the sector, it’s also worth researching whether any niche networks exist that relate to your industry.
The second element of successful B2B social media activity is exactly the same as with B2C, namely, you need to create interesting, engaging content and work hard at building a community. Consider how you are adding value with your work: are you sharing content that is new, providing genuinely valuable insights or contributing to existing debates around the industry, with original comment and opinions? Avoid treating social media as just another marketing channel at all costs.
Even in a B2B world, we’re all still human beings and as such, bland corporate messages won’t connect with anyone.