April 9, 2012
By Cam Wall
Social media marketing began in the B2C space, as most social media platforms were created for individuals and their social networks rather than for business organizations. However, as these platforms have grown in popularity, the applications for B2B social media marketing have grown as well. The result is that companies are now experimenting with the most effective ways to market to business clients through Facebook, Twitter, corporate blogs, YouTube, and, most often, LinkedIn.
That B2B social media marketing campaigns are often structured differently than B2C campaigns is not surprising given the difference in price between the average consumer product and the average B2B contract. While B2C campaigns may focus more on generating impulse purchases or strengthening general brand appeal, B2B campaigns are more personal and relationship-driven and may even appear to be purely collaborative or educational in nature.
A good example of the B2B approach is provided by the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical companies have shifted their sales tactics over the past decade from a “physician as consumer” model to one in which fewer sales reps focus on stronger relationships with physicians and physicians have more opportunities to explore product information, ideally within the context of their own trusted networks. Social networking tools and other social media certainly have a role to play in this new relationship model, particularly as studies show that physicians are active users of social media. The popular online physician community Sermo, for example, provides a forum in which pharma reps can participate in discussions with physicians and push information out in a more collaborative environment. Big pharma companies are also adept at using social media tools like Facebook and YouTube (and microsites) to personalize products and build trust with consumers. However, the need to exchange information is not as strong in this market.
B2B vs. B2C Social Media Marketing Strategies
In a lot of cases, the goal of B2B social media marketing is to help you set up an initial interaction with a client. In order to achieve this goal, you need to identify the right contact or contacts (the B2B sales process can involve a lot of different stakeholders) and you need to provide a way for these contacts to learn about you (as a person and as a company) and how your strengths align with their interests. Social media boost your ability to network and rapidly distribute content, thus helping you generate interest in your company and gather information about prospective clients, which will in turn greatly improve your chances for developing new relationships.
Common B2B Social Media Marketing Aims
Now that we’ve discussed why your company may benefit from B2B social media marketing, let’s move on to consider the tools you might use. While Facebook and Twitter are both widely used in B2B and B2C marketing, BtoB Magazine has found that LinkedIn is the tool most commonly used by B2B marketers and is considered to be the most important.
A significant portion of marketers also use blogging and video websites, such as YouTube, to help build their online brands. The best tools for your company to use depend on whether your goal is, for example, to generate more qualified leads, improve search engine results/drive more traffic to your website, or replace advertisements in other channels. A recent survey conducted by Social Media Examiner found the most commonly reported benefit of social media marketing was greater exposure, or, as the resulting study says, “standing out in an increasingly noisy world.”
Methods Used for B2B Social Media Marketing
The One Most Important Method of B2B Social Media Marketing
Next Monday we will dig into a B2B social media marketing success story to shed light on the marketing features available through LinkedIn Ads and strategies to utilize them.