As marketers, when we think about social media marketing, direct consumer communication comes to mind: Sprinkles Cupcake tweets, Birchbox Pinterest posts, or Kate Spade Facebook updates come to mind (ok, maybe for you it’s not those companies, but you get the idea). What is less known is that a lot of B2B businesses also use social media to grow their businesses.
Why are B2B businesses on social media? A lot of the reasons are similar to why B2C consumers are in social media: to increase awareness, establish themselves as the leader in their fields, and roll out press releases or news about the company. B2B companies also need to take care and promote their brand, so social media is not limited only to B2C companies.
A few examples of B2B companies using social media include the top consulting companies such as McKinsey & Company and The Boston Consulting Group. Bluechip companies such as IBM and General Electric are also attracting a pool of followers on Twitter. Even big investment banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have Twitter handles.
In order to make the most of social media, B2B companies should prioritize top three uses: lead generation, hiring avenue and customer support.
Lead generation starts with producing content that addresses the specific business need of your target audience. For example, if you’re a company that sells enterprise-level software, you would want to share stories or articles where a client recently found your service a solution to a business problem. Perhaps even a link to a demo of the tool will enable potential customers test your service out. In order to target your efforts to the appropriate person or department who has influence in the buy of your product, you may want to directly tweet that person or department so your posts will be seen by the target audience. Be careful about talking purely in sales terms, because it may be construed as annoying, akin to spam. Communicate in human terms, and if prospective lead shows interest, suggest to continue the conversation offline.
Social media as a hiring avenue does not only mean posting new openings, but positioning the company so that you are promoting the culture of the company if a potential hire happens to be following your posts. Be cognizant of the number of job-related posts you generate, because at the extreme, your Twitter page may start looking like a job search handle for the unemployed.
Customer support is an important piece in B2B marketing because when someone complains or takes interest about your product, there needs to be a protocol in how you handle this potential client loss or gain. Technical issues mostly cannot be solved through a series of 140 characters, so you may want to direct the user to your customer service page or a wiki of available solutions for the user’s problems. You may also want to take this conversation offline in order to provide a better, more personalized support for the user.
Lastly, social listening may help B2B companies understand trends and customer conversations on a deeper level. Social listening tools aggregate social media conversations, which will enable companies to see what topics are getting the highest volume of conversations within the category, which competitive brands have the highest share of voice, and who are the users engaged in these conversations. Businesses who utilize social listening will gain a competitive advantage because not only will they understand the pain points of their clients (or potential clients), but they can capitalize on evolving trends or identify new target audiences that may help grow their business.
Eloqua has a great infographic about B2B and social media, “How Do B2B Companies Use Social Media, November 2012.” It shows interesting items such as the percent of B2B companies who use social media, who manages their social media internally, and what companies expect to reap from their social media efforts.