Will a tweet really cut it? The power of social media in a B2B environment
We know the power of social media in creating brand awareness, but are B2B marketers using social media to promote, engage and sell?
What is social media marketing’s role in your B2B organisation?
Our Marketing Manager Hannah says that why it’s fairly common for consumer brands to shout about their successes in social media marketing, finding convincing B2B case studies is a far more difficult task:
“The majority of businesses use social media as a marketing tool, to build brand awareness, by encouraging social sharing and gaining followers. However – as marketers, we must appreciate that B2B buying and sales cycles are much more complex than B2C, and often of much higher value. In a B2B environment, we often need to focus more on the functional, more tangible benefits of our products/services, as opposed to appealing to consumers’ emotions in B2C”
So in this context, it’s easy to understand why senior management is often skeptical about using social media as a sales tool – we mean, will a tweet really cut it?
Establishing credibility and thought leadership
When marketing your products and services, it’s important to establish your company and brand as unique – as leaders in your industry – trusted advisors to guide your prospects through the buying process.
One way social media and content marketing could be used in this context is to establish thought leadership, through a series of informative blog posts addressing a key issue or technical problem (and subtly, how your company’s products resolve the problem).
“It’s important in B2B organisations, for the marketing department to get colleagues ‘bought into’ the activity”, says Hannah – this is because it is more credible for a technical sales manager to be engaging with target customers than a marketing executive who may not be able to advise on the technical benefits of the products the company is trying to promote. “Here, what we’d advise is having a ‘social media & content committee’ who meet regularly to discuss the social media and content strategy, topics for blog posts and who will author the posts/respond to queries”. This committee could for example, include members of the sales, marketing, product development, after sales, customer service and technical teams. “This way you can ensure you are generating worthwhile, interesting and credible content which is useful for your target audience,” adds Hannah.
Integrating your networks
Most marketers now realise the value of LinkedIn as a social networking tool for B2B. You can use it to conduct research about prospects. Business managers can connect with key target buyers, and join groups that they are also part of. Business Development Manager Gavin uses LinkedIn for networking and advises that “By keeping an eye on what prospects are saying on social media, whether it’s in a status update or via a post/comment in a LinkedIn group, you can begin to understand their opinions and look to nurturing a relationship”.
“Each time you connect with a prospect (or existing) customer on LinkedIn, also check out if they have a twitter account. This way, as well as using LinkedIn, you can listen out for what they are saying on Twitter and aim to strengthen relationships on a more personal level,” emphasizes Gavin.
By integrating your social networks, basically what you’re doing is finding and scoping out who the decision makers are on LinkedIn, growing relationships in the groups, but then get a bit more interactive and personal on twitter to build rapport – with the aim of leading to a face to face meeting to discuss business opportunities.
Tapping into the social media nectar
The majority of B2B businesses are using social media for creating brand awareness through gaining followers and encouraging social sharing. But used in the right way, you can tap into its potential to generate leads and also conduct some research whilst you’re at it.
Everyone uses social media, right?
It’s important to understand though, that not all decision makers and target customers will use any form of social network. And not every social network is appropriate in a B2B context!
“Yes you can use social media in a B2B environment – and successfully too”, says Hannah. But don’t forget that an integrated approach to marketing is the most effective. If your goal really is to target industry influencers and specifiers then your other marketing and communications activities should integrate with your social media activity. For example, contributing to articles and editorial pieces in leading trade publications (online and offline) which are read by your target audience. This could be accompanied by a strategically placed native advertisement on social media or a popular online publication.
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