B2B Marketing in a Social Media World

Is there a place for your B2B (business to business) company in a social media world?

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Recently, after I had sent out an email about our upcoming social media conference, I heard back from one of my contacts. He was curious to learn more about social media, but wondered if it offered any benefit for his B2B company. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this concern.

I find this attitude surprising, in part because we’re a B2B business ourselves. Soccer dads aren’t hiring us to design websites nor are NASCAR moms looking to get themselves search engine optimized…unless they are doing so for their business.

We use social media every day to market our business and services. We post videos to our YouTube channel, engage with fans on our Facebook page, and connect with other business people on LinkedIn. The entire flyte crew has Twitter accounts that we use to varying degrees, including one for flyte, and we do our best to keep our three blogs fresh: flyte blog, our web marketing blog, our Maine SEO blog and our newest Florida SEO blog.

And I would argue this is not just for “geeky” industries like web design and Internet marketing; I see plenty of CPA firms, commercial real estate agents, and corporate event planners engaging with their customers on the social web.

So how do you create a social media campaign for a B2B company?

Each company is unique with its own products, services, audiences and goals. So, there’s no one size fits all.

Some companies need to deal with the fact that their best customers aren’t active on social media during the work day, or may even be prevented from visiting these sites by a corporate firewall. Other businesses are in a heavily regulated industry and need to tread carefully on how they engage with customers. Still others have products or services that have been traditionally sold in person (um, like books or shoes. I mean, who would buy those over the Internet?)

With that major caveat aside, here’s how I’d start creating an effective, sustainable social media campaign for a B2B organization:

Content Creation
Some businesses will have difficulty reaching their target audience using social networking, at least for the time being. For those businesses I recommend focusing on education through content creation.

Your audience is most likely still using the web, searching for solutions to their problems. You should create blog posts and videos that address your ideal customer’s biggest concerns. If you’ve been in business for long enough, you probably know many of the problems that already vex them. Start there. You should also invest in a keyword analysis which will uncover other similar searches that your audience is Googling.

In reviewing flyte’s YouTube statistics, 9 out of 10 of our most popular videos of all time include the phrase “How-To.” What does your audience yearn to know how to do? Save money on corporate taxes? Plan a large company picnic? Comment on their Facebook business page as themselves? Then you need to start blogging and creating videos that answer these questions in order to get in front of them and grab their attention.

Social Networking
While I think that B2B companies can use Facebook business pages to their advantage, I’d start with LinkedIn.
In fact, I’d argue that LinkedIn is one of the most important online tools businesses can use for growth. (For more on LinkedIn, check out LinkedIn Power Tips for Growing Your Network, an interview I did with Lewis Howes, published at FastCompany.com.)

Everyone in your office should be on LinkedIn with completed, compelling profiles. You should join groups and connect with people in your industry, your customers’ industries, and your local community. Just answering a few questions in these groups in a non-salesy manner can generate leads and business for you. You should also check out the Answers section for another way to establish your credibility and connect with people who need your business’s services.

And although not appropriate for every business, there are plenty of networking opportunities on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. Many of our prospects cite Twitter as how they first discovered us. I once landed a job from an old friend after we reconnected on Facebook.

And don’t underestimate the power of social networking to put a human face on your business. People like doing business with people they like, and an active social networking presence from you and your co-workers can help tip the scales in your favor when competing for a contract or getting a word-of-mouth recommendation.

I’m not arguing that any B2B company should put all their eggs in the social media basket. Advertising, direct mail, email marketing, SEO, pay-per-click advertising, webinars, and a good sales team are all important ingredients for success. However, adding social media to your marketing mix will pay huge dividends both now and in the future.

So, what are you waiting for?

If you’d like help developing a social media plan for your business, or a personal trainer for your social media marketing to help you stay with it, flyte can help. Just contact us to get the ball rolling.

Rich Brooks
B2B Social Media Marketing