8 Reasons Why B2B Social Media is Easier than B2C

B2B B2C Easy HardAlthough social media is seldom “easy,” there are some distinct advantages that B2B companies have over B2C brands in the social media space.  Here’s a list of 8 reasons why B2B social media is easier than B2C:

1. It’s driven by relationships
B2C marketing is largely based on a product and its price. It tends to be a more impulsive or emotional buying decision than B2B. B2B purchasing decisions tend to be more involved and relationship driven, and that suits social media.

In a B2B sales cycle, businesses tend to interface directly with potential customers multiple times in order to inform and educate the prospect. Social media can play a big role in this process. Through social media you can interact with the prospect and nurture the relationship, which can ultimately influence the final purchase decision.

2. Your practices can lead to sales
Your social media practices can demonstrate your business value which can lead to purchases. Users can see that you are reliable, responsive, intelligent, etc. via your social media practices.

3. You have more control
B2B companies tend to have less people talking about their brand than B2C companies. In most cases that means less content, and B2B typically generates less negative sentiment than B2C. That means B2B companies have less content to control and less negative content to deal with. Therefore B2B companies can maintain more control over their social content which makes it easier to get their message through to the right audience.

4. B2B purchase decisions are more rational
B2B sales cycles can span months or even years. Buyers research products, educate themselves, review competition, seek opinions via referrals or recommendations and in many cases, interact with brands before making a purchase decision. B2B buyers also need the approval of one or more colleagues to make the purchase. Compared to B2C, the B2B buying decision is a much more considered process and it’s based largely on business value.

5. It’s easier to build long-term relationships
The goal for most B2B marketers is to convert prospects into customers. Because the sales cycle is longer, B2B companies need to focus on relationships as part of that process. Communication with prospects, engaging them, educating them and leading them towards purchase creates the foundation for a long term relationship. And in many situations, the social media relationship continues past the sale through support, updates and continuing education.

6. The B2B market is smaller than the B2C market
Compared to B2C, B2B is a smaller, more focused target market. Using social media to identify prospects, connect with them and start building a relationship is faster and easier in the B2B market.

7. B2B buyers trust recommendations and feedback
Because B2B purchases are typically more considered decisions, B2B buyers tend to value the recommendations and feedback they receive from colleagues and other industry professionals. Social media provides a great opportunity to solicit product feedback, which can help influence the purchasing decision of the buyer.

8. B2B content has a long tail
B2B products tend to change less frequently than their B2C counterparts, so the social content you produce for your marketing efforts will create value for a longer period of time. That can make B2B social marketing more effective (and likely less expensive) than B2C.

Do you agree that B2B social media is easier than B2C? Are there any other ways that you feel B2B social media has an advantage over B2C?

Setting Relationship Goals for B2B Social Media

While much of B2B marketing and sales is about developing relationships, many of the social media metrics tracked are number of followers, connections, comments, clicks and retweets. It may be possible to assume that you or your company are providing some value to those who start engaging, but these are not significant metrics to track. What if you raised your metrics to a higher level and focused on real conversations and relationships as a measure of success?

Twitter Relationships
It is too easy for Twitter to become a numbers game where any user can “buy” or otherwise game the Twitter system to increase followers. If those followers are targeted, no matter how they were gained, the increased reach of a company’s message is a positive, but tracking the number of followers is meaningless. Finding customers and prospects on Twitter through detailed search queries or monitoring solutions and engaging with them is a better thing to measure. These can be tied more directly to business outcomes. Set a goal that each day you will find and interact with a new person from your industry or someone seeking your product or service on Twitter. It is up to you to determine if this is possible based on your industry involvement on Twitter and the time available to seek out and engage with prospects and customers.

LinkedIn Relationships
LinkedIn is built on relationships, but many of them are weak or non-existent. There are two ways to approach relationship goals on LinkedIn. The first, and easier one, is to strengthen a relationship of one of your connections. This is someone who you can easily contact and see what value you can provide. This would need to be someone who could be a potential customer or is already a customer. The second way is to find someone new through a discussion group or a common event and connect with them. Do not send them a generic connection request. Customize it with some information about why you are connecting. Begin a conversation through the request and continue after approval. This not about accumulating connections, but about starting meaningful relationships on LinkedIn. This is a harder goal to put a number around, but start with one per week and see how that goes. Adjust it as necessary.

Blogger Outreach
So many communications pros miss the point of blogger outreach. Blasting out emails with press releases attached is not blogger outreach. Having an intern log into your email and sending the same email individually is no better. While some of this is a numbers game, and the chance to get picked up increases with the number sent, it is more likely that you will get better coverage, things like a follow-up interview, by starting a relationship. Start by making a list of bloggers that cover your industry, including those connected to trade publications. Pick a few bloggers and send an introductory email letting them know about your company or clients and how you think it relates to their coverage of the industry. This will show them that you actually read their blog. So many top bloggers get so tired of mass emails, they will appreciate a simple, email addressed only to them. Think of each one of these as building a relationship to get more than just a placed release. You want to become a source for stories where they contact you. This is no different than traditional PR, except many of these bloggers probably have day jobs. Again, depending on the amount of industry coverage, a goal for building these relationships might be one per week or one per month.

Have you thought about building relationships for your B2B company as a social media metric to track?

The Number One Reason for B2B Companies to Use Social Media

What is the number one reason people in B2B companies should use social media?
The answer is: Relationships help us make B2B buying decisions

B2C companies get a lot of attention in the social media space. B2C is easier to track because there is an immediate purchase decision at the end of the process for an individual.

The B2B buying process is more complicated. The process is longer; the decisions do not lie on the shoulders of one person. The products and services are more complicated and usually much more expensive. Also, when a decision is made it does not affect one person, it affects a whole company.

In the research phase of a B2B purchase you are trying to eliminate your risk in making this purchase. You want to know you are making the right decision. The margin for error is much smaller.

When researching these products and services we want to hear from other people like us that we trust about their experience with the product or service. The word of a stranger will not hold up as much as the word of someone we know and trust. You want to connect with people with similar backgrounds, businesses, goals, challenges and experiences.

One of the best ways to connect with people like us in this modern world is online. Not only do we have a network of people we know and trust online with sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter but we have a whole search network in those sites to find other people like us. Vendors, partners, suppliers and agencies must be part of those networks too, but not just as companies, but as the sum of the people who make up those companies.

We can search for people in the same industry, by company name, geographic education, interests and so much more. People we know online can connect us with people they know online in minutes. We can share files, comments, links, and reviews all day everyday.

A business relationship is a strong relationship. By participating in social media you are giving yourself the opportunity to create new relationships with people you may not have met before. The more business relationships we have, the larger the pool we have when making a purchasing decision, the more we can lower our potential risk in a B2B buying situation.

My Recent Social Media B2B Pitch Talking Points

Recently I was part of a client pitch. I handled the social media portion for an old school, B2B industrial firm. Before I share what I talked about, I want to describe my presentation experience. Six different people from our team would be sharing the presenting responsibilities. We practiced beforehand standing at a podium at one end of a conference room table. This was a very comfortable way for me to present. When we arrived at the client’s site, due to technical difficulties that I didn’t fully understand, we presented from a laptop in the middle of the table, rather than at the podium. This now meant our presentations would be given while sitting at the table. After my first segment was done sitting at the table, I decided that did not work for me. It was conversational and informal by just turning to look at the clients at the other end of table, but it was a bit too confined for me.

When I talk about social media, especially to people who are just starting to wrap their heads around it, I tend to get excited. I speak with my hands. I also needed to point to the slide on the screen just a little bit. I decided that I would stand at the end of the table. I waved my arms. I walked back and forth while I made eye contact with our prospective clients. I spoke about our social media plans with passion. I had a few notecards with some bullet points on them. I didn’t look at them, but just waved them around. Below are some of things I said as an introduction to Social Media in the B2B space.

Social Media’s Role in Public Relations

There is an ongoing discussion about whether social media lives within marketing or public relations as a primary communication medium. While most social media strategists would recommend that social media needs to be pervasive throughout an organization, one department or function frequently launches the foray into social media. Using the conversation prism model, this demonstrates the modern view of public relations that includes an ongoing feedback loop with traditional sources, as well as social web outlets.

Public relations involves crafting messages that express the company’s position or touts their products. What if you can send those messages out into the wild and let them go? Find the influencers that can take those messages, change them, make them their own, and spread them further than the reach of a news site or a printed trade magazine. And you must monitor those messages and mentions. Traditional PR services involved clipping. Now we “clip the web.” And this can be done at a simple level using basic monitoring tools, or at a deeper level with more complex tools. These choices are determined by the scale of your online universe. As these idea come back through monitoring you can determine what worked and what didn’t in a continuous evaluation and analysis process.

Content

Much of the legwork of the content creation of a social media plan can occur within the PR function. They interact with company subject matter experts. They interview industry thought leaders. They are in constant contact with editors, writers, bloggers in the industry to keep a pulse on what is happening. While press releases are happening in this world, this is not important to this part of the story. We are more interested in the deeper dives of the case studies and white papers. This information can be turned on its side for the more informal content required for a blog, which is the core component of social media for a B2B company. The best thing about a blog is that it shows how a company thinks. Don’t talk about products, services, features and benefits, but use a blog to show industry leadership. What are the questions others are asking? You can answer them. And all this content needs to be published on a regular and consistent basis. Your PR team can develop and maintain an editorial calendar to keep this on task.

And this blog content can now radiate outward. Repurpose it on a Facebook fan page. Post links to in Twitter. Share it on LinkedIn. When people ask questions in an online forum use content from the blog to answer them. You can tell them you wrote a blog post about it, excerpt the relevant section, and provide a link if they want to read the rest of the post. This will start building relationships.

Relationship

So now the question comes up is social media right for B2B? Is it too early? Are we ready? Well, B2B selling is all about relationships, engaging and a long sales cycle. That’s why social media is perfect fit, because that’s what social media is all about. It’s about building relationships. Engaging with others with similar interests. Developing trust by providing value and solutions. Social media provides many opportunities for continuous touch points over a long sales cycle. But social media can’t fix your product. If you have quality issues, those become magnified through these relationships. No social media plan can cover up company problems. In fact, many times, these types of programs provide the incentive to get the product right. And if you brand stands for quality, now is the time to back that up.

Community

So the last piece of the social media landscape is community. These relationships don’t happen in isolation. The point is to connect with others in an ever-growing web of connection and influence. By engaging and building trust with your connections, they can share you ideas with their connections. The influencers are the leaders of these communities. Some are formal, while others are informal. Yes, there are opportunities to sponsor and support these communities, but companies and brands will never lead them. There is more value in letting go of control and letting your message spread organically through the community. This is building your brand through social media.

While I was speaking within the context of a larger presentation, these concepts work as a stand alone explanation of the benefits of social media in a B2B organization. What are some the keys points you use to sell social media either within your company or to your clients?