Drive B2B Channel Sales With Social Media Content

Social media works best for B2B companies when people connect directly around topics they are passionate about. Connections work even better when no one in the group is pushing a particular agenda. This allows the focus of the communications to be around joint learning, which draws crowds, versus thinly disguised sales pitches, which drives everyone toward the metaphorical door.

There is no group better to foster these learning discussions than a company’s channel partners, especially for those companies lucky enough to have built out strong channel partner programs. Channel partners know the niche and know the clients. They also have an independence that provides both authority and authenticity. These partners looked at all the solutions they could sell, and with their reputation on the line, chose to include your offering. When they enter a discussion, and a prospect checks out the channel partner’s background, the fact that they didn’t create a particular product makes it easier for them to be established as providers of valued advice.

While this is still a relatively new idea, some of the most innovative channel marketing managers are starting to support these efforts. For example, Lisa Caratozzolo at VMware has put together a visionary offering to support channel partner’s social media efforts, being launched February 14, 2012 at the VMware Partner Exchange show in Las Vegas (disclosure: VMware is a client). When describing why she put together this program, she said, “VMware sees a huge opportunity to help mobilize their channel partners on social networks. After all, our partners know better than anyone the substantial savings end-users get from leveraging VMware’s offerings, so the more they are out talking about the success they’ve had and answering people’s questions, the better it is for everyone.”

That’s not to say that there aren’t some challenges to getting channel partners involved in social media. As anyone who’s been following this blog knows, the key to engagement is to provide value to a community, and that usually starts with quality content. The challenge here is how to have the budget available to produce something of quality. Most channel partners don’t have the resources to produce videos, white papers and articles that will draw in and retain the audiences around a particular topic. This is where a supplier like VMware can make a huge difference.

Part of VMware’s social media program is to provide content to their channel partners on an ongoing basis. Partners provide filters and appropriate content is automatically pushed out to their social networks, as if they had written it themselves. This allows larger B2B companies with the resources to produce engaging content and for their channel partners to share it and follow up on the discussions that ensue.

The key is to know the channel partner community and build the infrastructure so they can establish themselves as topic experts in the relevant social networks. Your channel partners are part of your core team of social participants and you need provide them with the tools they need to succeed.

Is your B2B company providing your channel partners with social media content to support engaging with their prospects?

6 Ways That Facebook is Better Than LinkedIn for B2B Marketing

We work with many B2B clients who want to engage with their audience via social media. We often get the question about investment in LinkedIn vs. Facebook. You would think LinkedIn would be better for marketing to B2B customers. It’s designed for business. People use it only for business. They want you to use it for business. 120 million business people use it.

The only problem is that it’s not as good as Facebook for B2B marketing.

That doesn’t sound right, now does it?

After all, we know Facebook is for posting pictures of the kids’ soccer games, for saying happy birthday, for following consumer products, for keeping in touch with your friends. I mean, it’s aimed at consumers, isn’t it?

On the surface, yes. Below the surface, the business audience is there because consumers are business people too. Ultimately, the overriding reason to consider Facebook over LinkedIn is that business people spend more time on it. Please pay attention: they spend more time on it, so you – the B2B marketer – need to take advantage of that one overriding fact. It will help make you successful in social media.

So, tell me, how could Facebook be better for B2B social media marketing?

6 Ways That Facebook is Better Than LinkedIn

1. Facebook has created a development platform that makes it easier to create custom web pages. It’s really hard to do the same thing, with the same ease, with the same nicely designed results on LinkedIn.

2. All those business people are already on Facebook. They may not have joined with business in mind, but they are there. The majority of the 800+ million are involved in business.

3. You can find them. Just like on LinkedIn, you can customize your search to find the people you want to reach.

4. You can find their friends too. Facebook is much more effective than LinkedIn at exponential reach through friends of friends, and it is likely that your business audience is connected with their professional peers on Facebook.

5. You can protect them, if you need to. You can create closed, invitation only communities and protect the information about individuals within that community. We’ve done that for very security-sensitive executive users (CIOs and CTOs)! Here’s a link to the VMware CxO Corner on Facebook.

6. People spend more time on Facebook. It turns out that this last point is a big deal when comparing Facebook to LinkedIn.
People log onto LinkedIn for a few key reasons:

  • To update their resume
  • To post a job
  • To look for a job
  • To make a connection, often associated with posting or looking for a job

People go onto Facebook for many, many other reasons, and as a result, they go onto Facebook a lot more often, and spend a lot more time on it. Businesses that take advantage of business people who are spending time on Facebook will engage with those business users.

I have seen studies showing that business people spend more time on LinkedIn. Hmmm. The studies are flawed. They typically ask where do business people go today for business information. Well, if we B2B marketers aren’t using Facebook for business, then of course, they get their information today from LinkedIn. Duh. The results of these studies will change only when you change your approach.

While LinkedIn is not to be ignored (it has many good qualities), if you’re going to focus your efforts toward B2B audiences, invest more in Facebook. How have your results compared between Facebook and LinkedIn?