What do B2B services really need to concentrate on if they want to have a viable social media presence? Let's examine the value of social media from a B2B point of view.
While social media has all the engagement buzz right now, the majority of studies are still dealing strictly with the B2C industry, so much so that there’s a serious question mark over the value of B2Bs utilizing SM streams at all.
Of course, LinkedIn has its place, but what do B2B services really need to concentrate on if they want to have a viable social media presence? In no particular order, let’s take a look at the value of social media from a B2B point of view.
1. Cut out the chat.
Businesses care about product and price just like B2C customers. Unlike B2C’s, they don’t want to be friends; they want to be colleagues who get on well, so forget the usual rules for Twitter or Facebook. You don’t need to “add personality”. You need to tell them in plain English what it is you offer, what it’s for and how it benefits their business model.
“So, that’ll be traditional marketing then?”
One of the best things about social media is its lack of tolerance for hyperbole. Think of your presence as a nice way to increase web traffic with a newsdesk function, but make sure you quickly step on any copy containing sentences like “seamlessly synergizes your multistream strategic presence”. Instead, go with “allows you to easily manage multiple accounts”.
In other words: SM cuts out the bulls**t.
2.Provide a great sales experience.
Whatever industry you’re in, one of the biggest consumer and business bugbears is poor customer service.
You can provide a great product, sell it at a competitive price and offer free service if something goes wrong. But I guarantee that if you don’t have a direct point of contact to facilitate that service, you’ll fail miserably.
Social media is a great way to ensure that your teams know what is happening with each other, and to make sure the people you do business with can contact the right person directly. You can also quickly join up any gaps between sales and development by making sure your reps have a decent knowledge of your product.
This sounds like common sense (because it is), but there’s a difference between knowing all the features of a product and knowing when and how it’s useful, so utilise the training and internal communication possibilities SM streams provide.
3. Level of contact.
There’s a certain view in B2B that unlike individual customers, businesses don’t spend a lot of time hanging out on Facebook. They also get enough email as it is, so you need to be careful about what you tell them and when. Businesses generally want less communication from you, so don’t sign them up to a newsletter. Instead concentrate on genuinely meaningful interactions.
If you have lunch twice a year to discuss a specific project then you are accomplishing far more than blurting updates about version 12.6 of your latest widget. If they need it, they’ll ask. Any business that knows what its doing will also know when to ask for specialist help with complex issues.
This, of course, is ridiculous.
OK, so they do their own research, but where are they getting that data?
Your customers say they want ‘limited, meaningful interaction’ from you. But do you honestly think they’ll ignore free advice or a one-up on the competition?
Follow the SM rulebook: participate and contribute extra value. Use SM to raise your company’s profile and respect levels. Of course you should have guidelines in place, but it’s far more useful to have an engagement rate based on your actual usefulness as a supplier rather than strictly dictated by a calendar.
You can also balance your customer interaction in the B2B market by researching your clients and keeping detailed reports. Conduct regualar appraisals of previous clients and think about their stated needs, and see if you genuinely think their actual requirements have changed.
If you have a strong case then contact them, make sure you have a clear and consistent strategy for outreach based on needs and your own potential for continued business/profit.
If you feel you have a genuine service to offer an existing or potential customer, doesn’t it make more sense to send them a tentative tweet rather than wait 3 months for the next scheduled meeting?
4. Regulating an unlimited buying cycle.
In the data age there’s no such thing as a seasonal buying cycle, so allowing potential clients multiple points of contact is always a good idea.
Your clients will be determining their own contact times, and they’ll already have done their own research. They come across a problem and decide on the tools they need to tackle it before they contact you, and when they do they don’t necessarily require your sales spiel.
They want singular pieces of product information so that they can utilize it for specific reasons. Fortunately that’s information you can provide quickly and easily via SM by detailing upgrades, modifications, and new services.
You’ll remove the need for customers to constantly visit your main site and dispense with the need to send out overlong email reminders.
5. Opinion monitoring
Recommendations from independent online services carry a lot of heft with buyers, certainly more so than information directly from you, so having an outreach team for social media is invaluable.
By creating a regular buzz report and becoming more active on forums, you can engage and create a lot of positive commentary around your service, exactly as B2C’s have done.
While the tone of voice you use may be different, ultimately social media has the potential to bridge the gaps between B2C and B2B marketing, creating better value from pooled research, and as such B2Bs ignore or under-utilize the medium at their peril.