Thought social media was the reserve of consumer marketing? Think again.

B2B marketers looking to build relationships with buyers are rapidly wising up to the possibilities of social media and the need for a tightly managed, segmented social ecosystem

The traditional B2B buying cycle is changing beyond recognition. More people, more job functions and more territories now need to be influenced over a over a longer time period and these varying personas have different needs, expectations and triggers.

Social media affords B2B marketers an opportunity to earn access to audiences over an extended period of time by using content, commentary and insight to build a following, and when the time is right, start a conversation.

To get this right you need to invest in social editorial, management and analysis to ensure your threads are pithy, relevant and thought provoking.

This requires sellers to understand horizontal and vertical points of influence and build a timely, meaningful narrative that positions your company the right way at the right point in time. 

B2B marketers can no longer market solely to their direct targets, they need to market to their managers, procurement teams, finance partners and suppliers and agencies. They must step into the shoes of buyers and understand their sphere of influence if they are to break down resistance to the sale.

A content driven social media strategy can support your positioning as experts and help your target customers grow their own knowledge and expertise. The knock on effect? A better understanding will predispose buyers to your services and brand and improve their standing and influence inside their own business.

Whilst most marketers won’t be able to adopt a persona-by-persona approach the trick is to provide differentiated content that operates at a number of levels. At one level a generalised newsfeed on a subject matter, at another a detailed piece of research, at another a review of a trend seen in an industry that takes an inquisitive position rather than simply reporting the facts.

This doesn’t require B2B marketers to ‘own’ a subject matter, they just need to learn to see if from the point of view of more than one persona.

Cisco is an excellent example of a slick ‘thought leadership’ operation that uses social media, principally through blogs to engage and educate corporate audiences across a range of issues, driving buzz and SEO visibility in the process.

Key to the company’s social media success is the proliferation of a range of content across a number of channels to continually provoke debate and encourage engagement.

To strike the right balance your social content strategy must have a basis in what people are talking about in your category and the challenges they face, it must be current, distinct and take a position.

Whether you use Google+ Circles to differentiate your content feeds, email marketing to segment or LinkedIn groups to share ideas and opinions a multi-faceted social content strategy requires focus, dedicated resource and a granular understanding of your market from the point of view of those you need to influence.

Successful B2B marketers must think business to person and use social to amplify their existing segmentation and targeting strategies, not shout in a void.

What is your sphere of influence?