If you’re questioning whether social media is a) necessary and b) feasible for B2B businesses, read this.
B2B social media: the why
When we think of commodity products we normally think of raw materials like lumber, oil, and — my favorite — coffee beans. It really doesn’t matter whose tree your coffee bean came from, commodities are products that may be from different producers but are seen as identical.
Commodities lack differentiation — in the buyer’s eyes they’re all the same.
If you’re not an oil miner or a lumber company, and if you’re selling a product / service whose finished state is only a result of your significant input, then you want to be as far away as possible from being perceived as a commodity. Instead you want stand out, project — and price for — your unique value.
Google is a big believer in the Zero Moment of Truth. The Zero Moment of Truth is when a potential buyer becomes aware of a business that was previously invisible to them. It is the first landing on their radar screen. It can happen in a few ways, including when:
1. People in your target market want what a product or service you offer and they begin researching the best company from which to buy it.
2. They’re not at all looking for what you sell at the moment but somehow they encounter you anyway.
Maybe an acquaintance raves about their experience with you. Or maybe the acquaintance is less than complimentary. Oops.
If you’re a B2B company then your goal with social media is to be forever stacking odds for a favorable scenario, especially in the second case. Good social media is just another way to build a relationship with a customer before they need you. And the more complex and involved the buying decision, the more valuable the odd-stacking will be to your bottom line.
And good B2B social media doesn’t have anything to do with cat photos — unless you want it to.
B2B social media: the how
“All products have fans.”
Here are 2 great ways to use social media for marketing your B2B.
1. Make the lives of your customers and potential customers easier through every network in which you participate.
Figure out your top keyword, the main term that someone looking for your product might use. Then search for people commenting — or even better, asking questions — about this keyword on Twitter. To do this use Twitter’s advanced search and specify you’re looking for questions via the checkbox at the bottom of the page. Find someone looking for an answer in your area of expertise? Give it to them.
The object of the game is, score brownie points! Even better: be a frequent, authentic participant in the right LinkedIn groups and Google+ circles.
For the biggest ROI, write a blog post or create some content with a longer shelf-life that answers the top questions.
If your product is largely purchased by people in your area you can even use Twitter’s advanced search to find people asking community-related questions, like “Does anyone know of a good cafe to have a business meeting on the #upperwestside?”
2. Build relationships with journalists on Twitter.
The most rabid users of Twitter are celebrities (who need to be loved) and journalists (who need to be read). Use this to your advantage by finding organic ways to build a relationship with them. Share their article and let them know you care by including their handle. And if you think this won’t work because your key journalists are all at industry trades, you’re wrong: a) they could probably use the love even more than the New York Times writer and b) they’re much more likely to have the kind of deep industry networks that might help you best.
And if you don’t have the time….
To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if many B2B marketers think social media is out-of-scope because they simply don’t have the time to devote to it, or to keep up with the networks’ never-ending changes. I’m a big fan of the 80/20 rule, of doing triage to focus only the needful and of dropping or finding a way to delegate the rest. If you can hire a social media specialist full-time, then you absolutely should. If you only wish you could, well, that’s the reason why we built Emphatic, a do-it-for-you social media solution. But regardless of what you do, the first step is to know that you can do. B2B social media — it’s really a thing.