Published in May-Jun 2014
B2B social media marketing is a strange beast. On the one hand, you have the platforms. Apart from LinkedIn, almost every major social media platform caters to a crowd which is not specifically looking to buy something.
At worst, the Facebooks, Twitters and Instagrams of the world exist primarily as data miners and at best as content aggregators.
On the other hand, you have B2B marketers struggling to make sense of why there is no clear winner among the platforms – including LinkedIn – when it comes to marketing their business-oriented products.
How do you market to a crowd on platforms where no one is asked what their professional seniority is or how much their purchasing power is?
Even when it comes to LinkedIn, the sheer volume of professional spam in the form of groups, profiles and InMail advertising has made the platform the social media version of pop-ups.
But wait, aren’t marketers who work in B2B experts at targeting the right audience? Although this may be true in most cases, it remains to be seen how many non-consumer SMEs – and in fact, a few notable B2B giants – truly harness social media. Case studies abound in digital marketing conferences and seminars about how A or B company used a platform to market their product to business professionals. However, these case studies don’t necessarily translate into expertise on the part of B2B marketers, and a key reason for this is the lack of education on B2B social media expertise.
Look up almost any social media programme (there is one under every rock these days) and I guarantee that 100% of them focus on consumer marketing and metrics. Where is the B2B metric guide?
I will let you in on a little secret that evades even the most seasoned B2B marketer out there: B2B social media marketing is exactly the same as it is for B2C, with subtle differences. It isn’t groundbreaking and does not require a shift in thinking.
First, there is your target audience. Everyone who signs up to a social media platform does so for two reasons. To connect with like-minded people and to consume or share information they think important. Read those two reasons again and keep yourself in mind as a B2B marketer. You will realise this is you. You, by the way, work in the B2B industry. This (you), therefore, is your target audience.
Think about it – your average customer has a social media account. What do you think they think when they sign into it in the morning? ‘Hey, let’s see what someone’s trying to sell me today!’ Not really.
They sign in to view interesting information that gives them instant mental gratification.
Write this down: instant mental gratification.
Once you figure out this little rule of thumb, you will realise that this is exactly what you need to provide on your B2B social account.
In 2014, most B2B customers are still the kind who prefer a phone call, a brochure, a website or a networking event to review new products and services that can make their professional life easier and more profitable.
A few weeks ago I saw a targeted advertisement on Facebook from a search engine advertising company which wanted me to sign up for a course with them. However, they didn’t sell me the course. Instead, their advertisement gave me a free download on social media calls-to-action. A free guide directly relevant to my core skills. Now there’s instant mental gratification with no strings attached and it made me take that company more seriously.
Notice how B2B companies use B2C tactics to capture my attention on a social media platform.
I have dealt with several large multinationals which deal specifically with government authorities and other MNCs, and have noticed a common trait among marketers there. They all feel that people working in government or in companies similar to theirs are not your average Facebook or Twitter users and so they focus their social strategies in a way which works well in brochures, websites and other collateral. Unfortunately, ‘click here to view our full list of products’ doesn’t go very far on Twitter. Neither does ‘Like if you think our new generator is awesome’ on Facebook.
General Electric (GE) figured it out. They decided to dare the competition by going straight to something most marketers would consider completely non-B2B – Instagram. GE’s marketers are known to be trendsetters. They know why people join social networks and used this to their advantage. Whether it was uploading photos of turbines or airplane jet engines, they used a combination of clever hashtags, trending topics and a filter-obsessed generation to great effect. In fact, their image of a turbine received over 3,000 likes and 500 comments!
Why did it work? Because a B2B consumer (like you) still wants to consume good information that is presented well, and then share it. They want to feel good about swiping their thumb across the screen.
If you want to succeed as a B2B marketer in the social media marketplace, think of your target audience as you. What would make YOU click on a social media advertisement for business?
Anthony J. Permal is a digital marketing specialist. firstname.lastname@example.org