Social Media: Is it Really as Essential as People Think it is?
Popular social media platforms can be successfully harnessed for advertising directly to customers. But are they as effective for B2B operations?
Everyone is doing it
The ubiquity of social media in today’s world has caused businesses of every size to believe that it should be an essential part of their operations. Many organisations claim that social media forms an integral part of their sales strategy.
Although some companies see returns from investment in social media, there are far more that do not. It can be hard to find a business that can quantitatively prove their Facebook account directly improves sales.
How can marketers, particularly those in the B2B sphere, make social media a functional part of their operation?
Have a plan
It seems ridiculous, but research shows that about half of B2B marketers using social media have never developed a strategy! Without a plan, you cannot adequately assess how social media is going to benefit you, if at all.
Before you start trying to accumulate followers and dominate news feeds, first work out your reasons: are you aiming for brand awareness or actively generating leads? Do you just want to appear modern and trendy?
Your plan will help determine many details, including what you post and when you post it. And how you intend to realise a profit from your social media efforts.
In the B2C world, a Facebook page or Twitter account can assist with humanising your business, tapping in to your customers’ networks and promoting word-of-mouth advertising.
In the B2B arena, however, purchases are usually larger and far less emotive. Your customer is a team rather than an individual, and a poor purchasing decision may cost someone their job. These customers usually want information and trust, rather than memes.
There is nothing wrong with humanising your business, but choose your tone wisely – a modern tech start-up might want to be seen as a witty and charming friend, but a prestigious law firm is likely to prefer to be seen as a refined and serious expert.
Benefits of social media in B2B operations
Although they may not be the primary source of leads in B2B sales, social media platforms can still improve your marketing campaigns.
A major benefit of social media networks is the ability to promote content that you’ve posted elsewhere, such as your company blog. Your content marketing efforts are amplified by sharing them with your followers, who can then share them with friends or professional contacts.
Regular posts help raise your company profile, and may improve search engine rankings. Becoming a known name is the first step to becoming a trusted name.
Having a healthy number of people choosing to “Like” your business is still important, though – it demonstrates trustworthiness and improves the reach of your posts. This social “thumbs up” by happy customers and contacts is just as important in B2B as it is in B2C operations.
The untapped potential
One strong benefit that seems to be overlooked in current discussions is the fact that social networks flow in two directions.
Following prospective customers’ online activities can provide great insights into how to close a sale. But this isn’t about spying on prospects; rather, you should aim to genuinely connect with them, addressing their needs and business pains.
The social “wining and dining” of clients has long been part of the sales world. These days, corporate gift policies restrict a lot of possible in-roads in the B2B world, so social media offers an alternative and modern point of engagement.
Is it for you?
There is plenty of possibility in social media marketing, but it isn’t automatically the right choice for everyone. Not all businesses advertise on television, and not all businesses need to be on Twitter.
All of your business activities should provide a demonstrable function, and return some form of value (not necessarily financial, of course). If you can’t define the function and value of social media in your operations, don’t be afraid to let it go and focus on more important (profitable) marketing operations.