There’s a major misconception in online marketing terms, when organisations perceive that “social media” is inherently just what it says – social, and therefore can have nothing to do with any business-to-business or B2B marketing in any way. Whilst the tactics that you might employ can sometimes vary in terms of whether you are addressing a B2B audience or a B2C alternative, fundamentally if you ignore social media when you’re focusing on your business-to-business marketing, then you’ll certainly be losing out.
An excellent report by the research company Marketing Profs from a year or so ago gave us a breakdown of social media site usage by organisation type. From this we can see that when it comes to strict business to consumer marketing, professionals concentrate their efforts on primarily Facebook (at 47% of the time), Twitter 39%, LinkedIn 28% and YouTube 24%. If we turn to B2B we see that Twitter usage is remarkably similar, at 36% and that YouTube usage is also along the same lines. More emphasis is placed, as might be expected, on the professional networking service LinkedIn – at 37% – with Facebook coming in at 39%.
Now of course social media extends to a lot more sites than the aforementioned, but organisations need to always be aware that when using social media for B2B they are effectively aiming to improve their systems and procedures, to cement relationships in order to pursue generally larger and more far-reaching goals. There is a perception that social media, when it comes to a consumer-based approach, is based on creating that all-important social proof, enabling people to trust the power of crowd sourcing. In the business environment you’re always concerned about your network and your social media should be more about creating business, per se, rather than worrying about individual sale potential.
Look at social media and B2B and it should be about business development and building relationships in context. Your efforts therefore should be all about supporting existing relationships or fostering communication and trust. Francois Gossieaux, of Emergence Marketing, once said that “the main interactions in communities do not happen between businesses and other businesses, or between businesses and consumers, but they happen between humans and other humans.” Therefore in his estimation social media is not really that different at all between the two different B2B and B2C environments.
If we are looking for a difference we should once again focus on the fact that relationships are wholly business focused in B2B and mostly lifestyle focused in B2C. There are people on both ends of the spectrum in either sphere and we can always argue that as you build personal relationships the potential for better, trust-based relationships improves in either the strict B2B environment or its consumer-based cousin.
Martha Christie is a Marketing Evangelist within Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow us on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.