B2B and social media: a love story

When it comes to social media, working in B2B with field experts might seem like a bit of a challenge. On the contrary, our view is that social media is particularly useful in B2B. Let’s find out why.

B2B marketing is about implicitly proving you are the best

Before going a step further, it is important to understand fully what B2B marketing is. Let’s sum it up in a few words: it’s not about saying one is the best, but more about proving it with the right skills. Basically, B2B Marketing brings together experts of a particular field, who express and share their opinions with others, and generate interest.  And following that, comes what is known as “lead generation”– or in other words: the beginning of the purchasing process per se.

Pinpointing 6 key success factors in B2B social media

1. B2B sales are based on ‘solution selling’ (as explained by Michael Bosworth). In B2B marketing, what matters the most is informing clients about problems before solving them. This consultative approach could not be mastered without the people who are au fait with the content they share (e.g. technology-related subjects). Experts who know all the details about a particular field are the only ones who are able to express their views correctly,
2. Who interacts with these experts? Mostly other experts who surf on social media (blogs in particular), seeking information and answers to their questions.B2B social media influence Buyers obtain credible answers to their questions after marketers dig in and share information about the problems they are experiencing,
3. B2B often attracts niche but faithful communities. They are usually very close to one another, and very passionate about their area of expertise. Social media is an important player (especially blogs) in that field. Comments and views can be posted online and are the basis for passionate exchanges between experts,

4. Creating good content or delivering a pitch to clients is not an easy task. Not everyone can perform such tasks properly. However, today we see a lot of experts and marketers addressing clients, deliveraing public speaking engagements, and even writing technical books. Even if one finds this counter-intuitive, good engineers possess good presentation skills. Believe me, I have met quite a few who really were top notch communicators. They create word of mouth marketing by publishing their content on social media. They sometimes receive help in order to highlight their knowledge and promote it. And this is an essential step towards success.
5. B2B works just like an ecosystem, and in that context, word-of-mouth marketing works wonders. Experts are keen to exchange with their peers. They all express their opinions openly and freely.
6. One should never feel forced to nor force anyone to share their opinion against their will. The process is the following: first identifying people that are likely to speak publicly, and then encourage them. In their turn, they will encourage others around them. So, what’s our magic trick? Convincing them that they are not bloggers, but experts who blog. This slight nuance will be sufficient to motivate and it has worked for us many times. Sometimes, field experts might not have the time to sit at their desks and write a blog piece. But they might be willing to be interviewed and that can also do the trick very nicely.

B2B is safe from social media crises

As we have already established, brands are not equal on the Internet. B2B brands have a slight advantage: they are more or less safe from wide audience environments. The latter surely drive a lot of traffic. However, their content is more superficial and such brands are also much more at risk of being criticised and more prone to bad “buzz”.
This risk is not a threat when it comes to B2B, where experts exchange on professional topics only. Professionals are usually reluctant to speak evil of another professional or brand on an open communications space. This could be detrimental to them instead. Consumers aren’t that picky, their reputation doesn’t matter that much and they express themselves freely and sometimes with violence. In over 10 years of experience in social media, we only witnessed this scenario once when a client created a blog against a B2B company I was working with. After some serious bargaining and solving whatever outstanding issues we had with this client, the blog in question was quickly removed and all things went quiet.

To all B2B marketing specialists out there: no stress!

Marketing specialists should relax. Social media and blogs are built, even if most consultants won’t say so, for B2B. Compared to other types of businesses (i.e. health, food etc.), the risks are extremely low. Despite the common belief that B2C content is more fun than B2B, I would like to stress that attracting attention and interest in B2B is in fact easier than one thinks.

Assuming that B2B is boring and B2C is fun is in fact a misconception. What appears to be “less appealing” to some, is actually very interesting to those involved in a particular field. The topics discussed in B2B are less generic. And some people simply do not have the necessary knowledge to understand the related content and information. As explained earlier one, B2B brings together small communities and creates an ecosystem of experts. Passion is at the heart of these relationships, and such passions fuel social media interactions too.
Passionate discussions in B2B are useful from a strategic point of view. They help businesses express their complex statements in a language that the end client can understand. Thus allowing the simplification of concepts and statements. This strategic communication process is called B2C2B. The High Tech industry is a pioneer in the use of this tactic. Regis Mc Kenna believes it is important to address your client’s clients. Not all industries resort to B2C2B strategies, despite its interest.
Last but not least, in a niche B2B ecosystem, people tend to know each other, either personally or by hearsay. This is particularly conducive to a virtuous circle between real and virtual experiences. Setting aside all the common prejudice around B2B, one can say that it is a sector of choice for social media, in which risks are low.

Yann Gourvennec
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