I get asked this all the time.
Social media is a no-brainer for so many brands. It’s “the thing to do now” for lots of reasons: the SEO boost, the platform for direct reach to individual consumers, the ability to generate a constant stream of impression-rich content that keeps you top of mind. This is candy to marketers. And the value is obvious if you’re Gap, or Apple, or Taco Bell. Especially if you do it amazingly, like Old Spice.
But what if you’re B2B?
You aren’t interested in the eyeballs of millions of average jane consumers. You’re interested in very specific decision-makers—those in charge of purchasing contracts at hospitals, perhaps. Or national distributors for prepaid mobile products. Or CIOs at investment firms.
They’re not looking for you on Twitter, right? And no one reads blogs for this sort of thing. Besides, Facebook is for people to share political rants and photos of their kids, and Instagram is for yoga models, and Pinterest is for craft fanatics and pictures of food. None of this helps you. Right?
Here are the 8 things I discuss with my B2B clients when looking at the social landscape:
1. Your name is important.
If you do nothing else, claim your name. That means go to every platform, set up an account, and grab the official brand name of your business. Save it for later. Claimed is better than co-opted, and empty is better than half-assed (but more on that in a minute).
True story: I had a large B2B client in a very tightlaced industry who did not do this. When I showed up, I immediately tried to tie up this loose end, only to find a very sloppy, unbranded (egg logo avatar and all) Twitter account with their name, two ancient posts… and a bunch of followers. Followers who were some of the biggest names in their industry. Followers they spent incredible effort to maintain a pristine, award-worthy image with. Followers who were active on social media, had seen this account multiple times (we found out one in particular checked it every time my client sent out a press release to see if there was something they could re-tweet… oi) and who had assumed this pitiful effort was my client.
It took several months to track down the owner and clean this up, and even though the management team did not place value in social media, they placed great value in public impressions. Lesson learned.
This is toilet paper stuck to your shoe. Don’t let this happen to you. Lock it down.
Everyone, everywhere, including you, should lock down their brand name in these platforms: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn. Then set up a monitoring program to keep an eye on when there’s activity with those accounts or mentions of you on those platforms.
If your competitors are active on any platform, especially if they’re getting good responses (likes, shares, follows, etc.), consider that a proof of concept for your brand to jump into the fray.
If your website is (or should be) a lead driver, social media might be a tactic you can’t afford to ignore. Even a pared down approach with a good strategy is better than none at all.
If you do not have the budget to invest in doing social media well and fairly regularly, or if your business is 90% referral and you aren’t looking for your website to drive leads, then this might not be the marketing tactic for you right now. And that is ok! You probably have lower hanging fruit to pick, anyway, and your time is best spent getting the hardest-hitting bang for your buck possible. Social will be there if you change your mind.
I may be the minority opinion on this. Most published pieces on the topic are pretty unanimously behind all businesses everywhere having full social media programs. But of the B2Bs I’ve been called in to help over the course of nearly 10 years, less than half of them presented a solid case for social ROI. In fact, some didn’t even present a meaningful case for attending trade shows! (Trade Shows: the OG social marketing. ) In both cases, could they eek out some value by really dedicating themselves to the effort? Almost certainly.
But was that the most valuable tactic for them to explore in their actual, on-the-ground, current-reality B2B sales acquisition strategy? Not for a single one of them.
My main message is: Your mileage will vary, especially from the B2C brands that make up most of the noise. Don’t get bullied into doing social. Take a long, hard, considered look, but for what it’s worth: if the answer is no, there is a good chance I’d agree with you.