by Dr. Severina Cartwright
It has become increasingly significant to develop B2B social media strategies due to a new democratized communication landscape, where communities and individuals create, share, discuss, and modify content online.
The usage of social media in the business-to-consumer (B2C) markets emerged in 2004. Today consumer focused organisations have a well-rounded understanding of how to successfully implement the channels within their marketing strategy. Although social media usage as a strategic tool is increasing, interest within the business-to-business (B2B) markets only emerged in 2010. Despite the endless oportunities of using social media channels within marketing, corporate organisations are significantly behind the consumer organisations. Their social media strategies are mostly non-existent or if they are, firms usually do not know how to implement the channels successfully. Their strategic approaches are uncoordinated and muddled, without any clear direction.
The main barrier B2B organisations face when implementing social media within marketing is the uncertainty of the channels. Organisations often lack confidence and ask themselves the inevitable questions: How well will social media perform? What if someone says something negative? Aren’t the channels only for consumer firms? Despite that these questions are important, and the answers are not always what we want to hear, B2B marketers need to get involved in social media. The truth is that conversations will happen online, with or without you, and it is better to be present rather than to bury the head in the sand.CHOOSE THE CHANNEL THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU
B2B organisations often choose channels to be part of their marketing that are used by their competitors. How often did I hear in my research the answer to my question as to how they chosen the channels: The competition does it, so we though it is a good idea to start with that channel. Although monitoring the competition is important, the way forward is not to copy what they do.
B2B organisations therefore need to carefully chose the channel that is right for their strategy. For instance, you may think it is obvious that LinkedIn is the most appropriate channel. However, that may not be the case. For instance, in my research I came across a B2B organisations working within the health sector and manufacturing metal detector machines for MRI scanning procedures. Interestingly, they found out that in fact Facebook is the right channel for their strategy where most conversations of their stakeholders take place. This was certainly not what they expected.
With this in mind do not assume that a channel is the right one because the competition does it or because of the characteristics of the channel. Think again! Do your research! Do social listening! It is important to carefully chose the channel and set objectives prior launching it.CREATE VALUABLE CONTENT
With communication on social media being constant and visible on a global scale, individuals are no longer passive recipients in the marketing exchange process. Therefore, the role and activities within marketing as a discipline are changing because of the increase of technological advances, which represents repercussions for future marketing thought. Consequently, it is important to get involved in these conversations and became active participant.
The majority of organisations I came across in my research created content that is ad-hoc and without any clear direction. Most of the firms mainly re-posted content or ‘bragged’ about their achievements and how great their products and services are. We as consumers constantly complain about promotional messages and instantly unfollow this type of content. It seems that B2B firms have not yet realised that and instead are damaging their reputation rather than sustaining relationships online.
Creating valuable content is one of the keys to success within the social media environment. Know your audience and create beneficial content for your audience through the know-how and expertise of your employees.FINAL THOUGHTS
B2B organisations are sceptical of using social media marketing as they lack know-how, face uncertainty whether or not the channels will be beneficial from a branding perspective, or simply staff are not familiar with the technologies. It is therefore crucial for B2B firms not to underestimate the importance and dominance of social media marketing within the digital space and get involved.
About the Author
Dr. Severina Cartwright is a Lecturer in Marketing, University of Liverpool Management School and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Marketors