While social media have come to preoccupy the edgier business-to-consumer marketers, business-to-business (B2B) marketers continue to remain on the sidelines.
Social media provides a framework for users and potential buyers to engage in brand buzz. Consumer brands have grasped this concept faster than B2B brands. Perhaps it was easier to create ongoing discussions among like-minded passionate users about perfume and sporting equipment and travel destinations than software solutions.
B2B marketing can be a natural fit for social media. Why? Because a successful social media strategy is all about publishing content and inviting your audience to share it, bookmark it, comment on it, or enhance it. Look at the success of Wikipedia, for example.
What’s Holding Business-to-Business Marketers Back?
Social media and Web 2.0 strategies focus on users and the user experience. Social media puts the user in control. The user decides how and when to interact with your brand, with your products and solutions. That’s a different mind-set from the traditional “tell them what we have and how it works.” It’s not your father’s push marketing anymore!
In my view, B2B technology marketers face a few challenges with social media:
Social media creates passionate brand advocates
Use social media with traditional marketing channels
Social Media Creates Conversations Rather than One-Way Sales-Speak
Let’s face it, most people today just turn off marketing messages. Think about how hard it is to reach the typical CxO today. Along with the title, CxOs wear big fat targets because everyone wants to sell them something. Naturally, the CxO looks skeptically at traditional marketing channels.
Social media (blogs written by her peers or people she respects, chat rooms where he can be an anonymous lurker or ask a question without receiving unsolicited email promotions) enable the CxO to get in touch you’re your brand on her own terms. Social media allows him to discuss your brand with his peers in non-threatening cyberspace. Maybe with the appropriate peer group recommendation, a CxO engages with your brand (visits your website or downloads a good white paper) when she wants to clarify something or learn something new. The point is, social media marketing enables your primary targets to interact with you on their terms. When they are ready to be sold something, they will invite you to do so. What could be better for you as a marketer?
The question is: Do you have the courage to engage in that two-way dialog (knowing that some of the conversation will discuss your brand’s drawbacks as well as its strong points)?
Integrating Social Media in B2B Marketing
How do B2B marketers use social media? How can social media be integrated into the b2b marketing mix?
Your main challenge is to innovate ways to bring relevant content into the cyber discussion. You innovate ways to bring your passionate users in contact with equally passionate potential prospects and you allow, invite, those passionate prospects to interact with passionate users on their own. Marketers need to be prepared for the positive user feedback and commentary as well as the comments that hurt. Keeping a clear head and being able to respond in an authentic, honest way furthers the positive perception of the brand in this new environment where anything goes.
Scary? Definitely. Nobody wants to give up control to a bunch of rowdy users.
But social media, Web 2.0 strategies are not going away. High tech marketers should be at the forefront of emerging Web 2.0 brand building strategies. Now is the time to rethink how users experience your brand and make that experience more authentic.
Social Media Marketing Success: Measure on a Brand Passion Index
Building passionate users is what social media is all about. So measurement and ROI for a social media marketing campaign will focus on how often your brand becomes the topic of conversation among your targets. How many times users share your content, refashion it, make it part of their content. In other words, you will measure the success of your social media program on a brand passion index—the enthusiasm with which users talk about, discuss, dissect, distribute, and reuse your brand.
Think about your business. Don’t you have passionate users? Aren’t there prospects out there as passionate about finding a solution and solving their business issue? Don’t you see comments on message boards related to your profession or industry in which people make snarky comments about the latest topic or development? If you’ve seen that, you’ve seen a passionate user who’s engaged in social media.
I’d be happy to share my thoughts with you or discuss how your b2b brand could deploy a social media marketing strategy.