Making social media work in a B2B context

By Angela Schuster

In our previous post we discussed the pros and cons of social media in your business-to-business engagement and marketing plan.

If your organisation considers that the pros outweigh the cons, it’s still not a good idea to jump straight on the bandwagon and start furiously posting or tweeting information.

Given the time and monetary commitment you’re going to make, it makes sense to spend some time planning your approach first. Work out what your purpose in social media is, who are you trying to appeal to and what you will focus on. Build a strategy and plan, then jump on the bandwagon.

Here are a just few ways we are seeing social media work for businesses engaging with other businesses:

  • To engage with current customers or stakeholders

This is particularly useful for technology companies. Through social media, technology companies can keep their current customers updated about potential outages, bugs or planned updates. For example, every time they release a new patch, they can tweet about it and link to the technical information on their site.

In addition, they can create virtual user groups via LinkedIn and monitor the group for potential problems, suggest new features and let them know about updates.

Social media can also be effective in crisis management. If something occurs in your industry, you can keep your stakeholders (and the public) up-to-date and informed. This also allows you to maintain a two way conversation with those affected. Don’t forget your sceptics can also access this information and seek to subvert your activities.

Membership organisations can also use social media to alert their business members to new services, offers, programs or events and use it to solicit feedback.

  • To engage with prospects

A key area that social media can assist in engaging with prospects is from a content marketing perspective. That is; generating content that engages with your audience, positions you as a thought leader in their minds and, therefore, encourages them to select your offering.

Content marketing has long been the focus for business-to-business IT companies. It’s not new and it is certainly not just the domain of IT companies. Any business seeking to engage with another business can use content marketing. What is new however is the way social media can supplement what you are already doing.

For example, you develop a white paper (or article, media release, blog, issues paper, technical paper, an event, research report etc). You plan to email this to a relevant segment of your database and make it available on a syndication portal. You could also tweet about the new paper and provide a shorted link to the paper on your website.

You could then hold a webinar on the same topic as the paper, record the webinar and publish this via YouTube. In doing so you have again created something you can tweet about, upload on LinkedIn etc.

If you are attending an event, let people know via Twitter. Some events even have Twitter accounts so you can follow them and retweet their postings.

One use of social media we are seeing is embedding links within a PDF. You can embed links that allow people to share your content via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. Proteus B2B has written more on this subject and has a working example.

The upshot

There are a number of ways social media can be added to your current marketing activities. Because of the diverse nature of social media and the number of options it pays to critically analyse what you are trying to achieve, who you are targeting, what you will be providing and the frequency you will provide it.

In further posts we'll cover off what a social media strategy should include, along with tips for using social media in a business-to-business context.

Further resources

There is a wealth of information available on social media and, while much of it is business-to-consumer focused, if you dig around you will find some business-to-business references. Outlined below are a few we particularly like: