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Why social media for B2B? When the first social media platforms started popping up – Twitter, facebook, Instagram – people didn’t know what to use them for. “Do I really need to share my every waking thought in 140-character increments? Do my friends really need to see an artfully arranged photo of every meal I eat?” The answer, of course, is yes, yes, a thousand times yes. But, what started as a tool for sharing personal experience began to take on new life as businesses, rather than individuals, started joining. Suddenly, businesses had a new channel, one that connected them directly to consumers. As companies figured out the rules of this new media and began to find successes in speaking to consumers, the question shifted: could these same social channels be used by businesses to communicate with other businesses?

With social media, just as with virtually any new tactic or channel introduced to the marketing world, it’s generally been the B2C businesses that lead the charge as B2B companies remain relatively wary. Wary with good reason, however – B2B companies generally serve a more conservative audience, and it’s important they maintain an image of trust and stability. Why take the risk, why devote time and resources, on some potentially flash-in-the-pan trend until it’s proved viable and helpful (remember guerilla marketing?)

Now that B2C businesses have laid the groundwork in the social sphere – and worked out the major kinks in marketing themselves within that sphere – we know that social media has value far beyond seeing how everyone’s kids are doing (they’re doing just fine, by the way, and are very cute, I’m sure.)

Social media is easy and inexpensive to set up and fairly simple to maintain, yet can still yield really big results. Social media offers the opportunity for direct person-to-person contact with your audience – practically a first in marketing. You’re not talking at potential customers anymore; you’re talking with them. This allows you to gather real-time, on-the-ground information from your audience – insight you’re unlikely to get from any other sort of marketing initiative – and respond in kind. Social media can humanize your brand, add personality to it, and give it a voice. It allows you to share content on a frequent basis and position yourself as a thought leader.

And what’s been true for B2C social media marketing applies to social media for B2B marketing as well. A recent survey of B2B companies found that social media can be an incredibly effective tool in a B2B company’s marketing arsenal, providing a new and useful way to:

  • generate business exposure, leads, and sales
  • improve web traffic and search rankings
  • provide marketplace insight and intelligence
  • increase brand loyalty
  • foster business partnerships

But, you can’t just dive into social media for the sake of having social media (“Everyone else has a facebook page, why don’t we?”) You need strategy behind your social media initiatives, and you need the resources to both maintain your social media presence – for instance, to respond to questions and comments from followers – and, more importantly, to generate content for those initiatives.
Because really, social media is no different from any other channel we use in marketing. In the end, it all comes down to creating and sharing worthwhile content. As long as you’re using social media to provide content that people want to read, view, talk about, and share, it doesn’t matter if you’re B2B or B2C, small or large. You just have to hold the interest of your audience.

As a B2B company, you shouldn’t use social media to discuss new hires or ask people what their favorite thing about your product is – “who cares?” is likely the best sort of response you can hope to get in reply – you should be sharing news and information that’s useful and important to your client. Did you release a new product? Don’t just send out a press release; write a blog post about your product and how it can help your audience and spread it on Twitter, facebook, and Linkedin. Regularly post follow-up content about the various applications of your product and encourage followers to submit their own ideas and to ask questions. Make the answers public so that others can join in on the conversation.

It doesn’t all have to be your content either. By curating other content – sharing interesting or valuable posts from other industry publications, news sites, business partners, etc. – you establish industry credibility, you create stronger connections with your partners, and you become someone users follow and trust as a source for useful information.

Every post you make in the social sphere could result in a new lead, a new connection, or a new impression of your business. MarketPlace can help you find your ideal social media audience, engage them with the right tools, tactics, and content, and help you measure the effect of your efforts on your business, so that you can see for yourself that it’s worth the investment.

Elliot Krejci
Elliott Krejci has almost two decades of experience designing for print, web, and video. His video production, animation background, and 3d illustration skills anchor MarketPlace’s diverse service offerings.