External Communication: Social Media in B2B environment

image credit: B2B MarketingBusiness-to-business and business-to-customer communication strategies are different. Some say that communication is communication and whether you are targeting with your communication end consumers or business decision makers, you are still simply communicating to people, and that’s it.

However, people buying a product for personal use vs. purchasing for their company are very different types of customer. The purchase motivation is different and they need different information in order to make the decision to buy. Using customer-focused strategies in B2B environment will make the company lose money, and in the worst case, – lose customers.

Image credit: B2B Marketing

Laura Lake writes: “when you market to a B2B you will realize these businesses work hard to streamline the buying process in order to save time and money. This often explains why a B2B purchase is based more on logic and why a consumer’s purchase is based more on emotion.”

Debra Murphy mentions: “although the goal of B2B marketing is to convert prospects into customers, the process is longer and more involved. A B2B company needs to focus on relationship building and communication using marketing activities that generate leads that can be nurtured during the sales cycle. B2B companies use marketing to educate various players in the target audience because the decision to purchase is usually a multi-step process involving more than one person”.

Main characteristics of B2B marketing are:
(source: Debra Murphy “Marketing for B2B vs. B2C – Similar but Different”)

  • Relationship driven
  • Maximize the value of the relationship
  • Small, focused target market
  • Multi-step buying process, longer sales cycle
  • Brand identity created on personal relationship
  • Educational and awareness building activities
  • Rational buying decision based on business value

This is one of the reasons why B2B companies are still behind their B2C colleagues in terms of Social Media usage in their communication strategies. Moreover, this area is still evolving and there are no universal recipes of implementation of social media in B2B corporate communication strategies.

In general, B2B companies try to stay on the safe side when using Social Media tools, which means a highly bureaucratized process of content approval and traditionalist choice of social media channels. You will not see in this area any groundbreaking innovations in communication generated by B2B companies.

The most important social media for B2B are:

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Blogs
  • Twitter

These 4 platforms are leading in terms of generating leads and sales as well (source: Danny Sullivan “Survey: Facebook Best For B2C Sales and Leads; LinkedIn For B2B”).

Youtube, Google+ and different forums are not use that often by B2B communicators and Pinterest is not considered as a communication platform at all (source: Shea Bennett “Which social media platforms are most important to B2C and B2B Marketers (and why)?”).

Robin Hamman, Director of Edelman Digital, in his blog describes the 5 key differences between B2B and B2C in digital and social media.

  1. Most B2B clients realize they need to be highly targeted; B2C clients should.
    Rather than putting content out there in the hopes it will “go viral”, most B2B brands realize that there is little point in reaching and engaging with a broad audience when their real target is likely to be much more specialised.
  2. B2B products and services often require more specialized explanation.
    Rather than focusing solely on a relatively easy to understand consumer product, in the B2B space it’s important to help business decision makers understand the applications for, and differentiators of, potentially complex products and services.
  3. Both B2B and B2C require great content.
    This is one area where B2B and B2C are almost identical – they both require compelling content: it should be factual, relevant, timely and interesting to members of the target audience.
  4. B2B content sourcing can initially be a bit of a challenge, but it needn’t be.
    B2B brands find this more challenging than B2C brands is because they tend not to have a similar level of marketing and advertising resource – no pre-existing content engine – but with the right processes for surfacing great stories, this problem can be successfully overcome.
  5. Follow the audience.
    Another area where B2B and B2C are almost identical is that, in either instance, it’s important to understand where the audience chooses to participate in digital and social media, and to identify the motivational triggers – both internal and external – for initiating that participation.

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