There is no doubt that social media and networking sites are going to have a huge influence on the big picture of b2b marketing. Right now, the main concern for most companies is how important these sites are to short and long-term business and is the time we spend building accounts and relationships really worth all the effort?
A lot of the clients we chat to don’t really understand how b2b social media can work for them. They open a twitter, facebook, stumbleupon and LinkedIn account, add a few profiles and images and then wait for the whole system to work its magic. We are working with two main clients today on their social site presence and this needs to be constantly updated and added to. The problem is that is doesn’t just happen by magic and it does take time, effort and a certain amount of investment to make the whole thing work well. The fact is that around half of the Twitter accounts set up today have zero to low activity and this is generally because it is just one more thing to think about. People add an account, some basic info and then leave them alone.
The truth is that this is not a short term gain at a b2b level. When you look at b2c it is more about brand, price and consumer engagement on a very specific level. Fundamentally, people within a b2c environment are more concerned with what it costs, supply and the feel good factor – something that you can get across via social media very quickly. What turns on a ‘shorts and T-shirt’ is not the same as a ‘pinstripe suit’.The b2b business is very different. Here we need to look at building credibility in your brand, company and the associated products you offer and b2b social media is a very good way of doing this. However, it does take time and effort.
The best thing to do here is to think about it as a network marketing opportunity – remember those? You’d sign up to sell dish cloths and mops and then get your friends to do the same. Those friends would then sell to their friends and alos recruit them to do the same all over again. If you had great sales people and the really enthusiastic recruiters then you made it – most people didn’t. The thing is that b2b social media is like that. However, like network marketing, it takes a lot of time to create the right network of people. Some of those people are at tier one and are called influencers.
These people are those who will create and respond to lots of posts on blogs, forums and they will tweet regularly. So when you network with these people and create useful information in your niche, they are the first people to share it with others and show real enthusiasm. They also tend to have loads of followers on twitter and get lots of viewers to their posts. It is from there that you get recommendations from them (and their followers) and the whole network begins to work as it should. These influencers will re-tweet your tweets on twitter and pass on your comments to others in their circle of contacts on other social networking sites.
However, these relationships are not born overnight. They take a lot of time to establish and you should begin by generally (and genuinely) helping people. Commit a certain amount of time per day and post and reply to blogs and forums which are both high authority and quality sites in your niche. Create teasers and slightly controversial posts around facts and possibly even conspiracy theories- write posts and comments that will get people thinking and will then get your influencers to respond and get involved. Then send two to three tweets per day and respond to the same number. In time you’ll build up a good following from the right audience and you can scale your efforts as you begin to learn new social networking skills.
The whole picture of b2b social media isn’t a walk in the park and is not at all pretty. But to make it work for you, there is a need to step outside and create a masterpiece in the right public circles to get noticed!