Social Media and B2B

11 Apr

If you’re a B2B marketer, the case studies for success with social media techniques are hard to find.  Sure, there are plenty of corporate blogs out there, and plenty of tech marketers are using RSS to share news… but if you really want to get real and cut through the hype, it doesn’t seem like there has been much appetite for social networking among true B2B companies.  In my view, there is a simple reason:  

Most people aren’t using new media or social media to do their jobs.

I don’t have stats on this. I do have a straw poll of clients and media that I’ve been taking over the past couple years. What I find is that:

  • most organizations don’t have time to read blogs, let alone write them
  • it is the rare client who knows what RSS is
  • most people are using LinkedIn for professional networking
  • most people don’t have MySpace pages or Facebook sites.

That’s not to say none of this is important. But B2B companies are being run by grown ups and grown ups aren’t using social tools to manage the buying and selling of products for their businesses.

Here’s what they are doing:

> Optimizing their websites for search engines and to make them friendlier to information seekers. Web search is the first cut for finding vendors; websites are expected to provide enough information to build a list of potential vendors.

>Using the webinars to reach out and educate prospect. The webinar has replaced the conference call and made it easier to reach prospects and customers worldwide.

> Turning their websites into news sites.  On B2B websites, you’ll find more front-page news, more opportunities to interact with the company, more fresh content.

What could or should they do?

> Turn webinars into podcasts.  Podcasts are a nice opportunity – they’re easy to listen to “later”.  They also can be used to lend some excitement and richness to a product announcement — how about a podcast with that boring partnership news release?

> Create community among user groups.  Social media tools are ideal for the traditional user group, which seem to be interacting mostly via rarely used online forums and annual meetings.  A B2B company could benefit by putting customers in touch with each other … and potentially with prospects, and social media tools could make this easier.

> Engage the media — and the market.  Give them choices on how to receive news — RSS, mobile, good ‘ol email? Provide them an industry newsfeed? How about creating a blog that lets you respond to market trends and news?

> How about being a blogger? A neat little online book called “The Zen of Blogging” makes the point that it’s not the blog, it’s the blogger. I’d say, it’s not the blogger — it’s just “you”.  Your company has news, a point of view, and a built in audience of interested folks out there.  The blog gives you an easy platform to respond to industry issues, respond to industry news, and highlight what you’re doing.  Whether you do it on the website or via a separate blogging platform, communications departments need to take on the idea of being part of a proactive, day-to-day conversation with the public. 

Sounds fun, actually. What do you think B2B can do…that will work?

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