B2B Social Media Marketing: Buyers Navigate to Peers, Tech May Not Be Answer

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customer experience, B2B Social Media Marketing: Buyers Navigate to Peers, Tech May Not Be Answer

B2B marketers on social media need to know something before starting any campaign: Their potential buyers are focused and living and breathing in the same platform as their peers. 

It’s one of the messages from Carla Johnson, principal at Type A Communications, who catches up with CMSWire in the second part of our series this week on B2B social marketing challenges.

B2B Buyers Swim in One Lake

“B2B buyers use social media differently than B2C -- they’re looking for tentacles that lead them to information that helps validate a problem, show executives how this impacts business performance and then what to do about it,” Johnson said.

B2B’s journey to purchase is different than B2C’s, and they must justify things differently. Where consumers may be jumping around social platforms, B2B buyers are not.

“They’re going where their peers are,” Johnson said. “So successful B2B marketers focus on those channels and consistently connect with customers and prospects in a way that’s unique to that persona and that platform.”

Solutions may be able to help manage content automatically across social platforms, but it may not be the best choice for your organization. Johnson calls it a B2B marketer’s “biggest sin” -- relying on technology to simplify managing content across social platforms and believing it’s always the best choice.

“Too many companies create something that fits for Twitter and push it across all social media channels,” Johnson said. “How you talk on Twitter is significantly different than how you talk on Google+ or Facebook. Seeing a company’s post from Twitter show up on Facebook tells customers that it’s a robot behind the screen, not a person. Companies need to use social media to extend their humanness.”

customer experience, B2B Social Media Marketing: Buyers Navigate to Peers, Tech May Not Be Answer

Speaking of social channels, Johnson, as Michele Linn of the Content Marketing Institute told us yesterday, is seeing LinkedIn as the most popular and effective home for B2B buyers. 

LinkedIn’s forums enable B2B buyers to have “meaningful conversations with their peers about their challenges and how to solve them. That’s hard to do through other channels. LinkedIn can offer a greater sense of community, and people want to learn from people like them.”

Engagement, Not Content Quantity

Four ways B2B companies use social wisely include:

Learning Opportunities

  • Creating a continuum of engagement. Instead of posting a string of individual posts, these B2B marketers use social engagement to help nurture leads through complex sales cycles.
  • Wisely choosing channels. B2B buyers may not be as active across a range of social channels as B2C, but they will be in multiple places, Johnson said. “Good marketers understand how to use each channel and also how to integrate them with increasing mobile use."
  • Education before selling. Johnson sees a “growing acceptance” among B2B marketers of the need to “educate first, sell last.”
  • Nurturing the customer. B2B buyers are people, too, and B2B marketers must recognize this. “That means using data to learn about them and their personal preferences in order to create more relevant content through every step of the buying cycle and also retention. "Just because they’re a customer doesn’t mean you can quit nurturing them.”

What’s Next?

Asked if B2B marketing in social will ever be as big as B2C, Johnson said she’d like that to happen. With millennials becoming decision makers, B2B marketers' social presence will grow because that’s where and how you connect with them, she added.

customer experience, B2B Social Media Marketing: Buyers Navigate to Peers, Tech May Not Be Answer

“It’s going to be fun to watch how B2B marketing changes when this happens,” Johnson said. “I think it’s going to experience an amazing new level creativity of connecting and engaging customers that B2B hasn’t experienced before.”

Even in the future, successful B2B marketers will be doing much of the same with social: telling the same brand story through different formats.

Successful B2B marketers also “understand that you can tell long-form stories through social media, and these channels are key for making the brand story come to life,” Johnson said. “You don’t always have to use social to bring people to the story; social can be the way to tell the story.”

Check out Part 1 of our series with analyst Michele Linn of the Content Marketing Institute. 

Photo in opening paragraph courtesy of donskarpo (Shutterstock).

Graphic source: The State of Corporate Social Media 2012, Useful Social Media, May 2012

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