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Time to Jump In: B2B Social Media

Our clients are busy. So much so they often have questions that they don’t have the time to do a research initiative. We at User Insight are busy, in fact every 45 minutes we are conducting an in-person, one-on-one interview, which is building our knowledge base on why companies and individuals make decisions and take action.  Given that everyone is busy, we take on research initiatives ourselves and consult with clients on how to apply the findings.

Recently we have been getting a lot of questions on our research with small businesses, specifically how they make purchasing decisions using social media. Our clients are asking about the benefits, expectations and role of social media in the B2B space.

As we have applied this research to our clients’ social media initiatives, we keep having similar conversations, so we thought we would share a few tips we have picked up along the way:

Trust Issues

For certain businesses, going to your company’s blog or twitter feed isn’t going to feel like the most trust worthy, relevant spot for them.  It feels too much like your selling them.  However, not all hope is lost —  these businesses are looking for information and using social media as a research tool to make purchasing decisions. This is where social still has the ability to play a major role.

By connecting your brand to true thought leaders in the industry as well as getting authentic messages from people outside the marketing department -your brand will thrive with these groups. It’s not that they don’t like your brand, it’s that they don’t inherently see the value in connecting in social with your brand. These businesses are looking for answers; they just aren’t looking at your branded platforms.  Connect with these businesses by being where they are looking for the information as well as sharing relatable content from the right source.

Company vs. Individual 

As we walk our clients through the spectrum of business buying behavior clusters, the social teams and marketing teams tend to perk up:

“Are we targeting an individual who works at the business, say on LinkedIn or Twitter or am I targeting the business? Shouldn’t the information we provide for their research be based on the individual who is buying and making the decision, not the business?”

I love this part. The answer is yes, because the company and the individual exhibit similar characteristics or behaviors.  Due to business cultures and human nature, over time the company will naturally weed out individuals that don’t fit in the culture. For example, someone unwilling to change isn’t going to last very long—or want to last – at a fast paced early adopter type of business.  These businesses, and individuals, are looking for different types of information compared to a business that is a late adopter of technology.  Our clients can apply this knowledge of what motivates businesses to make purchasing decisions and then communicate on an individual level in social media with the right types of content in the right place.

Silence

Regularly clients explain that they are unsure about investing in B2B social efforts. They have listening teams investigate the chatter about them in the B2B space and there isn’t much conversation as compared to their B2C counterpart – if no one is talking about them should they be on social media? The follow up is always, they may not be talking about you or at you in social, but they are consuming content about your industry in social – wouldn’t you like it to be yours?

In the B2B setting, individuals are less likely to reach out for support or ask vendors questions over social networks when compared to B2C.  There are many reasons for this, one of which is to not broadcast what the business is doing to anyone who is listening, like competitors.  However, the B2B sales cycle is often much longer and employees must do research to have hard evidence to support decisions –  content and information you can provide them.

In addition, individuals at businesses are asking more general industry questions of their networks regularly (tweet me, friend me, make me buy) on social media. Listening to the conversations around your industry may provide you with a better understanding of the social ecosystem rather than just focusing on conversations about your brand.

From the B2B standpoint social is just as viable an option as it is for a B2C company. Unlike a website, a commercial, a billboard, or other traditional marketing avenues, social media lives on, can be relatable and personable, as well as contain a message that can easily be shared within networks.  It’s important to understand who you are marketing to, identifying if your content is coming from the right sources, but most importantly give your company an opportunity to be heard from.