Thought leadership – Should social media keep its nose out of B2B marketing?


By Jo Loft, Co-Founder & Client Services Director, Fanatica

Social media. Online word of mouth. Web 2.0. Web 3.0. It enabled Cancer Research UK to raise an unprecedented £8m in less than a week. It allowed 3,000 people share the mug shot of a violent criminal in California in two days – because they thought he was good-looking. But, if you’re a business-to-business organisation, so what?

Brands need to be top of mind when decision-makers come to make their purchase. That’s just marketing 101. But, for B2B this is especially true, as the buying cycles are more complex and there are often very few obvious differentiators in the products themselves. How many people really know the difference between the unified communications services from Cisco, Avaya and BT? Or which of the Big Four will give them better accounting services?

The remedy is to be part of an ongoing conversation with the decision makers in your target audience.

Engaging those key decision makers is all about becoming a trusted thought leader. Captivate that audience by equipping them with information that helps them be better at their job. If they are an IT purchaser in a bank, give them a well-informed white paper on what financial services organisations need to know before moving to the cloud.

But go beyond this. Go beyond the usual realms of B2B content, and use some of the creativity that is traditionally reserved for B2C campaigns to create great content. Build an interactive microsite to display research data. Record a series of Vines for bite-size advice videos. Create a quiz to determine whether their business is ready for the cloud, with practical advice at each stage.

This is where social media comes into its own. It is a great weapon to have in your arsenal when you’re ready to get your lovely content into the hands of the target audience.

But know that social media is not free – it is an investment like any other aspect of your marketing. Hiring an intern on minimum wage to tweet is not going to cut the mustard. It takes just as much thought, care and attention as creating the content in the first place. What channels are your customers using? How are you going to draw them in? How do you get them to share your content to their network? This is the preserve of a seasoned marketing professional, not a newbie on work experience.

Engaging your target market isn’t about having a social media strategy, or content marketing plan. It is, however, but being channel agnostic, and working out how your customers want to be reached. For example, draw no distinctions between mobile, tablet and desktop. Why? Because customers don’t. Be customer first, not mobile first.

Going back to your IT purchaser, she might be working on a PC at work, a MacBook at home and a smart phone and a tablet when she’s on the move. Plus, does she use Twitter mostly for work? Or personal use? Is she ok with talking to brands on Facebook, or is that strictly for friends?

And lastly, never take your eyes of your business objectives. Social content and channels are there to support your business in achieving its goals.

Be creative, be channel agnostic, and be a bit more courageous.

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