This Isn’t Your Father’s (er… slightly older brother’s) Social Media Anymore
Social media is evolving at a rapid pace. As the title of this blog implies, the utility and business value of social media has come a long way in just a few short years. At the beginning (think all the way back to 2002 if you can) the first modern social networking services, such as Friendster, MySpace and LinkedIn, provided an opportunity for people to post pictures of kittens, and a forum for teenagers to gossip.
*Note: (Social networking has been around since the late 70’s and 80’s, but for the purposes of this article, we are focusing on the emergence of social media since 2000).
With the emergence of Facebook and Twitter, and now Pinterest, Google+, Instragram and others, social media has become not only a cultural force, but also a highly influential marketing tool that allows companies to reach out to their target audiences in a way that was never before possible.
As social media started to become relevant to marketers it was initially used almost exclusively by B2C marketers, or those focused on the end consumer. Think Coke, or Apple, or Nike – big brands focused on selling lots of stuff to lots of people.
In the last few years, B2B marketers, too, began to understand how to use social media effectively. Still, many B2B marketers are skeptical about marketing in general – and social media specifically. After all, they’re not interested in appealing to millions or billions of consumers – they typically sell customized products to a smaller target audience. The “marketing” if you will, is really about sales.
Even today, when we go on sales calls, we get more reluctance from B2B organizations than we do from consumer-facing ones. It boggles my mind that this debate is still happening. So, how can social media help B2B organizations?
Social media can help generate awareness, educate potential customers and help generate demand for your products. The key is to understand that no one wants to be sold to. Use social media to help build your email list, or perhaps to encourage registrants to your webinar, or even to offer a promotional coupon. Provide information, create the basis for dialogue, and create simple calls to action.
Here are some examples of various calls to action:
1. A call to connect
2. A timely call
3. A call for registrants
4. A call for new members
Social media can also help support your sales team so they can do their job better. Product information and online catalogues can easily be constructed in social media platforms. Social media lends itself to rich media, with the ability to easily display videos and photographs of how products are being used in real situations. It can also support training, FAQ’s, instructions, etc.
For small and medium sized businesses, social media serves as a very effective customer service tool. Customer inquiries, feedback – both positive and negative – issues with orders, delivery times, etc., can often be responded to and remedied quickly through social media. The benefit being that other prospects and customers notice how quickly and efficiently your organization handles these types of issues. And before you know it, customer complaints translate into customer loyalty.
Marketing & Brand Building
The last – and perhaps most obvious – benefit is that social media can help build your brand. For small businesses, it can help you build a global presence. Recent statistics show that more than 70 per cent of business decision makers consult at least one social media channel prior to making a purchase decision.
The power of social media in the B2B space cannot not be overlooked. A strong social media presence is a relatively inexpensive way to broadcast your product or service to a wide audience. Start by leveraging social platforms to drive market awareness, to connect with customers and prospects, and to build your brand. Before you know it, the demand generation will follow. And as you begin to close more business, you’ll have an online community of brand advocates to thank.