Social is inherently not made for business at all. The business to consumer, or brands interacting with consumers on social in general, is a tough nut to crack. This begs the question – how do we approach business-to-business communication using social media?
There are a few challenges:
Which top platforms are small businesses and owners using on social?
How do business engage with other business over these platforms?
What should we measure against?
I’m going to touch on each of these below.
Before we understand where a business can employ their tactics, we need to remember that all businesses – be they large or small – are run by people. These people are probably on social in their own right, for example Richard Branson in his own right is an entrepreneur and businessman, and the various Virgin properties have their own profiles on social. Yes, an external company might connect with him directly or with his business, but both still exist. We are not representative of the business alone, but a sum of all of the parts.
The obvious first choice of platform, taking the abovementioned scenario into consideration, is the business-focused network, LinkedIn.
Using LinkedIn, a businesses can represent itself, but people take the core focus as top management use the tool to enable business, middle management for networking and lower level staff search or are targeted for jobs. The audience and platform is more conducive to the conversation, but discussions and interactions are still done through people. For example where groups of similar interest/business or life stage discuss and share content around similar problems or questions. It’s important to share content that talks to the life stage of the business, whether it be slideshare or video. One can’t just jump in and sell in an environment where you are building trust.
The head of social media at Cisco stated at SXSW 2013 that video content is going to be the biggest driver for social media engagement in the B2B space going forward, and this makes sense, as people want to see people, not just the business.
Facebook is still a strong driver for traffic, but interaction will be significantly lower because the network is inherently about people, not business. Facebook does however show higher click-through rates to content elsewhere when it comes to direct business targeting.
Twitter, although stronger from an engagement point of view, is harder to engage between two businesses. There are however tactical steps, such as listening for leads. By jumping into conversations and converting on these, (something Xerox is doing to much success in the US) they drive actual ROI.
Google+, albeit the joke of all the social networks, has amazing targeting ability to “fans”, as well as the ability to create and jump into existing communities created around topics. The strong link between small businesses that use Gmail accounts and that then opened up and trade in their business name on Google+ is astonishing.
SimplyBiz, a property of South African bank Nedbank, created its own network of small business owners where it shares content, deals and enable better decision-making through networks. Thus creating your own community is also an option, and using the rest as drivers to yours.
At the end of the day, your objectives and measurement needs to be kept top of mind in everything you do. Generally, B2B objectives consists of:
Driving traffic to the website (for sign ups and leads)
Leads, database, sign-ups themselves through channel
Thought leadership and content downloads – positioning in the market
Customer feedback and service (reverse savings can be driven from these)
Ironically, at the end of the day, B2B in social media will become more personal as humans learn to trust, and want to engage with humans.
When businesses build trust in this space, they will in turn gain customers, but these businesses also want to talk to people, whether we provide the platform for them to connect to other businesses, or connect to us. Keep it personal, keep it focused and keep giving value.