B2B Socially

I’m hoping for antisocial media.  I can see how to make a buck off of that.

Meanwhile, social media continues to gain dominance in marketing, and for good reason.  Humans, and even politicians, are social animals.  We commune for pleasure, profit and procreation (which pretty much describes a day in the life of Eliot Sprtizer).  Even the most sterile of pursuits requires some social aspect.  Every poor blogger, alone in his office, hammers out prose in order to asynchronously connect with other humans.

Business-to-business (B2B) activities are thus social interactions.  Oracle commits social acts when it interacts with other enterprises, aside from the select few it eats.  Thus social media should be a component of B2B. The oddest aspect of B2B social media concerns who in the relationship needs to socialize and why.  The failure to think through these two questions have led to various B2B social media catastrophes including most of the old executive blogs at Sun Micro.

Relationships, regardless of how tenuous, are the heart of social media.  Your B2B worries center on buyers, suppliers and thought leaders.  These are the primary external groups who are influenced by you and your competitors and thus the ones to which social media is important.

Just ask Oracle’s 28,918 Facebook fans.

When stripped bare, social media for business is mainly about branding.  You need people to perceive your company and products in a particular way.  Social media offers the ability to communicate brand both directly and personally.  The personal aspect is what creates an emotional connection with a human (politicians, having no souls, have no emotions).  B2B social networking is mainly about the communication, amplification or defense of your brand.

Brand communication: At the risk of repeating myself … again … if you do not define and consciously communicate your brand, the market will, and the market is unkind.  Social media’s personal touch gives tremendous opportunity for communicating brands.  Sadly most companies treat the opportunity as advertising, which some people perceive as an antisocial assault (ever notice the advertising you remember most are those that entertain and make you feel).  Any employee (including the CEO) who communicates in social media needs to do so only after reciting your internal brand statement ten times.  Once the brand is reloaded into memory, any social media communication will reflect that brand.

Brand amplification: Often members of an audience will correctly state your brand.  Such acts deserve acknowledgement, appreciation and rephrasing what the other person said with your specific branding words.  Doing so clarifies and amplifies your brand in public places.

Brand defense: Other folks are not as kind, and may have many nasty things to say about your products, your company and maybe even your mama.  Left unchecked, these can escalate into a negative brand image.  Some companies are proactive, and upon seeing a negative comment help the person to resolve their problem or explain why it has to be.  Other companies (most notably the self-destructing Intuit) either ignore community outrage, or worse yet try to censor negative branding.  Social media has to be treated as an opportunity to connect.  As you would with friends or family, treat the other person well.

The hard part about B2B social networking is finding or establishing relevant places to participate.  Proactive companies create social media spaces, be it a Facebook fan page, a public forum based around their market or segment, or even private executive panels.  Many marketing dilatants hijacked these sites for promotional purposes, and rapidly killed the value originally promised.  In more mature markets where social media arose from the masses (such as within trade or technical interest groups), enterprises have joined as members.

The take-away is that your suppliers and your buyers are people and need to be treated as such.  Online social media is merely a rapid extension of normal social interaction.  Since social media is global, asynchronous and everlasting, even B2B businesses need to incorporate it into their overall marketing plan.  Just understand that social does not mean sales, but it does mean social.


Comments

B2B Socially — 1 Comment

  1. I agree. B2B businesses do need to incorporate social media into their marketing. Let’s also not forget that sharing a cup of coffee or having lunch with a prospective buyer or vendor partner can help close the deal. Face to face counts.

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