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How is SMM for B2B Different from B2C?

By Pete Krainik
CEO of The CMO Club

Social media marketing (SMM) for B2B is a different than B2C. B2B marketing is all about engaging with key decision makers and influencers of those decision makers. And effective B2B decision-maker engagement requires higher actual touch than many B2C products. Also, B2B influencers can impact outside social communities, with more phone conversations, face-to-face conversations at trade shows, etc., than B2C. And finally, many B2B influencers and decision makers have not yet embraced social media-based communities and tools like B2C.

One of the biggest opportunities to leverage SMM is the creation of communities for giving your customers and prospects a chance to share the good, bad, and ugly about your company, services, and products. One good approach is to create a social network for all your customer-facing employees and partners (sales, customer service, finance, etc.). Having a social media platform just for them provides a vehicle for those touching your customers daily to share what's working, what's not working, and what customers really need. It's a great way to engage them with your brand and support your commitment to service.

Even more critical is to know your promoters and influencers in B2B, given the typical price points in B2B. Leverage social media to create an "insiders program" to share insights and reward them. One idea that a number of B2C companies have done a great job with lends itself to a big upside in B2B: spending time with bloggers and influencers in your industry. Share updates and give them access to your plans, but don't try to sell them.

Why not leverage your expertise and resources to actually introduce social communities and media to your customers/prospects not on board yet? Provide them a reason to use social media. Be the one that introduces this new world to them.

Take a step back and think through how the listening, sharing, employee/partner engagement, and referral processes can work by leveraging SMM, and you will differentiate yourself in your industry.

How is SMM for B2B Different from B2C?

By Hollis Thomases
Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day

B2C social media marketing is about giving consumers direct access to a brand and for that brand to show a more human side of itself. It helps to remove big corporate barriers that consumers might otherwise feel from dealing with a brand, such as elitism, detachment, nepotism, lack of goodwill, or disinterest in the consumer. B2C social media also helps consumers feel like they know an insider at a company.

Though there have been a few documented disasters with B2C social media, there’s more of a sense of "anything goes" or perhaps, "let’s try this at least once." The more risky and cutting edge the company, the more "out there" they're likely to take their social media efforts. And since blogging is such a huge part of social media, these days it’s not uncommon to see senior executives or even CEOs regularly blogging, video blogging, or snapping photos on their smartphones when out and about to post to their blog.

While B2C social media marketing can more readily skew towards aspects of fun, frivolity, promotions, and entertainment, it’s harder to make those same features translate well in the B2B realm.

Though some companies have done it well or cleverly (take a look at what this scientific supplies packaging company has done on YouTube), generally people associate B2B with dry and serious marketing. In this regard, through social media, B2B companies have tried to leverage existing old assets (white papers, Webinars, research, trade show marketing, etc.), while at the same time, testing out new ideas, such as video product demonstrations posted on YouTube, replacing quantities of printed product catalogs with photos posted on Flickr, and contests tying Facebook or Twitter into real-world events.

These are still the early days of social media, and there are yet new technologies, platforms, and ideas to come. Both B2B and B2C companies still have a lot of learning, experimenting, and evolving to go before they figure out how they plan to leverage social media long term. Who knows, there might come a day when B2B and B2C marketing looks more alike than dissimilar! Now that would be an interesting adaptation.

How is SMM for B2B Different from B2C?

By Patrick Strother
Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota

I think a key difference in B2B is the added edge social media offers the sales team. Its ability to connect marketing to sales and support lead generation is proven, and I am seeing B2B companies shift their budgets away from traditional media (such as trade print ads) to social media. Since a key goal of B2B marketing is to convert prospects into customers, the ability of social media to cost effectively support a longer, more complex, bigger ticket sales process highlights the other key advantage of B2B: more manageable scalability.

Despite the clear benefits of B2B social media, I find more natural executive buy in with B2C companies for a couple of reasons. First, they are very quick to grasp that it is a cost-effective way to engage with consumers. Second, user-generated content from brand enthusiasts often helps expand the reach of their B2C social media campaigns and reduces some of the major B2C scalability challenges. Consumers don't need to be engaged with the company to engage with the brand.

Conversely, most B2B social media audiences really like receiving access to very specialized custom content (such as an ongoing blog on adhesives), but they are less inclined to overtly engage or share information, often because they are using social media platforms for their livelihoods and don't want to reveal to competitors what they are up to.

Whether you're in B2C or B2B, social media is a proven and effective vehicle for reaching and engaging your target audience authentically and on a differentiated basis.

Pete Krainik

Pete Kranik is the founder and Chairman of The CMO Club. He has more than 25 years of experience in marketing, product management, sales, and IT in the high-tech, software, and consumer goods industries. Prior to forming The CMO Club, Pete served as Avaya's Global Vice President of Marketing, the Chief Marketing Officer for DoubleClick, and the GM of the Consumer Goods Division of Siebel Systems. Prior to Siebel, he spent 15 years at Mars, Inc.

Hollis Thomases

Hollis Thomases is the author of the new book, Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day. She is an accomplished public speaker and a contributing columnist for ClickZ. Hollis was named the 2007 SBA Maryland Small Business Person of the Year, 2008 Enterprising Woman of the Year by Enterprising Women magazine, and recently made the Baltimore Business Journal's List of Baltimore's Top 50 Women-Owned Businesses.

Patrick Strother

Patrick Strother is a Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota. He is also the Principal at Strother Communications Group (SCG). Patrick is a thought leader in the integration of research, branding, public relations, advertising, social media, and direct marketing. He created the proprietary "Converging on Customers" model to help guide SCG in the long term.