Facebook and Twitter are commonly used for consumer oriented businesses, while often ignored by B2B #B2B companies. That’s a mistake, because those companies are missing out on a tremendous opportunity.
Manufacturers in the B2B world have multiple stakeholders (audiences) that need to hear their message.
Two reasons why B2B companies do not take advantage of social media #socialmedia is because they worry about having to provide content for multiple audiences or that any content that they do provide will be seen by the wrong person.
However, by using social media, they have the opportunity to reach multiple stakeholders with a single action.
The most important thing to remember is that all audiences have a shared need to know #NeedToKnow about your products and that there is a lot of information that would be valuable to different stakeholders.
Take, for example, a company that manufactures products for use in the dental office and sells through a distributor network.
Their final customer base is very small compared to a consumer oriented product and their immediate customer base only has several thousand salespeople. That pales in comparison to a consumer oriented product such as a new movie, cars or frozen pizza.
Many companies in that scenario would forgo using social media altogether. However, by keeping one simple concept in mind, they can successfully use social media to grow their sales.
They need to remember that in a B2B environment, their immediate customers NEED to know what their customers WANT to know. Play into that by creating content that answers the questions that the final consumers will ask, because the distributor’s sales reps will need to know the answers to that, too.
Regardless of if a company is in a large, consumer oriented market or a smaller, professional market like a dental company, your message needs to be directed at the end-user. This will help turn your social media B2B partners into an extension of your own sales team.
Next, get your own employees to get engaged on your social media sites. It is not enough that they simply “like” your postings. Assuming that they have a social media page/account for themselves, they need to share your content onto their own account.
To show that they are not simply forwarding/sharing everything that the company provides, they should be selective in what they share. This will show their followers that they put some consideration into what they share.
To really reinforce that perception, they should add a comment with the post to show their followers they read the post and can add some additional information from their own experiences.
Just make sure that they are forthcoming about who they work for so that it does not appear that your people are falsely/inadvertently coming off as customers themselves.
Related to that, when they see someone pose a question on your page that they can answer, they should do so, making sure to follow any company and regulatory policies.
For an additional level of prestige, consider creating a separate page using Facebook or Google groups where people can get exclusive content.
This will help create a much stronger buy-in from your fans, much like Starbucks #Starbucks did by creating a language to describe their products and the sizes that are available.
Offer them unique special offers or give them information before it is released on your main social media site.
Either way, members of this special group will feel as though they’re getting something that nobody else is getting and will likely become stronger supporters of your company.
Whatever your message, you need to have a call to action on your content. Avoid posting static information for its own sake. Instead, make sure that all of your content ends by asking the reader to do something.
Successful sales reps that work in a retail environment never ask a customer, “Can I help you?” because it’s too easy for a customer to say no. Instead, a successful salesperson will ask, “What can I help you find?” or “How can I help you today?”
By asking a yes/no question, it is too easy for the customer to shut the conversation down and walk away with a one word answer.
By asking an open-ended question, it makes the customer think about an answer and opens the door for the salesperson to start a discussion. Your social media efforts should take the same approach.
It will not only help your customers get engaged in discussions, but can also provide you with insight as to what is important to them, possibly leading to a solution to a question or problem that the customer was not even aware of at the time.
For example, if a company made briefcases, they might post a question that asks what feature is the most important to them or ask them if anyone remembers the metallic briefcases from Miami Vice (a TV show from the 80s). That will likely bring about some interesting responses!
By following these steps, B2B companies can create a social media presence that will be valuable to multiple audiences. That will, in turn, create an online resource that will help the company grow.