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December 26, 2012

4

Which social media network brings most success in B2B ?

by Tom De Baere
Source : Flicker @cuppini

Source : Flicker @cuppini

2013 is almost there. What will 2013 bring? most probably another social media network.

Who knows, they come and go as Marcus Sheridan from @saleslion wrote about it on his blog. (by the way, I am a big fan of his work, check him out if you don’t know him).

Looking at the big ones, which ones will bring you the most success in B2B? I have seen many blog post about this subject: Facebook is better for this, LinkedIn is better for that. Twitter is only useful for this and that…

When developing a social media strategy, many companies start thinking which social media networks they should start developing. Developing means to create a presence, invest in time and maybe money to fuel that network with relevant content, and then organize actions to grow your follower base. Companies start hiring “conversation managers” that monitor the conversations, trigger the discussions, answer questions, be helpful where they can, and get the conversations going.

Should we do Facebook ? LinkedIn ? Whatever network ? 

It’s definitely an important question. And on the other hand it’s not an important question. It’s even a simple question.

I’ll tell you : it doesn’t matter. It’s not up to you or me to choose which network you will develop. If your customers are there, you better be there. It’s as simple as that.

But how do you know if your customers are on that particular network? Mmmm, difficult question, that much I agree.

Then maybe we should  jump on every network that sticks its head above the ground?

Should we be on LinkedIn?

hubspot-linkedin-graphicIn the case of LinkdedIn, there should be no doubt : if you are in B2B, you need to be on LinkedIn.

Almost all B2B professionals are on LinkedIn, using it for personal branding reasons, personal networking but also increasingly to find information.

Linkedin is changing from a pure B2B networking site, towards a site that is positioning itself as an information portal: updates from your contacts, the companies you are following, and more recently thought leaders like Richard Branson or Pete Cashmore.

Sharing what counts in your industry on LinkedIn, and providing relevant updates for your buyers must be part of your content marketing strategy if you are in B2B.

Especially the “company” pages functionality on LinkedIn is a powerful way to be where your customers are: they can follow your brand, and your updates will be part of their update stream.

That’s why I believe LinkedIn in B2B is the main channel of communication. Also the type of information you put on LinkedIn is different than the other social media networks. LinkedIn must be considered as your most serious channel. This is where you post serious information that allow your buyers to be informed, educated, and occasionally entertained.

Twitter is inferior?

b2b-content-marketing-distribution-via-social-media-channels-2011Although many people in B2B consider Twitter as inferior, I would say these people haven’t go a clue. As with any social media network, Twitter is, more than any other network, about giving. Giving till you drop : share information, follow people, respond to tweets, interact with people.

Twitter about giving to receive, as it is with much things in life. Same thing goes with a corporate Twitter account: you need to include it as a important part of your company strategy.

Interact with them by giving them relevant information (not blowing your own horn please!) about your products or services, sharing stuff that might be interesting to them which is not about your company, and understanding that listening is more important than talking (again a wisdom you already knew).

Ahah, and what about Facebook?

Ahah, and what about Facebook? To start of, I’m not a big fan of Facebook. And I am not even talking here from a business perspective. Personally to me Facebook is radiating a wrong brand image. Somehow it doesn’t fit with whom I am. Apart from that the usability of Facebook stinks. Google+ is more my piece of cake, but that’s another story.

So, Facebook for B2B. Include or exclude Facebook from your digital marketing strategy ? By now you should know the answer: if people in your market and in your line of business are using Facebook to connect with companies, then you should also be on Facebook. And to be honest, in general, most B2B companies should be on Facebook.

The reasons are simple:

  • your employees are on Facebook, so it can serve as a great ‘internal’ communication tool.
  • passionate people, or employees working for your customers that are truly interested in your brand want to follow you on Facebook.
  • it’s the perfect network to use for the ‘lighter’ stuff of your brand: pictures of your products in action without producing a big relevant and informing story behind it. Or “behind the scene” stuff, like an engineer showing an early prototype being proud of what he made, or just a happy event like your company becoming 25 years old.

So, to be or not to be on Facebook, what shall it be? Up to you, but if you ask me, you have NO choice. Nah. Even when you don’t like it. Throw yourself into this, give it all you got, because otherwise it won’t work as with any of this networks.

The big Google+ that nobody uses?

googleplusGoogle+ is a difficult one. I see Google+ as a slow moving, but definitely impactful network for the future. Already now you can feel that Google finally cracked it, after disasters like Google Buzz or the likes of it. More and more people start using it, and it’s only a matter of time before it will really take of.

Additionally, Google+ is from Google, the “search master”. Google has forced the issue of Google+ usage on business by completely integrating Google+ pages into their search algorithms. Google users are now provided with a “personal results” section in their search results, which contains images, posts, and videos from a user’s Google+ network that relate to their search. An active company on Google+ will have a greater amount of relevant content available for indexing into search results, increasing their reach.

Only for this reason alone a B2B company should be active on Google+.

(check out Guy Kawasaki’s book on Google+ on Amazon if you want to start with Google+)

Youtube, Slideshare anyone ?

slideshare youtubeAlthough these networks are less considered as social networks, I do consider them as networks. And I do consider them crucial in the digital marketing mix of B2B companies. But they are not to be used ‘stand-alone’. They must be used in parallel and together with the other networks, and with the other social media on your website or blog.

The days that producing video was difficult are behind us: every iPhone or Android has HD recording capabilities. And editing or uploading is something my 11 year old daughter can do. What I would suggest is to have it edited by a professional company to put a descent bumper and closing on it, but if you don’t have the budget, I’m sure you’ll be able to make it look professional using a descent 150 EUR video editing package.

Slideshare is a no-brainer. I have seen amazing success in a few months by uploading the presentations you have anyway: presentations from speaking engagements or webinars are excellent material to be put on Slideshare. It will become more and more relevant for B2B, now that LinkedIn has acquired Slideshare.

It’s not about marketing,  and it’s not about the networks you choose

Just as I wrote in a recent blog post about content marketing, social media is not the job of marketing. Your whole organization, meaning every employee, should be aware of their role in amplifying the brand of your company. When someone posts on any of these networks, employee should like it, share it, or comment on it.

And to come back to Marcus Sheridan, what counts is not the network you are using. What counts is what makes you really successful, and according to Marcus it’s this:

  • Great teaching
  • Value
  • Powerful Communication
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Transparency
  • Kindness to others
  • Genuine Service
  • Legitimate Relationships

So, are you in B2B? which social networks are working for you? Why are they working for you? Which ones are you having trouble with?

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere

  • Christophe

    Thanks for this excellent paper ! What you think about Pinterest ? Personally I believe that the visual is very important to generate an attraction to the brand and play with emotions, also in B2B. it’s not a “pure” social network but Pinterest can allow to humanize the enterprise, develop sympathy…

    • Tom De Baere

      Hi Christophe.

      Thank you for the compliment. I have been following Pinterest only from a distance, and I only know the “cliché” facts. By coincidence I recently saw a statistic which mentioned that 30-something percent of B2B companies are using Pinterest. I don’t really buy that, at least not here in Europe. I have seen literally zero B2B companies that I know of using it. But that’s just my small perception of the small world I live in.

      If your B2B customers are using Pinterest, so should you be, that’s my golden rule.

      As we all move into becoming more visually oriented as the speed of the world we live in increases, platforms as these serve an audience seeking fast and visual information. Interesting about this network is that Google or Bing can get their hands on the visual content. If you can built up a large enough ranking it’s definitely worthwhile.

      But it’s early days. Looking at companies like IBM or more in our field, Eloqua or Marketo, they have a measly 500 to 800 followers on Pinterest. That’s still a long way to go…

      Thanks for your comment Christophe.

      Warm regards, happy new year already ;-)
      Tom

  • I love the simplicity of the bottom line: “If your (B2B) customers are using the platform, so should you be, that’s my golden rule.”

    Good post…

    • Tom De Baere

      Thx Rogier.