Social Media – B2B Ship Hasn’t Sailed

image of sails

Recently, a friend who owns and runs a successful B2B company lamented to me, “I know I’m way behind online, especially when it comes to using social media for my company. I’m afraid I missed the boat.”

This sentiment is frequently expressed to me by owners of smaller B2B companies. They’re flat out making their businesses work through the use of proven business processes. There’s little impetus and less time to investigate untested marketing approaches. Yet the nagging hype about social-media marketing penetrates their overbooked schedules and causes angst.

If you are one of these small-business stalwarts, take heart. You haven’t missed anything. The fun is just beginning. Here are a few thoughts to consider as you stand on the dock waiting for embarkation.

Are Your Customers Looking For You There?

Chances are, they’re not. They, too, are flat out. They, too, are relying on proven business processes including those that connect them to their suppliers (and you).

If they are B2C, however, they are probably trying or planning to try social media to engage their own customers. Success there will eventually lead to different expectations of an online relationship with you.

B2B Marketers Are in Unchartered Waters

Sure, B2B marketers have convinced their larger B2B clients to experiment with social media. And depending how you measure ROI, they can point to successes. But those successes don’t regularly translate into more business for the B2B companies themselves. The reality is, it’s notoriously hard to convert Facebook likes to customers, or tie a large Twitter following to sales. Almost no one is doing it.

On the upside, the efforts of B2B marketers are leading to greater understanding, improved tools, and best practices that we can all eventually utilize.

The Currents Keep Shifting

Complicating the efforts of B2B marketers, the considered set of social-media sites keeps changing as does the features available on each. While Pinterest is a natural venue for companies with visual products, who envisioned using it a year ago? It wasn’t worth creating a presence on Google+ until Google recently changed its search algorithm to include it. How many companies have had to rethink their Facebook presence now that Facebook converted to the timeline view?

Then again, an order is slowly emerging. Users seem reticent to abandon sites where they’ve contributed substantial content and formed communities even as they readily adopt sites that offer new capabilities. If viable, those new sites are often gobbled up by the more established – witness Facebook buying Instagram.

Should B2B Companies set Sail?

The answer depends on the nature of your company, your customers and your intended goals for using social media. If you have the desire and the resources you can use social media today to promote your brand and thought leadership. Its not so easy to use it to generate leads, however. You can learn more about what’s viable by reading 4 Business Uses for Social Media.

In any case its advisable for you to:

  • Relax – you haven’t missed the boat
  • Stick your toe in water – don’t get talked into foolhardy ventures, but a few well-conceived experiments will help you understand what works for you
  • Stay tuned – there’s a lot more to come and the fun is just beginning
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