How does social media fit into B2B marketing?
Channel Development Manager, Aflac
By Jim Sweeney
Social media fits into the B2B marketing model much the same way it fits into the consumer marketing model.
Because of its very nature, social media allows virtually anyone (or any organization) to communicate with virtually any audience on any scale. And because it allows for real-time, two-way communication with minimal or no interference (no gatekeepers), it is an ideal marketing strategy.
Social media sets the stage for meaningful, live engagement between your business and all of your target internal and external business audiences – employees, shareholders, retirees, customers, prospects, vendors, distributors, brokers, investors, consultants and on and on.
Unlike traditional media – which remains vital and essential in both the consumer and B2B marketing paradigms – social media allows you to connect directly to your audiences without the influence of gatekeepers, and allows them to communicate directly back to you (and anyone else who is participating) without interference and in real-time.
A recent Forrester Research study http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/the-down-economy-pushes-b-to-b-marketers-embrace-digital-tactics-409009_1.html of B2B marketing professionals indicates that more and more B2B marketers are beginning to embrace social media. Unfortunately it appears that the economy and the need to get more results with fewer dollars is the primary driver.
Regardless, social media fits into B2B marketing in a wide array of ways.
• Social Networking sites like LinkedIn (and yes, even Facebook) offer exceptional opportunities for B2B organizations to connect with target audiences on an individual and collective basis. Industry-specific groups enable you to create and participate in dialogue with industry influentials, customers, prospects, etc.
• Blogs have the potential to create invaluable communication with internal and external target audiences on a multitude of business topics.
• Micro-blogging tools like Twitter allow you to maintain ongoing communication – text, links, photos, audio and video clips – with multiple core groups of individuals.
• Video Sharing through mass appeal sites like YouTube or industry-specific business sites like Wistia enables you to effectively present your corporate and product brands on an entirely different level. Podcasts and Webcasts are equally useful tools for engaging target audiences.
• Tried and true strategies like e-mail marketing, online advertising, organic search optimization, blogger relations and industry discussion boards are digital and social media tools that should also be considered as part of the marketing mix.
Social media should be viewed as a viable strategy in a portfolio of techniques that best practice companies can use to create awareness, engage audiences, create links, drive leads, support sales and build relationships.