Social media for B2B SMEs - Don't waste your time
We all know about social media these days.
We're all at it. It's unavoidable.
We all know that it can be a great way to develop relationships and get and keep our brand out there.
We all know we need to be engaged on behalf of our companies.
We simply got to be on social media.
Most of the businesses I come into contact with are B2B - business to business, they sell products or services to other businesses. Not all of them, but definitely the majority. They are all interested in social media and how it can help them. The problem is, though, that finding examples of successful campaigns run by B2B companies is hard. Finding examples of successful B2B social media campaigns run by SMEs is even harder. I know, I've tried!
Check it out for yourself - try a Google search and see what you can find.
Even when examples are quoted the measure of success is not one I would be happy with. Basically the success is in terms of likes/shares/website visits. Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying that those things aren't desirable but they are only a means to an end - the real measure of success, £££!
So why is it that good examples of social media being used to build profit are so few and far between? Honestly, I don't know. A few ideas spring to mind though.
Business buying cycles
The processes businesses use to make purchases are quite different to consumers. They tend to be be made more formally and more rationally. More people tend to be involved in the decision and the decision is usually based on need. Making bad purchasing decisions in the business world can be career limiting or even career ending - the stakes can be high! In this sort of environment purchasers are much more likely to be rational and driven by evaluation of the product or service offered by the prospective suppliers. They are much less likely to be influenced by some engaging tweets or Facebook posts. As a potential supplier building a relationship with someone in your target organisation via social media might mean you're asked to bid or quote, but it won't win you the business.
Getting messages seen
Some businesses ban use of social media platforms at work. Others frown on people spending "too much time" on social media. Some business people amazingly are just too busy to be on social media during the work day. They certainly aren't sitting on Twitter all day waiting for your tweet. It's quite hard to get a response and engagement with business people during the work day.
In any form of marketing targeting is critical. You have to be clear that your messages are reaching the right people. Social media platforms differ in their ability to target effectively for B2B. On LinkedIn people will obviously include their job and employer but they're unlikely to in Facebook or Twitter so how can you find the right people? Many (most?) companies have Facebook Pages or Twitter accounts but how do you know who in the organisation is actually seeing your messages? It could be someone who is specifically tasked with managing their social media activities but who has no involvement is the purchasing decisions. Worse of all the social media accounts could be managed by an outside agency!
I think these all play a part but I believe that the most significant reason that there are few real life examples of effective SME social media campaigns is because most SMEs don't have an effective marketing strategy.
Social media is a tool for engaging with potential clients. A tool, not a strategy or even a tactic. Any marketing tool can only work effectively if you are clear about the key elements of your marketing strategy:
- What business are you in?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What is your value proposition
- Who are your potential customers?
- What do they need and when?
- What is the best way of communicating with them?
- What messages do you need to communicate?
Without clear thinking about your marketing strategy anything you do is likely to be ineffective. Random tweeting or posting to random people, at random times, with random messages - i.e. most of the posts and tweets we see - are a waste of time.
Stop wasting your time
So if you are a B2B business and you don't have a clear view of your marketing strategy and the role social media tools can play in it then my advice is to stop doing it.
Of course, the best approach is to develop a strategy and use the tools effectively where possible - then we might start seeing more success stories. That takes effort and hard work. Unfortunately, just like all marketing, it's mainly hard graft - not what people want to hear but true. There are no magic wands even with social media.
What do you think? Do you have a success story you can share? Do you have other ideas about why B2B SMEs struggle to get meaningful results? let us know.
Great post. Really agree with you. Social media use needs to be targetted, or we will waste a whole heap of time.
Personally I find LinkedIn really useful for finding good contacts, and keeping my name in front of the contact that mean the most to me. It's also a great place to practice my blogging skills and get content linked back to our website. It does take a lot of time to manage social media well - so I would always recommend being highly focussed. So LinkedIn is great, but Facebook and Twitter would just take up too much time.
As for success stories, we gained a really good client this summer from LinkedIn as a result of posting a photo of the office briefcase and laptop! And I've been able to gain a great deal of information about the competition - even being invited to one of their presentations as a result of connecting with the right people. I've also made contact with the editor of a key publication in our space and been invited to blog on their highly rated site.
So yes, it can work, but it's a long game - and a time intensive one.