5 Ways to Build B2B Brands Using Social Media

Neil Glassman is our featured guest blogger today.  He is a linear, digital and social media marketing strategist and principal of WhizBangPowWow. Join his conversation on @neilglassman. In all but the smallest of businesses, the purchasing process involves multiple voices within the company. A technology purchase, for example, might involve one or more representatives of IT, the using departments and procurement engaged in defining what’s needed, what to buy and from whom to buy.

Among the roadblocks for businesses that sell to other businesses, is that each of these constituencies has its own perspective on the “ideal” product. IT may value integration with existing systems, the using departments may be seeking particular features and procurement is probably looking for the lowest price. Departments can become “compartments.”

Smart marketers have strategies to address “compartmentality” by delivering messages that resonate for each department. Sometimes this can be accomplished with one message, but usually requires a delicate balance of multiple, complementary messages. The best brands not only differentiate their products from the competition, they redefine the core problem to “hijack” the buying process and, ideally, break up the compartments by providing common talking points upon which all departments can agree.

Using linear media, a brand is well served by customizing its messages in the different periodicals and newsletters read by those in each department. Social media presents brands with more powerful options for tailoring their messages. As with linear media vehicles and digital media tactics such as SEO, initiatives to build brands using social media should be integrated into companies’ overall marketing strategy, thoughtfully planned and executed to avoid pitfalls.

Here are 5 ways to successfully build a B2B brand using social media that address the key considerations of presenting the right brand message, delivering that message in the right places to the right people and engaging those in social media conversations to help you spread the word.

1 — Be prepared to lose control

Assume your brand has the most carefully crafted brand messages, tailored to address the perceived ROI of each “compartment.” When placing an advertisement in a print or digital industry trade periodical, a brand can rather accurately predict who will see the ad and the context in which it is presented. On the other hand, a brand loses a great deal of control when participating in a social media conversation. That’s a plus because loss of control fuels your messages’ virality and a minus because, well, you lose control of your carefully crafted message.

Putting your company’s brand out there in the social media wilderness terrifies many companies. Having a solid social media policy is essential. As everyone in the company is part of the brand’s conversation, all need to act with an awareness that their friends/followers/connections may be able to differentiate between their personal and professional posts — your brand’s customers might not.

2 — Be where your customers are

When thinking about using the global social media conversation, brand marketers might limit themselves to the most popular platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. Be aware of the scores of other platforms for business networking, link recommendations, special interests and world regions. Brands cannot count on their messages “jumping platforms” and need to know where their potential customers are conversing.

Remember, you are seeking conversations in which all of your customers’ stakeholders are engaged. Try to be in every compartment.

There are a number of social media monitoring tools that can be used to discover where your customers are conversing. Once you know where to join the conversation, use those tools to monitor what’s being said and help refine your brand’s participation.

3 — Engage genuinely

Some tips for developing your brand’s social media personality include:

  • Just as when one moves to a new city, it takes time to become part of a social media community. Start as a listener before joining conversations.
  • Foster the conversation. Speak when it’s your turn. An ideal discussion on a company owned platform — such as your Facebook page — is totally driven by those who are not with your company. Work towards that.
  • Be three-dimensional. Participate in and initiate conversations not related to your brand, but of interest to the community.
  • The person representing your brand in each conversation should match the demographics of those in that place. Perhaps someone from your procurement department will best represent your brand in conversations with other purchasing agents.
  • Create internal policies about when to respond to complaints publicly or privately. You will know when your brand is appropriately engaged in conversations when your fans speak up and address the issue for you.
  • Each platform (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) has its own personality, so your activities on each should be somewhat unique. Not everything your brand posts on one platform needs to be posted on all.
  • Be helpful, not ham-handed. Don’t post just to fill silence.

4 — Be persistent and consistent

Your social media needs to be 24/7/365. There are some great applications to create, schedule and automate your social media messaging on company owned platforms. These can help you stick to strategy and maintain a constant flow of new messages.

Consistency goes back to developing the right messages strategically. Great messages are resilient to change in the face of new competition.

5 — Discover and nurture influencers

On social media, people seek “expert advice from strangers” about products and services they need to procure. While getting advice from a true business acquaintance is going to have the most clout, your credibility may not be as great as someone observed to have presented credible opinions on the platform in the past.

We want to influence and harness “those who influence” as one-way to amplify our efforts. Those who use social media as a business tool — for example, in LinkedIn groups — are more likely to reveal their intent and participate in conversations initiated by others about purchasing decisions. Listen for these to help identify influencers.

Connecting with those who are well connected is a great way to fuel the loyalty cycle and build your brand. Targeting someone with lots of friends/followers/connections is overrated. Targeting someone with lots of friends/followers/connections with whom there are genuine conversations and who re-post or re-tweet those conversations is more beneficial.

Keep in mind the goal of your branding efforts is to have your brand at top-of-mind with those in all compartments of your customer companies when they engaged in social conversations amongst themselves.

There are certainly more considerations for B2B branding on social media than covered above. What has your business learned from its experiences?

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