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Is B2B social media relevant? 1

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Peter Thompson
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Many organisations are investing heavily in social media marketing in an attempt to  mitigate cost by bypassing traditional marketing activities such as advertising, press releases or direct marketing. The view is that social media is a cheap form of getting awareness and recognition to an audience and that the speed of getting that recognition is super fast. Following on from my recent article, I will discuss the value of social media for B2B businesses. Naturally, there is no right or wrong perspective and your feedback is much appreciated at the bottom of this article.

I have been to several conferences where I have heard speakers talk about the power of social media. Frankly, I don’t buy it. I have seen panels where a group of businesses discuss what they are doing with social media and how they are using it. During the Q&A section of the panel, I asked how many sales could they directly link to their social media efforts? When challenged with the directness of the question they were unable to respond with something concrete. And, whilst that doesn’t mean that social media cannot work, it just proved a point in this instance that the connection between the work effort and the return on investment measured by tangible results weren’t the primary considerations.

What are the drivers behind B2B social media?

The principal value proposition of social media is that it requires a limited amount of funding. It’s cheap right?  It can reach a vast audience and its use is perceived as free. There is a huge global audience that is within reach of a few shares, likes and plus ones.

What are the tactics of social media in business?

This is different for each organisation, however there are some common tactics behind social media efforts. Businesses share what they believe is relevant company news to their target audience or followers (if they have any).  Another tactic is to share an opinion on an Internet article or another social media post, where the company becomes perceived as helping to promote useful information to the target audience.

What is the goal of social media use in business?

Trying to promote a business to reach an existing or new audience that results in new sales or increased brand awareness in the minds of the target audience. The ideal outcome is that someone reads a post, finds it interesting and then shares it with their network. Then someone in the “social network” takes action to make an inquiry or purchase a product or service. 

What is the value in B2B social media?

Value is defined as a fair return or equivalent in goods for something exchanged. I think many people make the mistake that social media engagement is free, which simply cannot be true unless you don’t value your time or don’t consider paying someone as a cost. It takes time to write content, make posts, follow groups and respond to posts. It’s a commitment that will require investment.  Not making regular posts or updates makes it look like your company is not serious. Posting irrelevant information makes your company look like wasting people’s time and devalues your brand. Not responding to other people’s posts is considered rude. Additionally, most social media sites now have no-follow links from their website meaning that there is no direct SEO value in the backlinking.

What happens if only your staff “like” your page? Does that mean you have a bad company or page? I don’t think so but maybe it does more perceived damage than good. To create a company Facebook, Twitter and any other social media profile is going to cost time and money. And, the problem is that you might make a significant investment only to find that with your greatest efforts to update and post the “value” or return on investment will be poor. Why is that? One possible answer is that the people who are your Facebook friends are probably not the people who are buying your services or products anyway. The same problem applies to Twitter. It is also a consumer platform, as opposed to a commercial one. Whilst LinkedIn is better, the majority of people commenting in social media groups seem to be social media employees of other companies trying to do exactly the same as you are…promoting a service. The problem is that they aren’t the buyers and the buyers just aren’t there in those groups.

Social media is not the only online marketing strategy

I was taught that you only truly value something when you earn it or pay for it. How much value do you place on something that costs nothing as opposed to something you pay for? Contrary to some beliefs, there are other ways to generate interest through online marketing that are credible and probably more meaningful than social media. We will discuss some of these in future posts.

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About Peter Thompson

Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson founded GCOMM in 1996. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering/Information Systems from Griffith University and his MBA from Nyenrode Business Universiteit in Holland. He believes in building great teams of people, both in business and socially.
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  • Steve Cannard

    That’s a very introverted article Pete. Questioning the value of B2B social media and then posting it to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn has a slight whiff of irony about it.

    The fact is that we have invested heavily in terms of time and effort to create a brand positioning and thought leadership that is accessible to both customers and staff. I would argue that it creates an identity and promotes our brand on a number of different levels. I certainly cant argue that we have generated specific new clients from it, but its useful for credibility and reference. I also believe that its great for ‘preaching to the Choir’ – those people who are already invested in us will find reassurance and value that we are continuing to work on our business and service delivery when they see the content that is being produced in house.

    A good question then is – How do we measure the value of the good will that is generated by our online strategy, vs. the time and cost of making it happen?