B2B and B2C are similar but not the same. Here’s why that matters.
Social media is an important component in marketing for all types of businesses. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about and wanted to share. A few weekends ago, I spoke about Marketing for Small Business at Connie Ragen Green’s Weekend Marketer Live event in Los Angeles. During my presentation, I spoke about the importance of social media in the B2C space, for small businesses who sell products and services to customers who are consumers. I told them that if the business was a manufacturing plant whose customers were other businesses, they probably wouldn’t find many new prospects on Facebook. That’s probably true, but it’s not the whole story.
It doesn’t matter if a business’s customers are individuals or businesses, social media can work very well for marketing to both groups. But, there are some differences in approach, and it’s important to understand the difference between business to business (B2B) marketing versus business to consumer (B2C) marketing.
Typically, the way social media is used to interact with B2B entities is by forming associations and groups for them to interact with each other and the product creator. So you might find like-minded professionals getting together in a group on LinkedIn.
Usually, the group is created by a business that sells or wants to sell something to the business people who join. For instance, QuickBooks might form a group for accountants. They’ll provide the opportunity for professional collaboration, participation in studies, educational content and more to the group in hopes that the members will keep buying their product.
I belong to several groups on LinkedIn and find most of them valuable. A few are dull and relatively inactive, some pop like a heavyweight prize fight. I prefer the ones with lots of interaction and strong opinions. Because it’s LinkedIn, the participants rarely resort to name-calling (unlike Twitter, Facebook, etc.). If you join one of these groups, join in the conversation but remember to mind your P’s and Q’s. Whatever you say on the internet is pretty much out there forever.
In the case of business to consumer marketing, social media may be used to broadcast information to the consumer about the product or brand, or even provide customer service to the consumer via social media in the form of user groups. The brand might also form communities based on a particular lifestyle and not be directly marketing to the group, such as a cake decorating discussion group formed by Wilson, the leading manufacturer of cake decorating supplies for individuals.
Even better than broadcasting information to consumers, you should look at social media as a way to interact with your audience, both customers and potential customers. Serve them and meet their needs. When they have a question about your company or specific offerings, jump in answer them. Ask them what they want, what they’re interested in. It will give you a better feel for your customers and you will serve them better in the long run. Just remember that it’s social, so keep things social. Even in your information broadcasts, try to show how your offering will meet your audience’s needs. Also, don’t get defensive or fly off the handle if someone says something negative about you on social media. It’s usually best to try to engage the person and bring them off social media (“I’d love to discuss this more in depth and see if I can fix this. What’s your email address?”). If they won’t take the discussion off social media, be kind and generous and you’ll end up looking like a hero while the other person looks like a crank. Again, what you say over the internet stays out there in the world forever.
In both B2C and B2B, engagement through social media is very useful. It can take the form of professional collaboration, shop talk, and also as a way to disseminate information. What you post will be different depending on your goals and the customers’ needs and wants. If it’s B2B, you might share more technical information about your offerings. If it’s B2C, keep the jargon to a minimum and only share technical stuff if it meets your consumers’ wants and needs. And here’s a hint: technical stuff rarely meets a consumer’s needs. If you have a consumer who wants the technical stuff, better to send them the information directly or direct them to your website for more information. It’s almost always better to share what the technical information means to the consumer.
Here’s an example: instead of posting on Facebook, “our widget runs at 498 cycles per second, 28 amps over 110 volts or an external battery,” tell them, “You can use this widget to make your eyelashes pop anywhere—at home, in the office, even in your car!”
It doesn’t really matter if it’s B2B or B2C; the overarching goal of building community and meeting needs/wants is the same, only the content differs in terms of the audience. In the case of B2C the purpose of using social media may be to help the business disseminate information to the customer, expand brand awareness to the consumer, or to provide a platform for customers to interact with each other and representatives of your brand. In the case of B2B the purpose is usually also to develop long-term working relationships with the members and increase brand loyalty. Similar, but not exactly the same.
In both cases the idea is to produce content that informs, educates and increases engagement. Because when you think about it, even in the case of a B2B situation they’re still also consumers – they just happen to be slightly more knowledgeable consumers (usually), so the content is going to be a little different. It’s all about knowing your audience and the purpose of using social media.
If you know the audience and you know the purpose, social media will be very effective. If you are having trouble getting to know your audience and what they want or need, please get in touch. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to get even more information that will help you grow your business.