Engaging B2B customers through social media

Posted in Marketing and social media.

B2B companies have the unfortunate reputation of being seen as “boring” or “stiff” and therefore not suited to informal online environments like Facebook or Twitter. However, this reputation is undeserved and can be changed. Even though the B2B industry deals with companies and not individual customers, the human element is always present. And social media is precisely where that human element can be found and engaged in on a more personal level.

Find your customers

Your first step is to discover where you belong. As a responsible sales rep or manager you should already have a clear idea of what type of customer you aim to sell to and engage with. Find out where these types of people hang out online. What social media channels would you most likely find them on? What online forums, if any, do they use? You can even hone in on your specific industry. Are there certain websites specifically aimed at this industry? Do groups exist on social media dedicated to the industry? If you know the answers to these questions, you will know where you need to make yourself visible.

If you’re still not sure where to begin, turn to LinkedIn. The great thing about a social platform such as LinkedIn is that it has a specific goal, namely, business and all that relates to it. The majority of those who frequent the site are professionals and come to LinkedIn to find information and connect with like-minded individuals or companies. In one survey it was found that around 91% of B2B companies exclusively use LinkedIn to reach out. Once you have established yourself on this relatively straightforward platform, you can branch out.

Also, make sure not to neglect platforms that are more image-based like Instagram or Pinterest. It can be helpful to post frequent images there that showcase new and existing products, product packaging or products as they are used in real-life. If you use the correct categories and descriptions, and make an effort with good-looking pictures, especially on a site like Pinterest, you will eventually find an audience that wants to know more about you.

Explore your unique voice

Once you’ve found the platform(s) that suit your company, you need to know what you want to say. An easy way to know what you need to post is to explore what your customers are looking for or are discussing online. Do they want to be educated or chat with an expert? Do they simply require some form of customer service or information? If you know what most people want, you are better able to give them what they need. If you focus on what most people are talking about, you are most likely to be noticed and your content shared. Content shared means the potential for new customers.

In our introduction we noted the human element. This is very important when it comes to how you are going to communicate via social media. When posting online try to use the first person voice. In other words, the person posting needs to talk from their own perspective. When providing customer service online, it is suggested you use real names so as to make it more personal. The best way to connect online is to avoid coming across like a robot. B2B companies employ people to be their decision-makers and those people are more likely to be interested in what you have to say if they feel like they are connected with a real person instead of a company as a whole.

Appeal to a broader audience

B2B companies tend to speak in their own business-y language. This type of lingo doesn’t tend to connect well with the everyman on the street. And you would think that there isn’t a need for B2B companies to talk on a person-to-person level because their target market is companies. Wrong. The main aim for any company on social media is to gain a following through people reading your posts and sharing it. And getting people to connect with you on social platforms becomes more difficult the more specialised your content is.

To reach a broader audience and get yourself noticed, you need to think outside of the B2B box. This can be difficult if you sell products that are very technical or are only used by a niche group. Let’s take the example of a company that sells bicycle parts. The bicycling community will know exactly what you’re talking about when you mention a “braze-on” or a “derailleur”. If you’re not into cycling then those words will mean nothing to you. This is where you get creative to capture the attention of those outside the niche community. For example, the majority of the time cycling occurs outdoors and it is done to promote personal fitness or participate in competitive environments. So you extend what you talk online to the outdoors, fitness, healthy eating and dieting, and general health topics. Your audience is immediately broadened once you focus on topics that are adjacent to your products should they be too technical. You can still talk about your products but this way more people will be there to see it.

Remember to make use of hashtags. Hashtags may seem like something teenagers just say in front of random words but they actually have a legitimate function on social media. If you add a hashtag in front of a word, it makes it easier for people looking for that topic to find your tweet or post. For example, if you want to attract people who are into healthy eating, simply combine the two words and add a hashtag (#healthyeating). Just don’t overdo it since adding too many hashtags can impede reading. It is recommend to use no more than two hashtags per post. Keep in mind that hashtags work on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ but its use has been discontinued on LinkedIn.
There’s no excuse for B2B companies not to make use of the power of social media. They are tools specifically designed to reach a large audience that was not possible pre-Internet. Think of social media as an extension of your sales process to help further your brand and message with little to no cost attached.