How does social media differ from B2B to B2C?
By Hannan Ben Slimane, Intern
Today, small as well as big brands use social media to interact with their customers. I am not going to talk about how brands enhance their clients via Twitter or Facebook, as this has already been told many times now. I’d rather talk about another aspect of social media that is not often discussed in my opinion: social media in a B2B perspective.
How is social media for B2B different from B2C? Well first, social media in a B2B context is more shaped concerning online conversations and social marketing. This can be explained by the fact that there are fewer clients to talk to and to reach. In a B2C context, your target can be wilder and more difficult to reach. Therefore, B2B companies are used to a kind of social marketing, before the rise of social media. Indeed, there are a lot of professional discussions through forums for instance; we call them vertical communities (marketplaces B2B).
B2C and B2B practices in a social media context are not that distant. Indeed, it is mostly about listening, talking, acquiring notoriety and influence, online communities, etc. However, the way discussions will be engaged and tools used will be different.
Plus, the ultimate question about social media and its interest, in a B2B or B2C context is: does the time spent on Twitter or Facebook impact my ROI? Personally, I think engaging in conversations and a relationship with customers/clients, whether B2B or B2C, is essential today. Social media is the new, well not so new now, tool of CRM (customer relationship management). Teachers in my school always taught me this: acquire a new customer costs five to ten times more than keeping one.
However, I am a bit skeptical about using social media to only acquire new clients. Actually, I believe that one of the indirect consequences of social media can be acquiring new clients. Let’s imagine that a company is present on social media and has an influence on various platforms. There is a chance that their current clients will talk about this company in their own communities and thus may lead to engaging with new clients.
Even though the practices are close, social media objectives are different from B2B to B2C. Here are the 3 most important (not prioritized) objectives, in my opinion:
- Give a human face to the company (by highlighting employees, developing close relationships)
- Increase brand awareness (by sharing your knowledge/experiences, using existing materials)
- Gain credibility (by positioning yourself on topics of expertise)
Conversation is the key, especially in a B2B context where clients are much rarer. The notion of commitment is even more important than in a B2C perspective: a company / brand wishing to rely on social media should favor an approach that respects and initiates discussions with intelligent content. This does not mean that you have to hire a specialist or an expert, but rather reformat existing content (white papers, presentations, etc.) in order to generate interest and initiate conversations.
Knowing how difficult building a community online is, you need a good strategy with objectives but you also need to know the right moment to start engaging with professionals through social media. Here are some tips I found on Mashable that can be really helpful. To end this article, keep in mind that social media is not just a simple tool that your marketing department is using once a week. To be effective online and have influence, it demands a lot of work and time in a long-term perspective.