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B2B Social Media: Stop Advertising, Start Communicating

By Sander Biehn | Aug 5, 2015

Over the weekend a friend tweeted me an interesting blog post she had just read.  It called for businesses to start using social media to communicate rather than advertise in order to reap the benefits of an online presence.   While ads offer information to the masses, there is a subtle difference between communicating and advertising.

Communication entails listening and responding. Communication dictates that we respectfully offer prospects information they are interested in and consider their feedback regardless of its sentiment.  While being entertaining is one way to garner online attention and interest, most B2B buyers can wait until they get home to be amused. While on the job, they are simply looking for ways to solve problems.

I agreed with every word in this posting and then came to the final paragraph. The author linked to a video about his client’s social media success. The video claimed victory in social media and trumpeted the results. I flipped to the Twitter feed of the author’s client. The first Tweet I saw was a run of the mill blanket statement about the company’s superiority in the market.  It looked a lot like an ad to me.

It was one of those moments of intense irony.  How could someone say all the right things, claim they have the code cracked for social media and yet still be producing the same schlock for his customers?

The answer is that social media for business is very much in an aspirational state today.  The very existence of social media channels relies on the investment of big businesses to pay the freight for free access to millions of consumers. Yet consumers want to keep social media pure and devoid of marketing messages. In short, consumers want to keep social media about communication.  The paradox is that if social media channels don’t take ad dollars they cannot survive, but if they do, they may drive away all their users.

Marketing is not going away and tried and true methods of spreading the word will not easily change into altruistic postings centered on customer needs overnight. There is too much money at stake–especially as social media platforms increase the precision of targeting buyers with promoted posts.

However, the ability to informally communicate with target buyers sits there ripe for the picking for any B2B sales and marketing department.  This untapped efficiency can change how sales and marketing function.  The only question is… when? The revolution won’t come overnight. But the good news is that we are all figuring this out together. While the exact way to unlock this potential may differ from one business to the next, there is one guiding principle.  By remaining focused on the relationship between your business and your buyers, you cannot go wrong.

For example, no one wants unsolicited messages about a business’ greatness. Save that message for traditional market awareness campaigns. Use social media to find out what your customers need and help them solve their problems. Listening is a great first step. Engaging and graciously offering your opinion on industry issues come next.  Save press releases for other channels.

Working towards this aspirational goal will take time and persistence. It will require dialog between sales and marketing. It will involve rethinking sales and marketing campaigns. And businesses will need to be more intelligent and vigilant in messages and responses. Most importantly, bringing social media to its fullest potential for B2B marketing and sales will take vision—from marketers, sales leaders, executives, and social media vendors.

What is your company doing to stay focused on driving this change?


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