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Does Social Media Work for B2B Marketing?

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing is vastly different to business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing for a number of reasons:

  1. The number of people involved in a purchasing decision
  2. The rational nature of the process behind a decision because of the responsibility attached to the purchase
  3. Higher importance of relationships. A salesperson will get to know their clients and form strong relationships – reflected in loyalty to the supplier
  4. The complexity of technical products being bought often require expert opinions from multiple people that know the product and industry well
  5. Features and benefits should be made clear and communication should be direct rather than indirect. The advertisement message should leave nothing to the imagination when it comes to getting the point across.
  6. Where B2C consumers are looking to be entertained and engaged within an interesting manner, B2B customers want to be informed, educated, and ensured they’re making the right choice.

What does this mean for social media?

Social media as a medium is usually part of people’s personal lives. People are on social media like Twitter and Facebook to be entertained and to socialise. Not to be given detailed, complex information about a thing they have to deal with at work. As a result, they aren’t going to follow a B2B account. You might wonder “why do social media platforms work for B2C brands then?” and the answer is simple: They are able to make their content fun, and people develop personal connections with these brands. The products being promoted are simple, habitual and low involvement purchases.

Many B2C brands are able to be light-hearted in nature because they do not carry the same level of risk as B2B purchases. On top of that, people generally enjoy buying and consuming these goods and services. Could you imagine if the supplier of expensive production equipment started making jokes about celebrity feuds? It wouldn’t be tolerated too well due to the level of risk involved for the customer.

At the same time, however, you don’t want to be reading the technical ins and outs of the machine while you’re trying to relax and forget about work the next day on a Sunday afternoon. There is a common theme across our own social media accounts, those we manage for B2B clients, and others we have seen in the industry; the level of engagement is low on posts that cover serious business issues. Posts detailing economic climates or marketing techniques are seen but not interacted with. Instead, it is the Roobix Friday Funny that gets the greatest response. This example goes to show how people use and interact on Facebook – they want to be entertained, not talked at about a work-related subject in their own time.

As with every rule, there is the exception and in this case, the exception is LinkedIn. It is widely known as a professional social media platform. Businesses that play on the ‘self-improvement’ trend of how to score that next job or get that pay rise have the most LinkedIn success. It is still very much about providing value to the individual rather than the business. In our experience, social media has extremely limited success for those in the B2B market. Social media is the domain of B2C marketers.

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