Industrial companies are slowly, very slowly, coming around to the fact that they cannot continue to ignore social media as a marketing channel. There are many who are experimenting with this new form of marketing (well, new to the industrial world. B2C companies have been using social media marketing for 4+ years now.) Some B2B’s are doing it “just because,” and others are convinced that if done correctly, it will significantly impact the way they do business and shorten their sales cycle.
There are many shining examples of companies who are doing it right; but many more examples of companies who weren’t fully committed and let their initial momentum fall by the wayside. So what makes B2B social media work for some companies, and NOT work for others?
First, let me define “not working” in the context of social media marketing.
WHAT’S NOT WORKING:
- There may be one person responsible for posting on social media pages, but this is in addition to their “real” job
- You hired an intern or admin to “do” social media who knows nothing about your complex business
- You rarely post on your pages
- You have little original content to use for social media posts
- When you do post, the content is just a rehash of your sales materials
- There is no strategy or plan in place
- When someone comments on one of your pages it can take days for them to get a reply
- There is no daily monitoring of LinkedIn Group discussions, Twitter feeds, Facebook news feed, etc.
Not every company in the industrial sector should be involved in B2B social media marketing. Here are some of the biggest reasons a company should by-pass this marketing channel:
NO BUDGET: Because it’s “free” to open a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or LinkedIn account, many people assume social media marketing is cheap marketing. Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes time and marketing savvy to create a strategy; editorial calendar; quality content; and then execute. If your company has no marketing budget, don’t make the mistake of thinking social media is going to be the silver bullet, because it just ain’t so.
NO DEDICATED POINT PERSON: You can hire an outside firm to manage your social media program, but they HAVE to have a dedicated point person in your company who will communicate with them. This person must set aside time to meet regularly with your SM firm to communicate what is happening in your company, and be the liaison between them and the subject matter experts who will help produce content. This is especially critical in a B2B industrial company that manufactures engineered products, or provides complex services. Without this line of communication, your program will be a source of constant frustration to both you and your agency. AND, it will probably eventually be dropped (so why even start?)
NO SIZEABLE MARKET: There really are some B2B businesses that only have a market of 5 or 10 companies to which they can sell. I know, because I’ve talked to a few. If you are one of those companies, social media marketing is not a good way to use your marketing spend. You should invest in direct marketing efforts with those few companies who are your potential customers. Open social media accounts so you at least lock in your company’s name on each platform. Let H/R post job openings, and marketing can post press releases or other news; but there are easier ways to get in front of a decision maker if you only have 5 potential customers.
NO WAY YOU’LL EVER ACCESS DECISION MAKERS: If you’re selling to the government, military, or other high level security organizations, forget about social media – at least for marketing. You can still use social media for other business objectives, like recruiting; but it won’t produce new business opportunities for you. These types of installations prohibit social media use, and in most cases, even email use. Trying to reach these people through social media would be like walking out in the middle of the dessert and yelling to catch someone’s attention.
NO TIME FOR LONG-TERM BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: If you are looking for high volume sales within a short time-frame, in the B2B industrial world, social media is not the way to go. This might work in a B2C company with a more sexy offer that can go viral; but I’ve never heard of a flash mob promoting pump components. For companies who are not selling online, social media marketing is intended to build brand awareness; reputation; thought leadership; and trust. These image characteristics are not acquired overnight.
NO STRATEGY OR PLAN: If all you plan is hiring an intern and telling them to “do social media” for you, you’re planning to fail. For social media to deliver results, you need a marketing specialist who understands HOW to get results, along with the right content. It’s highly doubtful you’ll find these skills in an intern. (Of course, if you’re not paying the intern, I guess you could give it a whirl.)
Next post: what IS working for B2B, industrial companies on the major social media sites.