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Imagine this: Your best friend comes to you one morning and tells you she's had it with her telephone. She's throwing it away because it doesn't help her with traditional handwritten communication.

Crazy talk, right? Your friend doesn't need a different tool for traditional communication, she needs a new approach to communication.

Traditional B2B marketers who resist  social media  aren't much different. They resist social media because it doesn't work when they use it as another outbound marketing channel.

Instead of rejecting social media as a channel, traditional marketers need to reject their outbound approach to marketing.

Traditional marketing -- outbound marketing -- is about buying attention. You figure out where your target customers hangout, then you buy access to them. You fill the pages of trade publications they read with print ads. You interrupt them with unsolicited phone calls at their office. You send out mailings that they throw away.

These tactics are incompatible with social media. If your  Twitter account  is simply a product information broadcast, you won't have many followers. If you don't share any helpful, interesting or fun content on your  Facebook account , your pages will get little traffic. 

On the other hand, if you reject this approach to marketing, and use social media as part of an  inbound marketing  strategy, it will become a core part of your marketing mix. If you engage with your industry's community on Twitter, if you share top-notch content on Facebook, and build relationships on LinkedIn, social media will work for you.

"Wait!" you say. "We're a B2B operation! We don't have social-savvy customers like B2C companies."

Lame excuse.

No question, social media grew out of the consumer space, and B2C examples of social media success are easy to find. But take a step back. Look at the value that businesses get out of social media. You'll see it's not specific to B2B or B2C companies. Consider the three main benefits marketers get from social media:

  1. Listening -- Every company needs to listen. Doesn't matter if you sell  solder paste CRM software  or  fencing supplies . You need to listen to your competitors, your customers, your prospects -- your community. Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook make this easier.
  2. Reach -- Reach is important to any marketer. It's the number of people you can communicate with directly via email, telephone, or any other channel. You need this whether you're selling to consumers or businesses. Social media tools media it easier to build.
  3. Nurturing -- Nurturing is another critical marketing task for all companies. Regardless of what you sell, you need to build trust with potential customers and educate them about your company and your products. Social media facilitates the development of personal relationships at scale. This makes it an ideal tool for nurturing in any business.

How do you use social media at your company? Have you found it useful in a B2B context?

If you're interested in discussing B2B uses of social media, join me and a group of other B2B marketers tomorrow morning at the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council event,  Social Media in Real Life . Use the discount code SMtrench09me .

Flickr:  Serigrapher   

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Originally published Nov 12, 2009 8:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

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Social Media Marketers