One does not automatically think of Business as being Social but business is social. Professionals have been gaining their experience "socially" for decades in a brick & mortar sense by physically attending trade shows, conferences, product demos and networking events. Today, we can streamline the learning process by doing it online. We need to retrain our brains, "Social Media" does not equal goofing off at work like some would prefer to believe.
Many of my former clients were B2B clients for whom I managed and planned customer events, post trade show events, sales events, incentive dinners, etc. Because I have an existing relationship with B2B clients, I wanted wrap my head around how I could help them make their businesses more social. My initial thoughts were using their events to drive their customers back to their social sites, which is a good idea, but there is more to it than just driving traffic to a Facebook Fan page.
Earlier today, it dawned on me. I use B2B Social Media all the time! In the past year, I've probably taken part in one million seminars, webinars and networking events. I've scoured slideshare. I've read a billion blog posts from industry experts. I've subscribed to this and that - all in the name of B2B Social Media. This is how I keep on top of industry trends, this is how I learn about new products to offer my clients, this is how I stay fresh! This is all B2B Social Media.
Examples of B2B Social Media...
- I read marketing blog posts from random people who post on various topics - everyone from advertising creatives to freelance writers to Public Relations professionals to online marketing professionals
- I get my blogs in various ways - some come straight to me by way of an RSS feed, others posts I find randomly via Twitter others live on my iGoogle page and some live on my Yahoo home page
- I also "fan" some of my favorite blogs on Facebook (such as Mashable & TechCrunch) and their posts are fed straight into my newsfeed via Networked Blogs
- For a few blogs, I receive email updates when they post but this is rare as my inbox is flooded enough
- I would say that 65% of my new learnings have come from blog posts written by industry experts
- I attend webinars as often as possible. These webinars often focus on topics related to marketing (inbound marketing, SEO, email marketing, PR 2.0, etc.) Webinars are hosted mainly by vendors (Vocus, Radian6, Businesswire, HubSpot) who provide services and products related to the topic at hand. What's in it for them? Lead generation. If I am interested in their webinar, it is likely that I would also be interested in the product or service they offer.
- Whitepapers are another method for companies to market to other companies on their products or services. Earlier today, I downloaded a Whitepaper and saved it straight to a folder labeled "Research". Sometimes I use the information from that "Research" folder for client presentations.
- LinkedIn forums and groups. Many companies moderate groups where they ask a industry related question or start a conversation on a particular topic and ask other members in the industry for their opinion regarding that topic. In my opinion, LinkedIn (though it is a "business" social media site) has a harder time communicating to the reader or participant in the forum who started the conversation. It is harder to brand the conversation on LinkedIN versus some other platforms.
- Flickr - I often look for photos to use in my blogs from Flickr. Just today, I grabbed some photos off Flickr from the W Istanbul photostream for a post I am writing for the Artun Travel Blog.
- Video. "How To" videos are great for B2B Social Media. Whether these videos exist on the company blog or on their Facebook fan page, or YouTube I often watch an instructional video on "how to" do what they're selling.
There you have it. My snapshot on how to utilize Social Media for Business to Business. It is not all that different from how consumer based brands communicate with their customers. They engage their customers where they live online, where they spend the most time online. They captivate potential and existing customers and introduce their products in a way where they are not giving them the hard sell. Since social media is social it is more effectively used to create awareness and generate leads.