This post originally appeared on the Focus.com Group, where InsideView regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.[tweetmeme source= “insideview” only_single=false]
The question seems to be very general in nature but has some very specific parameters. There are dozens if not hundreds of examples of social media being a revenue driver for B2C businesses as explained in this WSJ article on Merchants Push Sales Through Social Media. B2B sales environments have been trying to crack the code in how best to use social media as a lead generation tool and it may be a while before that code is cracked. Social media channels like Twitter or Facebook need to be used strategically for communication, distribution and for lead generation. Nothing makes a new fan or follower run away from your company faster than getting bombarded with update after update with download links for your product or some other equivalent of social spam.
photo by HubSpot
The data around social media’s role in a B2B environment is not as cut and dry as the B2C counterpart. As Craig Rosenberg pointed out, B2B sale cycles are not as easy as going to Office Depot and buying printer ink. The process a company goes through before buying a product or service is very research intensive and that’s where social media can be of help.
Marge Bieler the founder of RareAgent gave some great insight about the need for you to use social media around a common theme or campaign that can drive traffic and generate leads. This seems to be the best advice you can get. There are many paths you can take as a company trying to generate B2B sales through social media, but none of them are quick transactions. Your social media efforts should be in support of and could be the spearhead of a much larger coordinated effort from marketing. The results from this type of social marketing will pay much larger rewards than just focusing on capturing more email addresses for your newsletter.
The one position that was only touched on by Melissa Galt that I think is probably one of the most important things to remember is that you will reap the largest rewards if you know where your customers are online and communicate with them there. Listening online for your brand and keywords can’t be over stressed and the reality is that no matter how much you listen or what tools you pay for that collect this data, you will never hear everything being said. The idea is that you can identify the places where these conversations are taking place the most often and determine that this is where a large group of your fans would be ‘hanging out’ online. Maybe I should write a whole post on tools to listen for conversations online?
The overwhelming response from the answers in the group was that “Yes” social media has a very solid place in generating revenue for a B2B sales environment. The results will come from a much larger strategic initiative around a topic, category or event centered on your company. Look at the social marketing efforts of the largest brands in the world, 65% of Fortune 100 companies have a Twitter profile and they all use them to communicate with their followers and update them on news related to their company and their industry. This should be the cornerstone for any B2B company looking to get into social media and then build from there.