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Is social media a waste of time for a B2B company?

I’ve been asked this question many times. The question stems from a lack of understanding of social media in general, or at least unrealistic expectations. Further, B2B marketing is different than B2C marketing. The marketing principles are very much the same in both cases, but the approach to gaining sales is different.

Real World Networking

In the B2B tech world, sales happen more slowly than anyone would like. I’ve worked with top sale teams, and its common for someone in sales to attend an industry event where they hope to make good connections and leave with a stack of business cards from prospects, or to scan badges at a large trade show. Some sales cycles for tech companies can take a year, even longer. The stack of business cards a salesperson collects at an industry event may literally be step two in a hundred step process.

No one, ever, is going to get a prospect to buy a $500k to $5M tech solution during a networking event based on the wonderful conversation he or she had with a salesperson. Ever. Most people in sales understand that scenario. Yet, that same salesman will look at months of social media posts and wonder why his phone isn’t ringing because of those posts. The answer appears to be that social media in a B2B setting is a waste of time. This couldn’t be more wrong.

Social Media Networking

Social media marketing and networking are very similar. Our impatience and wrong perceptions cause us to look at social media in B2B environments as ineffective. Social media is wonderful, amazing, nearly free, and can help us reach prospects from around the world. That said, it’s not a magic bullet. Like real world networking, it takes time.

Many salespeople in the B2B tech space say most sales come from referrals. That’s only part of the picture. Referrals from someone you know can be powerful. In reality, how is the person referred going to validate that referral? They will check out your website, see what you post on social media, read your case studies, and judge whether or not you’re the expert solution provider. Social media is, in many ways, the digital equivalent of a networking event.

Conversation on Their Terms

Unlike real-world networking events where your prospects may be tired and want to leave the event, social media let’s prospects learn about you on their terms. Of course, no one person will see the majority of what you post in a continual stream unless they intentionally look for it. That’s why you need a social media content plan and calendar. Over time, will a prospect who sees 6 of your social posts get an idea of how you approach an industry challenge? Maybe a little bit. If you post on a regular basis, prospects can learn how you think, start to see your values and feel the passion you feel for improving an industry problem.

The way you think, your values, and your passion can’t be communicated as well in a 4-minute conversation at a networking event. Social media lets your B2B prospects learn these things about you before they ever accept a phone call.

5 Guidelines for B2B Social Media Content

  1. Educate your audience. Don’t try to sell. I follow a B2B tech company on a particular social platform. Every single post sounds like this: “Have a problem with X? Try our new solution that eliminates this problem.” Every single post. Provide valuable content that shows your audience how you solved a problem for a client. Share some challenges and practical steps readers can take—without you—to solve a problem.
  2. Be consistent. It’s better to post one time per week, every week, than to have four posts per week for two weeks, followed by three months of silence. It’s nearly impossible to have consistency without a content plan.
  3. Be realistic. Social media marketing is part of a larger sales picture. It is valuable in itself, most effective when integrated into a well-planned marketing strategy.