I talk to b-to-b marketing leaders every day who are putting together and defending social media marketing strategies for reaching business buyers. Many of the conversations sound like this: “We've created a Twitter account and Facebook page, but we're not getting many followers, what do we do next?”
Too many b-to-b marketers use social tools as just another channel for pushing out press releases and product promotions. Your prospective buyers don't care. Just like they tune out television commercials and ads, they get turned off by companies that push commercial messages through social channels.
Starting with tools and tactics spells disaster. You need to start by understanding the social behaviors of your target audience and defining the big ideas that will attract and engage them.
There's no doubt that business buyers go social. In fact, Forrester's survey data show that 85% of business decision-makers use social media for business purposes and, when it comes to posting or uploading content, writing reviews, commenting on discussions and reading online forums, they do it more for business than for personal reasons.
While behaviors vary greatly by industry and functional department, the No. 1 factor that motivates business buyers to participate in social activity is to get answers to business problems they need to solve. And they're going online very early in the problem-solving cycle, long before they enter an active buying process. Depending on the complexity of the problem, this discovery phase can last months or even years.
This is a great opportunity for you to use social media to reach and engage potential buyers early in their problem-solving process and start to build a trusted relationship with them, so they're more likely to consider your company when they do enter a buying process. But you won't do it by tweeting product announcements.
Why? Business buyers don't “buy” your product or service; they “buy into” your perspective and approach to solving their problems. To attract these folks to your company and engage them in a conversation, you need to share big ideas and compelling positions on the issues your buyers face, and establish your business as a thought leader in your market.
Consider Kaspersky Labs. Knowing it couldn't outspend the big anti-virus players in advertising, it decided to showcase its thought leadership and expertise in the cyber-threat and security space. It launched Threatpost.com, which features timely news and information on IT security risks, along with commentary and original content. The site has since become Kaspersky's primary source of leads.
Big ideas spread like wildfire through social channels when they are provocative, forward-looking, unique, inspiring and game-changing.
Corning got its big ideas to spread in a campaign to create demand among device designers for its Gorilla Glass by demonstrating consumer preference for products made with the glass. The campaign includes “A Day Made of Glass,” a video that shows Corning's vision for the future with its glass used in a variety of interactive devices. So far, the video has generated more than 9 million views on YouTube.
What are the big ideas behind your social marketing strategy?
Jeff Ernst is a principal analyst at Forrester Research, serving CMOs and marketing leadership professionals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.