BtoB Markets & Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing, or Social Community Marketing, is one of hot topics of 07 and so far of 2008. I find it interesting to hear numerous companies, clients and marketing peeps, jump on the coals of the subject, but struggle with the understanding of its application in their business model – especially for BtoB markets.

Social Network Marketing, or what I like to call “Social Community Marketing” helps companies capitalize on cutting-edge marketing techniques to build brand affinity and relationships through community, engagement, evangelism. As an increasing number of individuals obtain their research and information from non-traditional sources, the media of Social Marketing will help marketers gain unique insights into their market and what influences them.

Marketing via Social Media’s is the Web 2.0 of today and still in its infancy. Marketers struggle with its application and to make it work within their mix, and better yet, how to measure and produce an ROI. Time and effort may show its success but as more understanding of its application in the individuals marketplace, will it get fine tuned and a better understanding of when, where and how to best apply it.

The BtoC markets see more power in the social media applications available today to harness the consumer market, making it a relatively easy platform to reach a targetted demographic or group to build up brand recognition, conversions, or whatever your objectives and KPI’s may be. Though the question I’ve found clients and peers struggle with is how the application of this media will work in the BtoB markets. This is where I see the next ‘lateral’ evolution of this channel.

As marketers in the BtoB markets better understand it’s application and performance in BtoC, will then better understand how to leverage and monetize the value of Social Media in their applications, which all helps us better understand where, how and why to apply Social Media in any market vertical.

Though Social Networks in BtoB is really not all that new in some applications of its use. See LinkedIn (industry career networking), Minyanville Exchange (financial social networking) and other career or industry social networks. These sites have been around for a few years, even before the MySpace’s and Facebook’s.
Though now with the explosion of MySpace, Facebook (facebook marketing services), Twitter, YouTube we’re seing more and more applications of BtoB on these consumer / professional networking sites, segmenting and targetting their marketing more towards career and industry subjects.

The KPI’s (key performance indicators) may vary between BtoC and BtoB objectives of their use of these social platforms (then again, what client doesn’t have unique goals to attain in their business), but one thing for sure that both markets can realize through leveraging Social Media in their marketing is the fostering of their brand affinity and maintaining relationships with the core audience, especially brand influencers who are the evangelists behind your business (90% of my clientelle are referrals).

But the questions begs, how are BtoB companies leveraging the Social Networks in their marketing?

Building community and engagement through a holisic view of Social Network Marketing whereby supplementing the social marketing mix with other web marketing channels (text links, online advertising, email marketing, RSS, affiliate marketing, viral / buzz programs, podcasts, user-generated content, blog marketing (blog marketing services)etc.).

Companies may attack this platform by creating profile pages on various social networks, or for those with larger budgets, take over the homepage or custom branded channel of the network.

Then by supplementing other marketing tactics of segmented and targetted text links, banner ads, emails, influential / authority blogs, RSS, etc. of your target market, can create the traction sought after to begin seeding the community. However, the key to building community and squeezing the value and ROI out of all these efforts is the time the maintenance you put towards the community and the engagement the individuals take with your brand.

Community is all peer-to-peer, built and maintained by dialogue and relationships. All the effort put into the above is simply the traction to seed the community. If the right individuals are targetted, and dialogue and engagement builds, the community will succeed and buzz will grow within the community attracting their social network of affilliations, friends, associates, etc.social marketing

All of this leads to affinity of your brand and furthers your market share online and offline.

Other BtoB applications of Social Media Marketing through more mainstream and consumer-oriented sites as YouTube allows companies to leverage a massive medium to tap into a large reach and viral potential. For example, use of this video social network may include plugging instructional videos, educational videos, news, quarterly reports, TV commercials etc. The viral effectiveness YouTube offers is a tremendous opportunity to reach a massive audience, though perhaps not as socially targettted as sites as Facebook, it does provide a level of categorization with a shot-gun approach.

Another example of a BtB application through LinkedIn could include taking out corporate sponsorship of a particular career category for your profile, such as a Marketing Agency sponsoring the Marketing category, and supplementing the branded profile to the likes of professionals via contextual ads, banner ads, segmented emails, etc.

Then there is Facebook and MySpace. Companies can take over a channel or sponsored page, and complimented with targetted peer-to-peer messaging and online advertising within the network, drive your target market to join as friends to your profile and / or group. Engage with the audience and through RSS, email and internal advertising drive them to a micro-site to submerse themselves in your brand and tap into their personal social network through a viral program.

In one Social campaign I launched for a client with MySpace, the seeding of the community was the largest investment. Once we had them emersed in the brand, we converted 20% of them into evangelists resulting into an 80% increase in community. Through the viral tactic, which had virtually zero financial investment, offset the initial seeding costs to build the community. 

But as all is said and done, and the variety of creative strategies and tactics a company can employ in Social Marketing, without defining what you’re set out to accomplish, establishing your KPI’s and how it will be measured, investing the time and effort to build and maintain the relationships with the community, and taking a holistally view, only then can the power of this media produce results.

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