I enjoyed “Does “Liking” A Bulldozer Help Sell More Of Them?”‘article, as I have been considering the question business-to-business applications of social media for several years. In fact, when I was doing research and interviews for my book, The New Marketing: Social Media, Email, and the Art of Storytelling, I addressed the b-to-b question very little, for a simple reason. In 2009 and 2010, when I was doing the groundwork and then the writing, social media was a new medium for business, and there were few examples of b-to-b activity. As such, my book’s examples tell mostly stories of the innovative practices of small or large consumer companies building virtual brand communities, and doing it effectively with limited resources.
At the conference and book signings I did from 2010 to 2012, the question of b-to-b often came up from members of the audience, in the following manner: “I find these stories of social media success inspiring, but my company works in the b-to-b arena. Does this apply to us?” My response has often been that b-to-b usage would happen a bit more slowly than b-to-c, since the consumer companies have traditionally been the most vigorous advertisers with any medium. At the same time, b-to-b activity will evolve quickly once it starts, as companies come to see the advantages of internet marketing and interaction with users. In fact, social media usage may be even easier for b-to-b companies, since businesses who sell to other businesses tend to have a well-defined group of customers and prospects for their products and services.
Having a smaller but more targeted audience can make it easier in some ways to build a brand community, because a company can focus more precisely on the areas where it should be listening, interacting and reaching out to potential users. In other words, one can more readily decide what Twitter feeds to follow, blogs to read, and Facebook pages to monitor when their numbers are relatively limited. The choice of where to be interacting, or of what to write on one’s own page or blog, becomes a simpler task.
In any case, I am seeing far more interest and activity than ever among b-to-b companies, and in the popular press as well. This article is a good example of that evolution, which will certainly continue.