I help both B2C and B2B companies with Social Media and other types of Internet Marketing. In my development of Social Media strategies and tactics for B2B companies, I’ve come to a shocking conclusion:
Twitter is overrated.
I realize this is a controversial opinion for Social Media enthusiasts. Believe me, I drank the Twitter Kool-Aid throughout 2008 and 2009. I’ve posted more than 16,000 tweets to my 32,000 followers. Twitter has helped my career and many B2C companies. In fact, it made Dell more than $2MM in 2008 and 2009.
The Bias of Most Social Media Gurus
If you only listen to Social Media “Gurus”, you would think Twitter is the most important Social Media site. Few of these gurus know how to market on Facebook, and even fewer have substantial LinkedIn strategies.
What I discovered while consulting with B2B companies and formulating B2B Social Media strategies that fit their sales, marketing, and PR worlds is:
Most popular Social Media strategies were created for B2C companies.
This emphasis on Twitter doesn’t make sense when you consider the facts. For example, in terms of sheer potential reach:
- Twitter, according to some estimates, has only 20MM active users.
- Facebook has 630MM+ users, somewhere between 3 and 30x the size of Twitter.
- LinkedIn has 90MM users, more than 4x the conservative estimate of Twitter users.
B2B marketing and sales prospecting needs to focus on the right people, and that is: key decision makers and executives. These folks are most likely to say, “I just don’t get this Twitter thing.” And because of that, they’re less likely to be reachable on Twitter. That means B2B marketing is less effective on Twitter. You social media strategy needs to take that into account.
These B2B executives are also relieved when I tell them that Twitter might not be their first priority… except in very specific industries like tech and internet.
- A Vocal Minority: Twitter is beloved by tech-lovers, journalists and bloggers.
- Too Much Talk: Twitter-lovers talk about “conversation” but they stop conversing when you ask them about B2B tactics that get sales and results.
- The Downside of PR: Most Social Media Gurus come from a PR background. Most people in PR have never been held accountable for real ROI. They do have ROI calculations, but these are based on the value of the coverage they get you, not on the actual revenue and profits from their efforts. PR folks typically don’t optimize their strategies to increase your profits. They aren’t in the habit of planning for bottom-line results. They usually can’t track the results of their efforts to specific revenue dollar values, so they can’t improve those results either.
What this means is that when talking to Social Media gurus, you need to ask things like:
What are companies like mine doing with Social Media that is proven to make them money?
What is Twitter supposed to be good for, and does that fit into B2B Marketing and Sales?
- Engagement: engagement is good, but the B2B companies need to engage B2B prospects. How many of your key B2B prospects are on Twitter?
- Customer Service: although Twitter customer service makes sense for huge B2C companies, many B2B companies handle have very effective systems for handling customer complaints and problems, and many of their customers would never think to tweet about their problems because they know that most of their followers don’t know or care about those issues.
- PR: while B2B companies can reach industry-specific press on Twitter, the number of contacts here is typically very low, and this isn’t usually the best path to more business.
- Marketing: messaging prospects on Twitter is powerful, but again, are your B2B prospects on Twitter?
Even the #1 priority of many Social Media gurus – listen first – isn’t important if there’s no discussion of your company, and perhaps very little even of your industry, on Twitter.
Sometimes you have to create buzz before there’s anything to listen to.
Then what *IS* Twitter good for, when it comes to B2B marketing and sales?
Twitter does have a place. Twitter is best for B2B marketing used this way:
- Marketing can get readership and links for blog posts that establish your company’s authority and expertise, and marketing can read the people who surround key decision makers.
- PR can reach journalists and bloggers to extend the reach of those blog posts
- Customer Service can be ready to handle any issues or customer contact if it happens, and monitor the company’s reputation in case there are any complaints.
However, the frequency and volume of these activities (before you reach the point of diminishing returns) can be quite low in many B2B companies.
So What Should B2B Companies Do In Social Media?
In my social media speaking gigs and consulting, I advocate a combination of four strategies, prioritized in this order:
- LinkedIn for sales prospecting and getting introductions and meetings. This is where I’ve seen and heard about the most sales happening in B2B Social Media. Your marketing department can also create LinkedIn groups to gather and message to prospects.
- Corporate Blogging to establish expertise, pre-sell prospects, and create conversational objects for Facebook, Twitter and PR
- Facebook Groups (the new style) and Pages to gather fanatics and prospects respectively
- Twitter for Marketing and PR
Most B2B companies should only spend about 20% of their time on Twitter.
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