Tweeting may be darlings of retail, music, and news junkies everywhere, but should it be part of a B2B manufacturers' plan?
Sometime in 2014, social networking (including micro-blogging sites like Twitter and Tumblr) quietly surpassed all other online activities, accounting for 41% of time spent online (GlobalWebIndex).
If you looked back at Twitter in 2010, they had only 105 million users and 55 million tweets per day. Twitter now boasts ”about a billion” registered users who post 500 million tweets per day. Digital Information World reports that by 2015, 99% of the world’s top brands have a Facebook page and 97% are active on Twitter. In fact, 46% of web users look to social media when making a purchase, and 67% of Twitter users say they are “far more likely” to buy from a brand they follow on Twitter that one they don’t—and the average Twitter user follows five or more brands.
Twitter is now the top news source for political information and trends (no surprise there) But is it a place for a B2B brand? Let's look at the data. The top five reasons people follow brands on social media are:
1. Promotions and discounts
2. The latest product info
3. Customer service (lots of complaints)
4. Entertaining content
5. Ability to offer feedback
If you're an industrial manufacturer or B2B publisher, the 'entertaining content' option may make you gag, but the other 4 are noteworthy, especially if competitors are leveraging it for service and sales expansion. First steps.
Step 1: Understand where to reach your target customers
When it comes to time spent engaging, Facebook still rules, with the average user clocking almost 15 hours per week “Facebooking” across all of their devices (you guessed it, folks are on Facebook at work). Twitter comes in a distant second, but still captivates users at just under 4 hours per week, and Instagram is nipping at its heels with 3 hours and 40 minutes per average user. If you look at the number of active users for the top social media platforms, you will still find Facebook at the top with 1.35 billion, followed by Instagram (300 million), and Twitter (284 million) (Tech Crunch).
On key point; FaceBook is unquestionably a B2C social space. Studies show that working people DO NOT want to engage with work related manufacturers on Twitter. Stick to LinkedIn is where the 'work social' occurs. FaceBook knows this and has been trying to launch "FaceBook at Work" for years
But that doesn’t mean you should just go for LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and then forget about it. You need to understand where your target customer is spending time—and money. Google and an hour or two of your time will help you understand who the users are on the “big” social media networks, and may even turn up some niche platforms you haven’t heard about—but should be pursuing. For example, Shopify recently released a helpful infographic showing which sites convert the best, along with a wealth of other information about the transactions (The biggest surprise: Polyvore had the highest average order value of them all!).
Yeoman research confirms that there are over 100 different social sites with at least 1 million users, focusing on everything from consumers and engineers to teachers and doctors. You need to look at the big players as a part of a bigger social networking approach that includes niche players for your industry.
Step 2: Understand your prospects' behavior in these sites.
Just because your prospect engages with a social network does not mean they want to do business there. There are some basic rules of thumb. For example, Facebook is not a place to push business to business sales, and LinkedIn isn’t a place to push consumer products. Make sure you know what the unwritten rules are before blundering in with your sales pitch. And please be sure you understand the lingo as well…you don’t want to end up like some of these brands, lampooned by New York Magazine for their uncool social media posts.
When determining where to spend time and effort, you need to look at every option and figure out if it meets at least two of the “Three Ps:”
• Presence: Target customers are active users of the channel
• Propensity: Customers are likely to purchase while in this channel
• Purchases: Similar products (i.e., competitors) are in the channel
Step 3: Consider other online venues that offer a bit more control over content.
The basic concept of social media is that it’s a peer to peer setting with little to no control over the postings of others. Great as a concept, but a potential nightmare for business. At a minimum, you need to setup a system to monitor comments about your company online, and a plan for addressing them.
Then consider setting up one or more ‘Knowledge’ sites. These have the same ‘social’ elements like Facebook, but offer centralized control over who posts what. These sites are often owned by a company that sells in that industry. Some great examples include www.5sbestpractices.com (industrial), www.searchdoneright.com (technology), www.arbookfind.com (education). If customer issues come up there, you control and manage them. Investing in a Knowledge site may very well make a lot more sense than jumping into an existing social media community.
Step 4: Put social media within the context of all of your Internet channel programs.
At Yeoman, we segment the web into seven distinct channels; each with its own set of competitors, search, etc. Social networking and content sites are two. The others include Auction Systems (eBay, Liquidation.com) E-Tailers (Amazon, Overstock, etc) B2B Systems (Alibaba, Ketera, Ariba) Referral Engines (Buyerzone, Shopzilla, Nextag) and, of course, your main site.
A big mistake is to think Google (or anything else) searches all of them. It doesn’t. For example, If your potential buyers use a B2B system to look for products and you’re not there, they’ll simply go with someone else. All the search engine optimization and social networking in the world won’t help you. You need to be where your customers are likely to buy.
Step 5: Analyze, evaluate, and refresh.
The social media universe is very fluid and evolves rapidly. You will need to monitor your results and tweak your strategy on a regular basis.
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