Does Facebook Make Sense for a B2B Business?

Does Facebook Make Sense for a B2B Business?
August 24, 2011

As of late, I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of discussion on the use of Facebook in social media marketing, particularly in B2B. Facebook has been an important part of our own social marketing strategy and will continue to play an increasingly larger role, so I’m a proponent of the channel…for my company. After reviewing a considerable amount of chatter, I’ve crafted my own thoughts in response to the three popular kinds of contributors to the discussion.

To those who don’t know if it makes sense for themAsk the right question(s).

A lot of people start by asking, “Does Facebook make sense for a B2B business?” I admire the desire to get straight to the point but with all due respect, it’s the completely wrong question. If I were to ask you what your company does, how it makes money, who your customers are, what your sales cycle looks like, the extent of your human and financial resources, and most importantly what your business goals are, would your entire response be: “We’re B2B”?

I would think not, but this is in fact the position you’re assuming if that’s the way you phrase the question.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great of you to go out there and ask – it’s honestly how you learn about most things in social media marketing – but despite everyone’s heroic and impassioned attempts to answer your question, no one will be able to do it meaningfully. You need to turn that question inside out and determine what it is you’re really trying to accomplish with your overall marketing strategy, how social media in general fits into that mix, and then determine if Facebook helps satisfy it. The thought-process seems kind of obvious and yet VERY FEW follow it.

Understand your specifics goals and then vet Facebook for the potential use cases in reaching them. Whether you’re B2B or B2C should only be a small factor of your overall decision.

To those who say, “Yes, use it!” Make the right arguments!

Facebook greatly assists your SEO efforts. It’s free. It makes you look more legitimate to some. Pretty much everyone is on Facebook.

These are all great points and shouldn’t be overlooked in your analysis of the channel, but with respect to the potential value of Facebook and how its ecosystem truly functions, they all miss the forest for the trees. Facebook is a medium where your customers and prospects can potentially join the community represented by your brand and become emotionally associated with it. This drives loyalty, referrals, and both conscious and subconscious recognition.

If all you’re doing is auto-posting your blogs and links for the SEO “value”, then no one will develop a connection with you. The most successful Facebook presences I’ve seen care about what the community wants and doesn’t want, provide constant value, and ALWAYS vary their content.

I’m not saying to never post one of your blogs; in fact you should do it habitually. But make sure it’s relevant to your community and provide some life-like context to it instead of auto-posting the metadata. Otherwise, the little SEO boost you get will be coupled with looking illegitimate and lazy, while all those people who are on Facebook will think you have no idea how to use it…but hey, at least it’s free.

Sometimes having no presence on a channel is better for your brand than having a bad one.

To those who say, “No, don’t use it. It’s a waste of time.”Are you sure?

Well, you may actually be right. There are other social media avenues such as LinkedIn and Twitter that have traditionally provided more value for B2B marketers. But just because you can’t sell your product or service on Facebook, or use it to directly connect someone to a sales rep (actually you can), it doesn’t mean that it’s a waste of time. Again, it all depends on your goals, but if one of them is to foster a strong online community, you might want to give Facebook another look.

Granted, time is money and you need someone who really knows what they’re doing to manage your channel(s). You’ll also likely need a company-wide understanding of what you’re doing on the platform. But this investment of time may be well worth it, if not for your business then for someone else’s. As I mentioned before, don’t be so quick to jump the gun and say “no” before you really know what you or someone else is trying to accomplish by getting stuck on the fact that you’re B2B.

Do you use Facebook for your business? How?