For the past few years, studies have repeatedly shown that the #1 reason people follow brands on social media is that they expect to get special offers or deals via those channels. This simple fact often makes B2B firms squirm since offering a discount for let’s say, an enterprise-level solution, on Facebook is often, well…less than practical.
Some B2B shops might be comforted to hear that the #2 reason for following brands is that the person is an existing customer and/or wants to show some loyalty to the company. That’s excellent fuel for building a community, which is incredibly important, but what if you want untapped business (prospects) to jump into your social circles as well?
“No Deals” Doesn’t Mean “No Value”
At the end of the day, value is what compels B2C “deal hunter” followers. People are willing to exchange their time, attention, and tweets (or whatever) for something they perceive to be getting in return. If you’re not saving them money on your product or service, you can be making them bigger, stronger, and faster with some insightful thought leadership. You can arm them with good, relevant content that they can share with their own networks. You can deliver them outstanding support and customer service, faster than any of your competitors. And yes, you can also include them in your tight-knit community where they feel like they have a voice and are part of something special. The list goes on and on.
These value-adds are incredibly important to potential consumers – arguably more than your run-of-the-mill special offer, especially if you can provide these things consistently. Run your content through this kind of mental litmus test: is this piece the equivalent of a 20% discount?
Round up the experts in your company to start blogging or to help create other forms of helpful digital content. Actively tie your support team into each appropriate social channel where they can make an impact (these suggestions deserve a post on their own). Select channels to engage your community of customers and funnel prospects into these channels as well (more on this below).
Have a Purpose for Each of Your Channels
Instead of just asking people to follow, like, or add you, give them a reason to. Use each of your social channels to add something unique to this greater value-adding scheme of yours. Here’s how we use ours at Brainshark:
Twitter -- Pretty much everything works on Twitter: thought leadership, customer success, photos, videos, other firms’ content, and so on. It’s also the go-to vehicle for customers to get in touch with questions or issues.
@BrainsharkLearn -- A new dedicated Twitter handle created specifically to help existing customers learn and use our products and services.
Facebook -- Here we showcase our company culture, fun shark stuff, and the occasional helpful blog post. Customers also like to get in touch via this channel.
LinkedIn -- This allows us to use company statuses to segment thought leadership and best practices posts by vertical. We also manage a Brainshark Users Group to facilitate discussion amongst existing customers on how to use and improve the product.
Google+ -- Here we can facilitate open discussion around our blog posts and other digital content.
YouTube -- This is used mainly for customer success stories, but you’ll also find content around video-based thought leadership and office fun.
Pinterest -- Here we use our customer success/best practices content as well as others’ to drive traffic. We’re still happily experimenting here, just like most marketers and organizations.
Community Really Does Matter…
…and not in just the flowery, “let’s hold hands” kind of way. Did you know that 60% of the average B2B purchase decision occurs before a prospect talks to a sales rep? People have grown accustomed to finding product information on their own, and a large part of it involves asking friends and other users for their opinions. By using social to foster a community around your brand, you’ll be arming your existing users (or followers) to recommend your products and services to those in need.
No matter how attentive you are to the social web, there’s no way you can get to every single opportunity. If you successfully create an engaged community, no matter how large, you enable the members of that community to become ancillary social marketers for you. This way, you can actually contribute to that 60% of the decision-making process.
This often occurs if you execute the last two suggestions properly. If followers begin relying on you for great content and find something useful and engaging on each of your channels, including real-time support, they’ll be happy to be stuck in your web and pull others into it as well. Create groups or other areas where prospects can easily find existing users of your service!
The same can be said here for B2C firms (I believe there actually isn’t all that much difference between B2B and B2C when it comes to social media). Yet, it’s that much more important for B2B firms since they tend to have fewer customers – making each one all the more important.