From B2B to B2C, The ABCs of Social Media Marketing
Not all social media marketing plans are made the same. Messaging, tone and voice all shift as the demographics change. As a nod to the site’s name, let’s start with the basics. Some companies market themselves to other businesses (B2B) while others focus their efforts on the consumer market (B2C). Find tips for each specialty is a snap and there are countless resources for each. But what happens when you have customers in both realms? How can a company engage all of their target demographics when they seem so different? Where is the best place to post for B2B and B2C customers?
Understanding The Difference In B2B and B2C Social Media Marketing
To understand how to engage with B2B and B2C audiences, we have to look briefly at the best practices for each. What makes each audience so different?
Business to Consumer (B2C)
People are surrounded by advertising every day, and most of it can be considered B2C marketing. From the billboard advertising a local restaurant to a Facebook ad promoting an online sale, all of these messages are directed at the consumer. In general terms, these messages are meant to entice or inform and ultimately lead to greater brand awareness. In digital terms, B2C campaigns are vital to driving online conversions, from hot leads for a service to an actual purchase.
This is the type of marketing that most people are aware of when they are online. There are countless tools for delivering these messages, from Google Ads to blogs and social media marketing.
There are a few things that these digital messages have in common:
• They are quick: The average consumer is bombarded with messaging. Effective campaigns must find a way to capture their audience as quickly as possible.
• They are engaging and entertaining: Consumers turn to social media platforms to entertain. In B2C marketing, think of social media as a cocktail party; light, breezy conversation meant to amuse and distract. Everyone avoids the “hard sell” at a social event. Social media is no different.
• They are enticing: The best social media campaigns become the life of the party, so to speak. These are the ones that inform while entertaining, or spark dialog with their consumers.
Finding where to post for a B2C business is usually relatively easy. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram are all platforms geared toward the consumer.Social media marketers, with a keen eye on their demographic, can utilize online contests, informative blogs, and coupon offers to reach their audiences. They also engage with their audience; responding to comments and retweeting their guests.
An excellent example of this type of fun and entertaining B2C marketing comes from a burger joint in Wisconsin, AJ Bombers. They host #oldschoolTweetups, for online friends to meet in person over a burger or a beer. They post delicious looking pictures of their newest burger innovations, and they even partnered with a local competitor to try to woo a Travel Channel show, Food Wars, to town. All while conversing with their customers across their platforms.
Business To Business (B2B)
In contrast, B2B marketing tends to be far more serious than its B2C counterpart. These messages aren’t always for public consumption and have a much more focused audience in mind. Some may argue that this is the “grown-up” side to social media marketing; more Business Journal and less People Magazine. (Although both are great at reaching their target audience.) Linkedin stands out as the leader in B2B social marketing, but YouTube, Twitter, and even Facebook have their place. Because the audience and its respective tone are so different, the tactics used to reach this audience must also be different.
• They are more detailed: The messaging for B2B customers must be more in-depth showcase expertise in the field.
• They account for a longer buying cycle: Unlike its B2C counterparts, B2B efforts tend to have a much longer pipeline to an actual sale. You don’t see too many impulse purchases in the business world and therefore, those who sell to other businesses must create a marketing plan that leads people down a longer path to a conversion.
• They are exercises in relationship building: Online interactions typically must translate into a deeper relationship, which last longer than their B2C counterparts. A consumer may hop from brand to brand with very little loyalty whereas, given the long buying cycle, B2B customers tend to be more loyal. (Relatively speaking.)
The core strategies for implementing these tactics, like the B2C efforts, focus on audience-driven content. With a more business-centric audience, longer form items tend to be more effective. These include things like white papers, online networking groups, and in-depth, informative articles. Businesses still need to engage with their customers online, but it is not always as easy. Online business forums are an excellent way to promote engagement for these brands, where like-minded individuals gather to discuss relevant issues.
A great example of this comes from a company based in Alabama that provides pre-engineered masonry products to home builders and suppliers, Firerock. This is a B2B company that has mastered social engagement in a B2C world. It did this by understanding its demographic and providing content that its customers can use in their efforts to reach the consumer. Confused? In short, Firerock knows that no one wants to see raw building materials online. Instead, it utilizes Facebook and Pinterest to showcase the potential for its products, effectively creating a glossy, online catalog for consumers and its B2B customers alike. It is positioning itself as a leader in the industry while creating content that its core customers, home builders, and developers, can use to stay on trend. They do this while maintaining a Linkedin presence as a direct line to the brand.
For Customers That Do Both, Where Do the Two Meet?
The short answer is they don’t, not really. Each platform has a unique and distinct audience, and the content must reflect that. The first step in successfully navigating a strategy that involves both B2B and B2C is identifying the best platforms for your brand and who the target audience is for each. Some helpful tips:
• Each platform will have a distinct and possibly different audience: It is important to create compelling content for each, but allowing for crossover. A blog post may be broad enough to play well on Linkedin and Facebook, whereas a long-form white paper may only fit on Linkedin.
• Each platform will have an opportunity to showcase your expertise. Don’t deny either side of your business, but use your experience in each to your advantage. In many cases, this will add more legitimacy and credibility to your overall marketing efforts if you can highlight a range of knowledge.
• Each platform will take time. Know that you may not have cross over on social platforms and as such, you should allocate enough time for each. If you don’t have the time to do each platform well, which will offer the best return on your time investment?
A good example of differentiating marketing messages comes from Signature Electric, an Omaha-based Electrician, which offers commercial and residential services. Their Facebook page offers fun trivia, job opportunities, and company news which both humanizes the brand and engages their residential customers. Meanwhile, their Google + page helps to optimize the brand for local SEO.
So how can you tweak your social efforts to garner the most return? Are you targeting the right audience in the right place? Use these tips to create social content that will promote your brand.