Is Social Media just another channel? Yes, it may be, but it is so much more than that. Social Media is forcing corporations (brands) to look at how they engage with their clients, how they use information, and how they respond to events. It is forcing companies to treat Social Media as part of their overall value chain.
For the B2Bsector, marketing opportunities have always existed throughout the value chain – from logistics to marketing and sales. With the introduction of more pronounced and readily accepted Social Media Marketing techniques into the consumer marketing space, the opportunities for business to generate leads, improve customer service, and raise brand awareness in the B2B arena are becoming more pronounced. The most recent eMarketer polls, as well as B2B Magazine’s report titled “2010 Outlook”, indicate that Social Media Marketing (SMM) will become increasingly important to B2B marketers.
However, embracing Social Media channels requires discipline, and in many cases, courage – the hardest part is taking the first step. You have to learn to engage with your audience – whether that be in the B2B or B2C sectors – in a much more interactive way. Your approach to communications has to evolve. With the tools and analysis methods currently available, marketers have new power to provide insight and to demand accountability. These new technologies allow companies to ‘mash’ multiple channels into one cohesive, client-centric view. Inference engines, text analytics tools, and mining methodologies allow businesses to come as close to predicting performance as you can get these days. A company can not only predict sales performance based on historical and trend data, but can validate it with real, live, on-demand information sourced from user generated feedback.
As with B2C, B2B Marketing in general is about relationship building and trust. While B2B marketing shares some of its characteristics with consumer marketing, such as delivering value to meet customer needs through thought leadership, content, and product/service quality, it also has many unique aspects that differentiate it, such as reliance on the value chain intermediaries – dealers, agents, distributors and value-added resellers, for example.
When real time client engagement is associated with knowledge sharing and learning, it can be self-reinforcing, especially if the content is readily available and well distributed. Businesses should share all they can, enabling their clients to have access to as many smart and motivated people sharing practical and applicable strategies and tactics as possible. It is for this reason alone why Social Media Marketing, which lends itself well to segmentation and presentation of value through content and thought-leadership, is increasingly becoming the most effective choice for B2B marketers.
Additionally, traditional hard-coded hierarchical organizational structures will soon give way to ‘living, breathing’ organizations with visible and strengthened connections between employees, customers and partners across the extended ‘social value chain’, where ideas can originate from any point in the extended value chain and be realized with no limitations imposed by functional or geographic boundaries, enabling creativity to flourish and the company as a whole to deliver better results.
Social Media could be considered just another channel by some, but the benefits and opportunities it presents are something we’ve never seen before. It is becoming the connecting thread that links all points of the Value Chain.