Essential Overview of Social Media Transforming B2B Marketing
⏱ Reading Time: 8 minutes
Marketing has always been at the center of business-customer interactions. However, over time, the marketing sphere has seen many changes in its practices over the years. Why? Because traditional marketing can only reach a certain amount of people. While writing creative copies of paper brochures and other similar advertising strategies are still relevant these days, there’s a lot less of them than there were back then. That’s where the Internet comes in!
The Internet has changed everything, including the way that businesses market to their consumers. Today, marketers have set their sights on finding customers in new places, and all thanks to an online presence. This is especially important for business-to-business (B2B) marketing, because relevancy is key to reaching people online. And what better way to reach out than through social media. Social media revolutionized how people– and now businesses – communicated with each other online.
Now, before B2B marketing can take flight 100%, it must understand and commit to social media 100%. This overview will explore the humble beginnings of B2B marketing, how it adapted to the Internet, and how it has now made it to the social media scene.
B2B Marketing Background
The B2B marketing has been around since the late 20th century, according to Medium. In fairness, this type of marketing started out as a way for independent industry experts, executives, and forward-thinking marketers – or the ‘influencers’ at the time – to get their brands out by being featured in business and industry trade magazines.”
However, print space was limited, due to costs and very little resources to back it up. While many journalists, writers, and analysts were enlisted to write about the latest trends, and speak at trade shows, there were still consumers that they’ve missed. Plus, B2B businesses at the time didn’t have their own printing presses or their own platforms. So, cold calls, ROI analysis, and personal relationships were the sales norm for the time being.
Picture 1. B2B buyer’s journey nowadays
Emergence of the Internet
Starting in the mid-1990s, the Internet was getting big, meaning that people were beginning to go online. However, this transition was slow and costly. First, Internet access speeds were slow, meaning that it would take a while for files or webpages to load. Plus, the usage of the Internet was slow, since it was still new at the time, and consumers were figuring out how to use it.
Sometime later in 1994, blogging became popular, with people – and even businesses in the B2B marketing sphere – creating their own websites, which were called “weblogs” before shortening the term to “blogs.” Though, despite the promising marketing landscape that blogging had create, Internet speeds and quality limited this rise in technology.
Emergence of Social Media
Believe it or not, the first true social media site was called Six Degrees. Launching in 1997, this site allowed users to upload profile pictures and connect with other users. The site was eventually bought and sold in 2000, and then shut down in 2001.
Then, in 2003, the popular business-based social media site LinkedIn was born. While businesses have begun taking a liking to sites like LinkedIn, marketers still need to reach as many consumers online.
Later on, sites like MySpace would hit the scene in 2003. However, it was the successes of YouTube (launched 2005), Facebook (2006), Twitter (2006), Instagram (2010), and TikTok (2016) that brought on the renaissance of how we now see the Internet. Once businesses caught wind of these successful social media sites, there then came the need to adapt.
Picture 2. Keep on mind the S.M.A.R.T goals while choosing social presence
B2B Marketing Adapting to Social Media
Why adapt? Because buyers already have.
No longer are the days of simply shopping in-store. Buyers can now choose to either shop in-store or online. That means that the sales cycle has changed dramatically since the rise of technology brought on by the Internet.
So now, B2B marketing has shifted its focus on consumers who take to the Internet – more specifically, social media – and creating and running campaigns to promote products and services, and eventually, send them through the sales funnel. The trick is that since B2B buyers have grown skeptical of ads and sales pitches from the days of old, they do their research first. How? By looking to peers on social media, and then choosing when to get into contact with a sales rep. Notice that the sales rep has no control over the buying process – the consumer does. As you can see, social media, along with the increased use of mobile devices, have brought on the age of the consumer.
How Social Media Will Benefit B2B Marketers
“Since the rise of social media sites, marketers in the B2B realm began seeing that fresh and viable content is essential if they want to reach more customers,” says Esther Vanguard, a B2B expert at Writinity. “Consumers these days want to read something great, and that’s what marketers must achieve in order to sell products and services.”
With social media, brand appeal starts with NOT posting a lot about the brand. Instead, you’ll need to post regularly with minimal brand slant, so that you can relate more to consumers. When you relate to consumers, you create a better customer experience, as your main goal isn’t just to sell them something. That means learning what kinds of experiences customers want, and what they respond to on social media. Ultimately, it’s because of this growing trend that B2B marketing has evolved into not just a business tactic, but a social media business tactic.
“When it comes to marketing in the B2B business specter, social media can play a huge role in a handful of ways,” adds Vanguard. “First, social media gives businesses access to many influencers that can help them promote their products and services. Second, social media alone creates a wide community of influencers. And third, social media opens doors to more promotional engagement.”
Picture 3. Influencer Marketing is growing by the day
Here are the three key roles in B2B influencer marketing in a deeper perspective:
- Social media makes influencers easier to find. Since more and more users are on social media – say, Instagram, for example – there has been a rise in influencers (people, especially online personalities) who can help you promote your product or service. Things like hashtags can be used by influencers to help send consumers your way.
- Since the emergence of influencers on social media, it has created a large pool of influencing. This community is consumer-run, and isn’t too saturated with corporate interference and or fingerprints. In addition, rather than relying heavily on various influencers–trade journalists, industry analysts, business book authors (essentially, personnel from the corporate world, regardless if they’re internal or external) to handling B2B marketing efforts. With that said, this democratization of media has paved the way for podcasters, consultants, etc. to show up and promote a product or service for a company of their interest.
- As more and more influencers join the scene, it provides more opportunities for B2B businesses to engage with consumers. Engagements can come from panel discussions (live on social media), podcast interviews, guest posts, and so on. It goes to show that social media sites allow influencers and businesses to come together to talk about a product or service, thus promoting it and potentially making sales.
Consumer Impact From B2B Marketing
On the consumer end of marketing, many are now armed with technology, which increases the use of social media usage. Thanks to technology, users can do the following:
- Post about fun and exciting experiences
- Post about using great products
- Give shoutouts to people and businesses
- Recommend brands
- Connect with other people (especially customers), etc.
But with that said, marketing has become challenging with these technological advances, especially when consumers are being equipped with spam filters, commercial-free options, ad blockers, etc., which hinders efforts in traditional tactics like cold calling, email marketing, TV and radio advertising, and online ads. In other words, people don’t like to be interrupted when doing things on the Internet – streaming videos, playing games, shopping, etc.
That’s why B2B marketing should blend into the social media craze by appealing to what consumers like. That’s why social media influencers are essential to B2B businesses because people are more likely to trust people they know, rather than a “faceless” company.
Picture 4. People are more likely to trust “face” rather then company
Ultimately, social media will continue to be the norm, when it comes to B2B businesses. As the online culture continues to grow, marketing will have to evolve in order to change with the times.
The good news is, many marketing departments, especially in large B2B companies, have already made the shift in embracing social media. Instead of falling behind, they have already joined the revolution in B2B marketing.
It’s important for B2B marketers to embrace the power of digital marketing through social media. B2B sales reps must be prepared to take to social media to find influencers, build brand loyalty, and post fresh and viable content often. Remember: A B2B business’s chance of success is to embrace the current times. In other words, stay relevant to stay alive in the market.
So, the best of luck and have fun!
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