Throughout my career, I've had the privilege of being able to work on quite a bit of b-to-c marketing, a solid amount of b-to-b, and a bit of “in-between.” Some PR strategies and tactics “overlapped” between those venues, while others were unique to how to execute against goals and different audiences – media or otherwise. In some ways, the same can be said for newer technologies and platforms we are looking at in social, but perhaps it's not as much a challenge as some of us (or our clients/teams) believe to deliver results for b-to-b organizations.
After having spent hours upon hours over the last few years working with pure b-to-b brands on their marketing efforts, it's become abundantly clear that the applications for social media aren't always as immediately obvious as they are in the b-to-c sphere. However, just because Facebook happens to be a great sandbox to reach consumers doesn't mean it couldn't be the key to one's digital marketing efforts. To me, it's all about the goals, as I'd focused on in my last piece for PRWeek, as they will be critical in determining which sandbox is the right one to build your castle in.
As a baseline, b-to-b brands need to be aware of their presence on social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn, if only for attraction and retention of employees. I'm constantly surprised when meeting with people who say, “We don't have a Facebook page at all” in 2012 (or 2010, really) – it's a ripe opportunity for disgruntled employees or a competitor to have some “fun” with your brand.
Twitter is an excellent way to “double dip” on reaching press and influencers relevant to your brand in PR activities, interact with customers and other constituents, and ensure company news and information is injected into the marketplace. Additionally, Twitter can be absolutely vital in a crisis communications situation and is quite difficult to roll out “on the spot” should one need it.
Looking to do some thought leadership? Answer some questions on Quora or LinkedIn Answers from time to time. Do a briefing with an “out-of-the-box” media outlet that might be interested in the inner workings of your organization.
The challenge I'd love to put forth – including to myself and my colleagues – is that we be proactive with our non-b-to-c clients (and teams, to the in-house readers) in assessing what social can do for those organizations, rather than waiting for the opportunity to do so. Aside from the fact that it's a great new business opportunity (and who doesn't like those), being proactive is what we're supposed to be doing on their behalf.
B-to-b activities in social are most definitely an area where our ideas and execution need to be buttoned up before launch because in a lot of cases, you will (still) be the first person, or at least an early adopter in your industry when executing on creative. Answering the “who else in our space is doing this?” question will be a pretty simple one, and it's not “nobody” – it's “you'd be the first.” There's a difference. Leverage it.