Social media has changed the way companies interact with the average consumer. In the b-to-b space, tech companies have been among the first to use social media to communicate with clients, as well as others in their industry. However, as social media's influence becomes greater, a wider variety of b-to-b companies are getting involved in the space.
“With all the attention and everyone really getting all their information from the Web, we wanted to explore social media,” said Alyssa Ilov, VP of marketing for architectural, engineering, and construction firm Astorino. The company recently launched a blog and is ramping up its social media outreach around a new children's hospital project.
“Some people have proposed that maybe social media would not work for b-to-b companies because you aren't reaching out to the consumer, so having things spread ‘virally' seems less relevant for the space,” says Sam Ford, director of customer insights for Peppercom, Astorino's AOR. “On the other hand, interpersonal relationships matter perhaps more in b-to-b than anywhere else.” Social media, he says, is another way to boost relationships.
Others in the b-to-b space agree. “A lot of influencers are on social media and do a lot of initial research through that,” says Pete Mortensen, communications lead for Jump Associates, a growth strategy firm.
Jump, for which Peppercom is also AOR, introduced a blog and Facebook group, in addition to its Twitter presence, around the release of the book, Wired to Care, by agency founder Dev Patnik. The book, Mortensen says, is the company's most effective sales tool, opening conversations with potential clients. Social media has been the best way to gain awareness and buzz for the book.
“Particularly in b-to-b, where thought leadership is so important, social media is probably the most effective tool that can be used,” says David Rosen, group VP at Makovsky & Company.
“[Social media] definitely integrates with all of our channels, including our Web site, media relations, and events,” says Allan Schoenberg, director of corporate communications for CME Group. “It certainly helps us communicate some of the things we are doing.”
CME Group, which owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the New York Mercantile Exchange, uses social media for listening, research, customer service, and brand-building, he says.
“It's interesting how fast it has taken off within the trading environment,” adds Schoenberg, “which is why being out there and talking with customers is something we're excited about.”
Using different social media channels is a way b-to-b companies can replace interactions with traditional media, and still reach their target audiences of investors, reporters, and possible clients, says Laura Borgstede, CEO of Calysto Communications.
“A lot of changes [are] happening in the print media,” she says. “Companies... can't be focused only on traditional media or being in online publications only. They have to do something else to get their messages out.”
Getting social media right
Tony Hynes, SVP at Bite Communications, agrees: “Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, or whatever, that's secondary. The most important thing is to make sure that the tools you are using are driving the right message, reaching the right people, and starting the right conversations.” Bite works with Sun Microsystems, a social media leader within b-to-b.
As social media becomes more popular among b-to-b companies, and as traditional media continues to change, various industries can use social media as part of a PR strategy, Ford says.
“Almost any sector has their eye on the space,” he notes. “There is probably some aspect of using social media that will be smart for almost any sector.”
Why b-to-b companies use social media
Social media offers organizations a new way to initiate and develop relationships with both current and prospective customers
Mainstream media's evolution has made social media a channel that cannot be ignored
Social media provides an opportunity for companies to showcase work in a different way
Those in conservative industries can use social media as a way to stand out from competitors