Social Networking and Social Media (and why they’re not the same)

, Posted on Oct 22

As I was sitting with a prospective client this week, I was asked a familiar but interesting question: “Does social media work for business-to-business companies?” It’s a fair question, and one we hear a lot. One can accessibly and intuitively grasp how social media marketing can benefit a well-known consumer brand, but it is more difficult for most to connect the dots between progressive marketing disciplines (such as social media) and stodgy old industries (like many in the b2b realm) with little mass-audience name recognition.

But here’s the ironic part. The reason I was sitting in that room with this prospective client, the reason we connected in the first place, was because of the connection we made on Facebook. 100 percent. Had it not been for this social network, I can guarantee with absolute certainty that we would not be in that room discussing business that day.

And it wasn’t the first time. This now represents the second significant piece of new business that we will have earned with a genesis in social media in the last three months. A great many other leads have also been generated through various SM channels, some of which could become long-term client partnerships over time.

So, question asked; question answered. This crazy thing called “social media” DOES have business-to-business applications. The parameters, tools, tricks and audiences might change, as will (accordingly) the strategy, but social media should not be dismissed as merely a toy for the consumer brands to play with. Quite the contrary.

One thing to keep in mind, b2b companies: Social media marketing is not necessarily the same thing as social networking. In both of the instances I referenced above, neither I nor my company was using social media to “market.” In fact, I and my company do very little of what one might describe as “marketing” via social media. Sure, we maintain a presence, and we have a strategy with specific goals in mind. But none of them are “let’s go sell!”

Simply by being active and visible in various social media channels has allowed us to connect with prospects, referral sources and a whole host of audiences, which include clients, past clients, media, friends (hey! another referral source) and colleagues. That should give those sitting on the social media sidelines something to think about. Put simply:

  • Social networking is not necessarily social media marketing.
  • Fish where the fish are. Unless the fish are in your office and jumping in the boat, you need to get out there, both physically and virtually.
  • Is rubbing elbows with potential clients and referral sources not part of your job? Not worth your time?
  • Are you invisible? If your competition is swimming with the fish and you aren’t, have you ever considered that a good thing? Why are you holding social networks to a different standard?
  • Yes, you know what you’re doing. Social media plans should be founded in strategy, with clear audiences, objectives, goals and metrics in place. HOWEVER, simply by networking, not necessarily marketing, you are getting you and your company “out there,” and you already know how to handle yourself and promote your business “out there” when approached. But it can’t happen if you don’t take the first step.

You may need a little guidance getting started…in fact, I would expect it. Yet many don’t. And even if you do, don’t use that as your excuse to sit on the sidelines…and don’t let that minuscule barrier to entry come between you and the next business opportunity.