Bored coworkers

Using Social Media For B2B in Boring Industries

By: Brandon Chesnutt

A few weeks ago, I was invited to give a private presentation on social media for B2B enterprise companies to a group of executives from international corporations. This executive advisory group gathers about twice per year to discuss internal and external forces and trends that are impacting their global businesses. And for them, like many other B2B-focused industries, social media was a hot topic. Their industry focus: plastics and adhesive technology.

Before walking through those meetings doors, I knew very little about plastics and adhesive technology. I wasn’t sure if I was walking into a half-day meeting that would feel like the equivalent of watching paint dry. But, as I sat through multiple presentations, I got to see very entertaining and informative insight into what makes these companies tick and what their clients care about when it comes to finding the appropriate solutions. Maybe it was my inner science geek coming out, but I liked what I saw. I was even entertained.

After the various presentations ended and my talk was complete, the meeting attendees had the opportunity to discuss where they stand inside their companies with social media. As we went around the room, stories were shared. Some companies were just getting their feet wet and exploring LinkedIn. Others had already created content communities focused on specific industry and customer segments. What I found interesting is they were all doing something in the social media space. That’s right: All these large companies in a very focused, niche industry where investing in social media.

I’ve had a number of similar discussions over the past several years. Companies are worried they’re too boring for social media or they’re particular focus is far from sexy. What I’ve learned is there are opportunities for “boring” B2B industries to integrate some component of social media into their communications. And, just as we’ve shared multiple times here on our blog, broader business goals play a key role in choosing where to make a social media investment.

Here are a few key takeaways from our group discussion:

Make “boring” as visual as possible. For industries that are considered unsexy, leveraging visual storytelling can often turn bland into bold. They must determine how to best integrate multimedia into their efforts. This involves more than just leveraging semi-professional shots of large-scale equipment. Peeling back layers of processes, without revealing too much, can create a better connection with audiences. Moreover, target customers and partners are often interested in learning more about how things work.

Social media can empower B2B sales. Client-facing team members can often make a larger impact with social media inside B2B companies. They’re close to clients and have the ear of prospects. They should be informed on the potential uses of social media, training on how to effectively navigate the right platforms and supplied with the right marketing ammunition that can be shared with their networks.

Content can be a strong differentiator. This was arguably one of the hottest topics of discussion: Should brands invest in creating more content? For organizations with long sales cycles, developing and deploying an effective content marketing plan can create ongoing touch points with important parties. The result is a client nurture program that keeps key audiences in the loop. In fact, more than 86 percent of B2B marketers are leveraging content marketing as part of their strategic marketing efforts. Does it make sense for industries that may not have mass social media appeal to dive right in? Well, not without a strategy that focuses on highlighting product, people and differentiators. Speaking of not-so-smart-strategies…

Creating a Facebook page is not always a smart strategy. There are a number of B2C strategies and best practices that translate well to B2B communications programs. However, creating specific communities doesn’t always make sense. It’s better to optimize what you own before branching out to “rented” channels. Additionally, if you struggle with making content visual (as I noted above), it can be hard to be successful on networks that give preference to multimedia over text content.

It’s easy to scoff at and ignore social media as a viable communications medium when it feels like your services or products lack a cool factor. But, there are social media for B2B opportunities out there for uncool industries. It’s up to companies and their marketing partners to uncover those social media opportunities and find a home for them within the broader communications program.