What are the differences between B2B and B2C social media?

The people behind Useful Social Media recently asked me a series of questions for an article about the differences between B2B and B2C social media. The article has just been published and features only some of my answers, so here is the full set of questions with my responses beneath. This should serve as a useful primer for anyone looking to understand the differences. Feel free to use the comments box if you think I missed anything important.

1. Can you give me an overview as to how B2B social media differs from the B2C environment?

• Audiences are much smaller

• Users often unite around a shared interest and/or common problems

• More likely to use social media during normal business hours

• More likely to be using a smart phone or tablet to access

• LinkedIn is the dominant network (in English language markets)

• Blogs are used to show authority, expertise and credibility

• Purchase decisions have longer gestation periods and involve multiple decision-makers

• YouTube use less about entertainment, more about education

2. Please can you give me three or four core differences between the two?

B2C has a larger number of social channels. B2C buyers make decisions fast and can be any age – from pre-teens to pensioners. B2B buyers are usually middle and senior level managers who make slower buying decisions and have to follow a process, often involving procurement colleagues. B2B buyers are considerably more time-pressed compared to most B2C buyers.

3. How do these differences impact on your content and brand social media strategy?

The emphasis for B2B is about being informative and helpful to decision-makers and those around them who influence purchase decisions. It’s a long-haul game where you build confidence and trust so that when the critical moments in decision-making arrive, your company and/or product earn their place on the client’s shortlist.

4. Why do you feel there needs to be a different approach for B2B?

The approach doesn’t necessarily have to be so different; it depends what your company sells and who to. A wholesaler selling low-value tools and materials to thousands of self-employed builders is entirely different to an aircraft engine manufacturer selling to a handful of airlines. The key point is to first understand how your target audiences use social media. If they currently don’t, how might you encourage them to begin?

5. What similarities are there between B2B and B2C social media?

The risk of reputational damage by ill-considered behaviour. People respond to similar triggers (i.e. appeals to vanity, the chance to be the first in on something, gossip, humour)

6. Why do you feel that B2B social media is important for building your brand?

Decision makers will increasingly reference people and products via their social footprint. They will seek ‘social proof’ that you can deliver the claims you make. Social media allow you to reach a larger, global audience more quickly and more cheaply, but they are not a tool to be used in isolation. The best B2B users integrate social into other marketing activities.

7. What are four things that you think are essential to any B2B social media strategy?

• Know your audience and their media habits. Listen before acting.

• Help and inform, while playing down the sell

• Recognise it as a long-haul requiring patience

• Test, check and measure against realistic, achievable goals

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