The Business (To Business) Of Social Media

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"Why aren’t there more case studies of business to business organizations using social media?"

I get asked this question all of the time. The truth is that most people are not looking hard enough. Yes, we’re all excited when a big brand scores a slum dunk and everyone gets all excited about capturing likes on Facebook, but the dirty little secret of the Internet is this: is you think that social media is good for consumer brands, it’s much more powerful for those in the business to business space.

The opportunities are everywhere.

The best business to business sales are done through relationships, testimonials, white papers and general content marketing (unless you’re in a highly structured, regulated and procurement driven process, but there is still an opportunity to leverage social media). If social media can’t help you augment all of those areas, I’m not sure we’re all living on the same planet. Are the consumers there? We tend to forget that those consumers are also human beings. They’re on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Speaking of LinkedIn…

It was just announced that LinkedIn acquired SlideShare (more on that here: LinkedIn Acquires Professional Content Sharing Platform SlideShare For $119M). This is a prime example of the business side of social media picking up steam. It’s about much more than making sure you have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile and that you’re posting presentations to SlideShare, it’s about the very real reality that more and more businesses are turning to the Web as a form of social proofing. They’re looking to dig a little deeper into the online profiles and information that businesses share as a way to "get to know you"… and your business.

Shun social media for business at your own peril.

People will complain about the time and effort that it takes to build valuable connections online (and whether there is any ROI associated with it). They’re right. It’s amazing how strikingly similar the online world is to our day to day lives, isn’t it? Did you think that a robust LinkedIn profile instantly qualifies you as someone worthy of doing business with? What we’re learning is that it’s not about how you present yourself online, it’s also about how you conduct yourself. It’s about who you are connected to, what kinds of engagement you are having and how you connect, share and contribute in these spaces as well. It’s going to take effort… but in that effort comes the value.

For those used to Facebook and Twitter, this is all very obvious.

But, for those who are looking at social media from a business-only perspective, the river is growing bigger and deeper with each and every passing day. As much as these channels provide a publishing platform for individuals to share and connect, there is no reason why you can’t leverage them in a smart and strategic way for your business to have a truly connected presence. In short, if you think that social media is just about "the conversation," you’re missing the bigger opportunity.

What social media means to business to business.

What makes any media "social" is the ability for the media (in and of itself) to be as shareable and findable as possible. That’s the core social action. Once you accomplish that, more people can engage and connect (and yes, this sometimes leads to actual conversations) If you’re not in the business of making what you do as shareable and as findable as possible, then what, exactly, are you in the business of? The LinkedIn and SlideShare deal should make you realize how many tremendous business opportunities are missed – each and ever day – by businesses who wrongfully think that social media is just about businesses acting in a more human way. Social media makes your business more findable and more shareable.

That’s core… isn’t it?


  1. There are TONS of social media examples of B2B social media successes. I think what many people miss is that there aren’t necessairily tons of Facebook B2B examples, and to many people Facebook IS social media, unfortunately. Look at what tech companies like Cisco and IBM are doing with their blogs. What hundreds of companies and organizations are accomplishing through LinkedIn groups. And the research, sales, and marketing opportunties of Twitter are breath-taking if you know what you’re doing.
    These successes aren’t sexy. They’re not going to be highlighted in a Mashable listicle. And they’re probably not even going to earn a mention at a company annual meeting. But I see the achievements in customer connection, marketing insight and lead generation happening every day.

  2. Lots of opportunity with LinkedIn and Facebook, but I don’t see Twitter producing much yet. Maybe as a PR strategy, but not as a way to directly engage B2B prospects. Most B2B companies are going after tight niches in their market. The odds of a given prospect being in Twitter is pretty small. The odds that they’re active and engaging in conversations on Twitter are even smaller.

  3. So true Mitch, thanks for your post to allow people to start thinking about their product or service purpose, roles, and goals. Companies are lagging in this space because its a new paradigm. Senior veterans in organizations have created success without the power of social and look to retire not take on new skills. We as humans fear change. We hire students to implement analytics which is the gold of any organization because we have not taken the time to learn and grow. Of course we will always have exceptions and these companies will prosper for facing the fear of the unknown. As always Mitch thanks for leading these discussions.
    PS what is a “slum” dunk? LOL I’m glad you’re human.

  4. I think that B2B just takes a little more finesse and the key is in your last sentence. We need to focus on being found and shared rather than just going out to spam our customers with friend requests.
    But, I agree with you that too many marketers dismiss social as a viable B2B avenue because they see it as “personal” or not “businessey” enough.
    There’s certainly opportunity for the brands willing to put in the time.

  5. Move away from tech, and B2B case studies are much harder to find. Marketing is not full of sales people who know how to sell the invisible. Broadly speaking, it is full of people who know how to tell stories. I would argue that marketing is its own worst enemy here. B2B Social Business shines a light on one of the last departments that has few KPIs tied to performance. Couple this with Kyle’s point on Executive’s skills sets and we have the perfect storm. No one in the company can explain the benefit in a way that overcomes the resistance to change. Some of this is due to the way social is discussed – tossed around as a one size fits all solution.

  6. I am in agreement with the work presented, I am what you would consider an Introvert, and with that, many stigma applies. However, social media creates an exciting new spin on Individuals that a typical everyday forum or business meeting or face to face with prospects could never uncover. Change in society is evident everywhere, but it has become greatly paced (through mediums like youtube). Youtube has dashed the one fundamental aspect of human existence, that we have always had, Secrecy. Without secrets, human have become an open book, we have now open ourselves up to the highest level of judgment, judgement by our peers, in public. What does this all mean for social media, it basically allows humans to express themselves in an un-caged manner, an arena exclusively experienced by overachievers, great thinkers, innovators and inventors. These types are known to peer through the glut of irrelevant data, through the sea of unknown, looking for unique clues to their desired results. It allows companies to share, not their deepest secrets, but those ideas on the fringes, which entails gives another Entrepreneur another insight into their own local problem. Example my ideas may be on Mars, but we communicate then all of a sudden I see Venus, captivated by the change, I must now set out to rediscover Mars with Venus in mind. In the past, Venus may have caused a hiccup in my ideas when it arrived later in life, however, I am now better prepared and better equipped. This type of readily available knowledge for Entrepreneurs during online sharing is huge, during start up and growth phases. It was never as fast as it is today, nor was it ever as critical in it’s application, as companies has demonstrated today. Unbeknownst to most, these forums further allows larger companies to track Entrepreneurial companies ideas unsuspectedly, not for selfish motives, but to fill in the missing pieces. Overall its a very exciting time to be alive, and be in business.

  7. It is still a challenge to justify and calculate ROI on Social Media activities for some companies. Butt with new tracking tools (e.g. Social metrics in Google Analytics) it will be easier.

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