How to Approach B2B and B2C Online Branding Strategies using Social Media

Posted by Guest Writer 13 Nov 13

From this week's guest writer, Sofie Sandell:

shutterstock_101636287In the last month I’ve met a lot of people working in B2B marketing and they have all asked me the same question: how can you get social media to work for you if you are a B2B company? I also hear endless comments from B2B marketers that B2B social media marketing is very different from B2C marketing, is it? 

I’ve worked in B2B as a sales manager and as a social media manager for a technical publisher, plus I’ve done heaps of membership promotion online. I’ve learnt what works when communicating your brand offer both offline and online. It all comes down to one thing: relationships. I am going to share some of my thoughts about online marketing with you in post.

In traditional marketing you talk about the ‘4 P’s’. Many of you who have studied business will be familiar with Kotler’s big marketing bible and that product, place, price and promotion matter. What I think also matters is the fifth P: passion.

If we show passion for our brand this will show up wherever we go, people will feel it. This is applicable in both B2B and B2C marketing. 

I think we should use digital tools to communicate emotions and make people feel something when they read our messages on social media. Brands in general don’t communicate feelings enough, they hide behind facts, products and numbers and these will not give their clients goosebumps. 

Spend some time considering how you can share a more emotional message with your customers and how you can make them feel something – happy, excited, angry or scared. Every emotion can be communicated online.

Your Customer’s Buying Cycle

One thing to consider is that everything moves in cycles. Every month in the year looks different and your customers’ needs will fluctuate depending on where you are on the calendar. When I measured online traffic in my job as an e-commerce manager I always had a spreadsheet open to see what the traffic had been like in the previous year. This way I could see how the traffic matched with the sales cycle.

My team and I also looked at which social media networks the traffic was coming from and one thing we noticed was that traffic coming from any social media network stayed longer on the website than traffic from other sources. The visitors were probably already curious fans who just wanted to check out a few more things on the site. 


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Looking Back in Time and Knowing Your Audience

If we look back in time, by just five years, we’ll see that our online habits have changed dramatically, our customers are pickier than ever and every brand is finding it hard to stick out.

Think about your own habits: how often do you read reviews online (probably more today compared with a few years ago)? How many more social networks are you a member of now and how many was that five years ago? How many more videos do you watch online these days? Five years ago I didn’t know many people who had a smartphone, now most people I meet have one.

For marketers this means that they have to know who their audience is and how their audience is behaving online and in the real world. 

Knowing your audience well makes your life so much easier. A friend of mine used to have photos of all the different customer types he was communicating with on his desk. This made it easier for him to change his style when he was writing new copy. 

Where in the Buying Cycle are Your Customers?

Marketers must be aware of who their customers are and where they are in the buying cycle, for example, pre-buying customers, newly acquired customers or customers who have bought something in the past.

These three groups need different information from you. Your pre-buying customers might not even know about their need for your product or service, new customers need to know how to make the most of your offers and customers who have used your service or bought from you a while ago need a polite reminder.

Think about this when you are composing your message online: who is your audience and where are they in their buying cycle? Do you use the same message for all groups? In my book ‘Digital Leadership’, I write that it’s the small extra effort you and your team put in that will make the biggest different and that will give you higher conversion.

Trust in Other People Matters Most

When we do business, we do business with people so some prefer to say P2P instead of B2B and B2C. As a buyer, I often make a decision about where to go based on whether a brand is talking to me in a nice and friendly way online. I like to feel as though there is a human being behind the message. This is one of the benefits of social media, we can show that we are human.

In the past, pre-digital media age we would talk on the phone and then meet up in person to do business. These days we still connect in this way but we also check out the credibility of a brand and the people we meet online. Your customers will check out your brand’s website, your Twitter profile and your LinkedIn profile, and possibly they will seek out you and your brand on all other social media networks as well.

What does your brand say about you online? What kind of signals are you and your colleagues sending out online? Do you have a plan for how to build credibility on LinkedIn? If you don’t, start with that now.

One business I worked with got all their employees to ‘pimp’ their LinkedIn profiles and asked them to connect with each other and the company LinkedIn page. This did wonders for their online credibility.

Content Strategy

All great online campaigns start with high-quality content and then you share this content via your social media networks. Have you ever looked at your writing style and what you say about your brand? What do you say online, in your PDFs and brochures? By simply reading your “About Us” page, will someone be able to explain what you do and how you help your clients?

Everything that is said about your brand online matters, including reviews, testimonials and comments. On some platforms you have a lot of control over your brand and on other platforms you have no control at all.

Review the content on your site and see if you have any good content that you can share with your networks. Great content will be shared by your colleagues and your customers and gives you credibility plus that it’s helping you with your SEO strategy.

I use to say that you first must share your sales message on your website, in your emails and print and then remind your customers about it using all of your social media channels. Some of your customers need many reminders!

Great content helps and one business tip is that you must shape up your online copywriting skills.

The Use of Humour and Banter in Social Media

When a brand is communicating with us we love a bit of humour, you know, the kind of thing that makes us smile just a little on the inside. I don’t think it matters if you are a B2B or B2C business, if you get your message to work with your brand’s values you can make your clients smile. Have more fun online!

Customer service and social media

I often use social media for customer service reasons. I contact brands I am a customer of using Twitter. I’ve been contacting Virgin Media, Vodafone and HP this way and their customer service on Twitter is better and faster than I’ve received contacting them over the phone or via email. Who enjoys spending five minutes trying to navigate an automated customer service recording on the phone? I hate it! Twitter takes a tweet or two, much better.

Your customers also have different preferences about how they want to contact you. Some want to call you, some want to tweet you. Have you considered how your clients can contact you? Are you adjusting your way of communicating so your customers are free to use their preferred mode of contact? 

Listen to and learn from your customers - it matters!

Your social media strategy should be built around your customers’ needs and how you can help them better by using digital tools. This is valid for both B2B and B2C marketing. Get the basics right.

 About Sofie Sandell

Sofie Sandell is an entrepreneur with interests spanning from technology and leadership to art and sailing. She is a Swedish Londoner and an international speaker and author who also lectures in digital marketing at INSEEC University. Her book, Digital Leadership, about how creativity works and the digital world, was published in September 2013. Check out her website: Follow her on Twitter:


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