Employer Branding

10 Reasons B2B Companies Need Social Media

Not sure about why your B2B organisation needs social media? Well we spoke to Jonathan Wichmann of Orca Social and Wichmann/Schmidt, he has all the answers about why you should be harnessing the power of social.

You can listen to the podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud, or just keep reading for a summary.

The 10 reasons B2B companies need social:

Basically we did a three-month research project in Orca Social, trying to sort of comprehend why is it that actually social in this thing we do, what kind of value does it add to B2B companies and why should they focus more on this.

1. Break down the silos:  So, of course, silos, that’s been on the agenda for 25 years or something. But I think the problem is you need something to replace the silos with once you start, something to break them with and something to replace that flow of information. And here social technology is like an internal or enterprise social network, ESN. It actually gives us that solution.

2. Create a culture people value: We also found that once you do break the silos, then you have a second opportunity, and that’s to create a culture that people value. Employee engagement rates can go up as a result of social. We see that socially-enabled companies are better at retaining employees and they have a higher employee engagement rate. But also in terms of other stakeholders like partners and customers and what have you, even press and the public.

3. Strengthen the corporate brand: Another reason is to improve the overall brand of the company. We see some really good results there, DSM the global science based company, increased brand value by $800 million thanks to social media.

4. Build lasting business relationships: You can use it for social selling and building more lasting business relationships. So moving away from short-term sales and into sort of actually focusing on lifetime value of your customers and on the real connections, business connections, instead of customers and brands. Then it’s peer-to-peer.

5. Care about your environment: You can use it for CSR purposes in a way because often the CSR or sustainability people in these organisations, they have a lot to say. They have a lot to network about and they should be empowered and equipped with these social tools to go out and share all their passion points.

And when you deal with that, you, of course, need to be aware, conscious of not doing any kind of greenwashing, whatever you call it. Where you actually just do it for the sake of looking good. But it has to be authentic.

6. Let the crowd help you improve: You can use social technologies to involve the crowd in developing your business. The most famous example, I think, is the My Starbucks Idea. The platform has been running for almost ten years now, where people can submit ideas for Starbucks. All the users can then rate ideas up and down and Starbucks can review it and reply and say, “We already did this four years ago, it doesn’t work,” or actually, “This is a good idea, we will review it further and maybe launch it.” So you get all the validation and the ideas from the crowd to develop your business.


7. Identify shortcuts in the supply chain: You can also use social for optimising or improving or even reshaping your supply chain. So connecting all the many parts of the chain in a more efficient way or even bypassing different parts of it by identifying shortcuts somehow. You can use it to just enhance communication so it becomes more coordinated between partners. And, again, using an enterprise social network, or you can involve the crowd to identify risk or exceptions in the supply chain so you can react to it very quickly and fix the problem.

8. Spot and attract world class talent: In the world of HR, I think recruiters are using social. I actually can’t remember the numbers, but it’s a very high number. I think what we’re also seeing a little bit is that some of the tactics that external recruiters are using, they are being in-sourced a little bit by companies. Because they see that these tricks and tools and ways to search LinkedIn and Google for talent and sourcing the right talent. They simply need to be able to do this themselves.

9. Make your customers happy: So essentially it’s about loyalty and customer service, and really just using these tools to solve people’s problems by reacting to their enquiries. That’s often not that relevant with a service channel on Facebook for a B2B company because your customers are professional buyers, they wouldn’t use Facebook or Twitter, they would just contact their key account manager. But forums is something that we see work, so it’s also social technology in a way. That people can go in there, like a live FAQ, ask a question, and maybe it’s already been answered before.

10. Don’t cease to exist: We see these social technologies be part of everything we do and it’s a change, at least in mindset and how we operate, and also in terms of culture and all of that. Companies are not surviving very long anymore, not like in the old days, because disruption is in the air all the time. So if you don’t at least adopt the technologies and the change, appreciate it even, then you will really struggle. So you need to be ready on social, if you are not… Then you are ready to be disrupted basically, I would say. So it’s sort of an insurance just to understand what’s going on in this field, because the change is so often driven by technology these days.

Mistakes that B2B companies make on social media:

To design it: A common mistake is to be too elaborate about the design of it and the whole strategy building it before you are even out there. And so that’s phase one for those companies that don’t even have a presence, that they spend too much time thinking about it before they actually start doing it. And when they do then jump aboard, it will be a big disappointment in many ways because there is no audience.

Not adopting a test and learn approach: I think it’s an opportunity to fail and to learn more than anything else. So again, the cultural aspect that you do this within an open mind and try to be very sort of test-and-learn in your approach right from the beginning. It’s a wise thing to do because then you find out who are even interested in connecting with us and with our employees and what kind of content, and you don’t know anything in advance really.

How to keep B2B social media marketing interesting:

Story telling: I think, many of these big B2B companies have great stories to tell and they have really brainy and fascinating people on the payroll. Which is a huge asset because you can put them out there and let them talk or maybe help them talk. So I think, and yeah, make it as authentic as possible, and then maybe talk less about yourself and more about what you care about. And then don’t be afraid to let go of control a little bit. I think that’s interesting.

Think about the users first: Be really cynical about your content. Is this something anyone would really care about? Honestly, would I want to read this? And then also sometimes you can do long-form content which only 30 people would care about, but maybe that’s good enough if it’s the right people. Think about these different kinds of fronts, and short and long form, and figuring out, “What are we all about? Are we here to entertain people? Are we just here to sort of create valuable content for those people who really matter to us?”

Let go of the corporate vibe: I don’t think anyone appreciates that, when it’s too corporate. Neither employees nor potential employees or the customers.

The next big thing for the B2B social media space:

Employee advocacy: I think for a while we’ve been talking about employee advocacy as being the next big thing, but maybe, I think, it’s already there now. So it’s also about getting wise in terms of what to do and what not to do, optimising the usage, how employees spend their time doing these things. So tools for optimisation and knowing when to engage with people and when not to, and how to.

A collaborative economy for B2B: I think the next big thing is said to be sort of collaborative economy for B2B, where we have seen that already in B2C. Well, no one knows how big it will be if it’s just Uber and Airbnb and stuff, but there are start-ups all over the place. But I think actually, again, the potential disruption is it could be even bigger in some of these industries with very rigid structures and very old school. They risk really being bypassed by tools where, for instance, you connect the crowd into sort of the supply chain and bypass them, the entire supply chain.

Easier for buyers to find cheaper and better solutions: It’s already happening. So price comparison, sales comparison, all of these things. Which means loyalty is being threatened a little bit. How do you keep that relationship with your clients if it’s all a price game and a matter of comparing?

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWich.

By Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO of Link Humans, home of The Employer Brand Index.