Why Some B2B Marketers Should Not Use Facebook

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Why Some B2B Marketers Should Not Use Facebook

Facebook Marketing for B2B Businesses Not Always a Fit

I teach a full day workshop on Facebook for Marketers through the American Marketing Association. One of the topics we discuss is the use case for B2B Facebook marketers compared to B2C marketers. Below is a point-counter-point discussion between me and Gerry Praysman of Brainshark on this topic.  I’ve excerpted key points from his blog post Does Facebook Make Sense for a B2B Business?

Gerry: A lot of people start by asking, “Does Facebook make sense for a B2B business?” I admire the desire to get straight to the point but with all due respect, it’s the completely wrong question. If I were to ask you what your company does, how it makes money, who your customers are, what your sales cycle looks like, the extent of your human and financial resources, and most importantly what your business goals are, would your entire response be: “We’re B2B?”

Bernie: Interesting point. But, the question is still valid. Boeing is a B2B company that sells airplanes and related aeronautic products. I don’t find a Facebook page for Boeing. Perhaps they’ve determined their customers don’t care to engage with their content on Facebook?

Gerry: You need to turn that question inside out and determine what it is you’re really trying to accomplish with your overall marketing strategy, how social media in general fits into that mix, and then determine if Facebook helps satisfy it. The thought-process seems kind of obvious and yet VERY FEW follow it. Understand your specific goals and then vet Facebook for the potential use cases in reaching them.

Bernie: I couldn’t agree with you more! That’s why I’m advocating that businesses stop thinking about social media as social media, but rather focus on their marketing strategy from their customer’s needs perspective. Then, just meet your customer’s needs. If Facebook offers a way to meet their needs, great. If it doesn’t fit that’s okay.  In the end it’s always about meeting your customer’s needs.

Gerry: Facebook is a medium where your customers and prospects can potentially join the community represented by your brand and become emotionally associated with it. This drives loyalty, referrals, and both conscious and subconscious recognition.

Bernie: Maybe….Back to the Boeing example, it appears they have decided their customers are not likely to develop loyalty or generate referrals on Facebook. I argue that B2B marketers that sell a complex product to a highly specialized, niche audience (like Boeing) are much less likely to make “emotional” connections with their customers on Facebook.

Gerry: If all you’re doing is auto-posting your blogs and links for the SEO “value,” then no one will develop a connection with you (on Facebook). The most successful Facebook presences I’ve seen care about what the community wants and doesn’t want, provide constant value, and ALWAYS vary their content.

Bernie: I agree, but the benefit you’re describing is much more prevalent in B2C scenarios than in B2B. As mentioned in the previous point, if you can’t develop a community on Facebook because your customers don’t want an emotional connection with you there, there is no community with which to connect.

Gerry: To those who say, “No, don’t use it. It’s a waste of time.” – Are you sure?
Well, you may actually be right. There are other social media avenues such as LinkedIn and Twitter that have traditionally provided more value for B2B marketers. But just because you can’t sell your product or service on Facebook, or use it to directly connect someone to a sales rep (actually you can), it doesn’t mean that it’s a waste of time. Again, it all depends on your goals, but if one of them is to foster a strong online community, you might want to give Facebook another look.

Bernie: I generally agree. But, it comes back to your business goals and where your customers spend time online. On a daily basis, I hear B2B people say that they use LinkedIn for business and Facebook for personal. They go out of their way to say they don’t want business colleagues or business pages connected to them on Facebook. Each B2B business needs to make this assessment uniquely based on their customer’s behavior.

My Closing Thought on B2B Facebook Marketing

I’m not against Facebook for B2B marketers. Find and Convert is a B2B marketer and we have a Facebook page with a fan base that continues to grow (albeit slowly). Our fan base grows based on the content we share on our page. We don’t offer any promotions or “deals” because we know our audience doesn’t want that from us. Our audience wants relevant, informative content about inbound marketing strategies. By providing good content, we build and sustain our relationship with our audience.

Perhaps Boeing could develop a strong connection with consumers through a custom Facebook game? It would be fun to plan trips on my own private Boeing jet equipped with my custom features. I could invite friends to fly with me in my custom jet. It would be like a fantasy lived out on Facebook. While, this idea may be interesting and build consumer loyalty for the Boeing brand, it may not be the best use of Boeing’s resources at this time. Besides, the example I just provided is not a B2B strategy. It’s a B2C strategy targeting the consumer to build loyalty for their product. It’s doubtful it could affect their ability to win major contracts with airlines and Department of Defense projects.

Each B2B marketer should assess their overall marketing strategy and decide the role of each social channel including Facebook. I submit that B2C marketers generally have more opportunity to use Facebook more effectively than many B2B marketers. But, each B2B marketer should uniquely consider Facebook’s potential role in their overall customer communication and engagement strategy, or not.

Are you a B2B marketer using Facebook? Share your experience with Facebook marketing below in the comments area.

Bernie Borges

Bernie Borges is CMO of Vengreso, the leader in digital sales transformation. He's also Host of the award winning Modern Marketing Engine podcast. His book Marketing 2.0, was an early playbook in social media strategy. Bernie is also a trainer and speaker. He has a passion for guiding clients in aligning marketing and sales for accelerated revenue results. Bernie enjoys kayaking with his family in Tampa Bay, going to hockey games and you'll find him at the gym at 6am Monday through Friday, rain or shine.

Comments
  • JP Mains

    Personally I believe businesses need to go where their customers are. Yeah, that's what all of us online marketers have been preaching for the last decade, but it still holds true. Your customers, whether you are a b2b or a b2c, are using facebook/twitter/g+/whatever, and they may be more comfortable using any one or all of these tools for connecting with an organization.

    I personally see lower following but more interaction on Facebook, but a much higher following and less interaction on twitter. Other companies will have a different experience, but if you ignore any of these social tools, you are alienating a certain slice of your market base.

    Go where the people are, otherwise you lose the ability to influence the conversation.

    • FindandConvert

      JP,
      I agree with your points 100% and I hope I communicated that in my counter points above. Each business is unique, and therefore they need to understand where their customers spend more time and/or where they're more willing to engage.

      Ignoring social media entirely is risky for any business. On the other hand, diving in blindly to each of the major social channels with little or no regard for understanding customer behaviors on those channels can waste a lot of time.

      Thanks for your comments!
      Bernie

  • FindandConvert

    This blog post is indeed focused on the potential marketing value of Facebook for B2B companies. That said, I like your point about using Facebook as a recruiting tool. For B2B companies large enough to have an ongoing effort to attract talent, Facebook can absolutely be used to communicate the reasons the business is a good employer. Attracting talent can absolutely be a viable use of Facebook for any business including B2B.

    A Facebook page with tabs about the company's attributes as an employer, and perhaps with a career section with job openings would serve this purpose well.

    Thanks for expanding this conversation to a valid point not covered in my blog post.

  • @VilleKilkku

    Does it all have to be about marketing for B2B companies and Facebook?

    Whereas using Facebook as an SEO tool only feels hollow, there are other uses for social media for companies besides marketing.

    One that comes to mind in particular is recruitment! All universities in the US utilize social media; almost all students are there. Facebook could be a nice platform for providing "backstage" information, pictures, and even videos of a B2B company to make it more attractive as an employer. Oh, and you just might get some SEO benefits as well while doing it.

    I have not had a chance to try this out yet, but it is something I think might work, given the user base of the service. What do you think?

    • @gpraysman

      It came out a few months back but still a good look-through.

  • Emma

    I kinda suspect that a company like Boeing doesn't really feel the need to create a Facebook page. Hell, they're BOEING. They have a pretty effective monopoly over the airplane manufacturing industry. Facebook and its ilk are really more for up and comers, and brands that want to keep business booming while remaining in the spotlight. People will still continue to fly, whether Boeing gets on Facebook or not, but these same customers may not purchase your business's products without a social media presence out there connecting with them.

    • FindandConvert

      There are many other companies similar to Boeing, even if not as well known, that don't feel the need to market through Facebook.

      The truth is that most businesses that have had success with Facebook marketing are B2C. That's the point behind this blog post. Many B2B companies experimenting with Facebook marketing are getting limited, if any tangible results.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • FindandConvert

    Gerry,
    I understand your point about the decision process used by many businesses. And, I agree that too many businesses don't approach the decision properly. I still argue though that often, B2B businesses will not gain much value from Facebook because often their customers don't want to engage them there, at least not to the same level of B2B intimacy as in other media channels, social or otherwise.

    Enjoying the discussion…
    Bernie

  • @gpraysman

    Emma,

    I think you make a fair point. I do believe though that the marketing team at Boeing had a sit down and really weighed out the pros and cons of using Facebook for their brand. This is really what my blog post was going for. I'm not really trying to argue for or against Facebook. More than anything, I'm criticizing the decision-making process that I'm seeing many marketers use in regards to it. It's really about understanding your marketing goals and then understanding what it really takes a achieve an effective Facebook presence. Your point about Facebook being more impactful for smaller brands trying to create a presence and culture is good too, although I have seen some powerhouse brands use it effectively as well, such as Salesforce.

    It's not a black and white decision. It should never just be reduced to B2B versus B2C.

    Thanks a lot for your comment.

  • @PluggedInLawyer

    I'm a business professional and I still find myself incredibly resistant to seeing business "stuff" when I jump on to Facebook. On the other hand, more and more business content is going there and I worry that I might be missing something with my resistance. That, in a nutshell, is why I can't wait for Google+ to overtake FB, so I can set up channels to segregate all my hats on one platform. With luck, we'll find your conversation to be moot in another year. =-)

    • FindandConvert

      In my opinion your first sentiment (about being resistant to business) stuff is more prevalent than your second sentiment about concern over missing stuff. As marketers we pay much closer attention to all social media. But, if you're trying to reach other lawyers (B2B) are they ready and willing to connect on Facebook to talk law talk with you?

      If the answer is yes, then I say do it. If the answer is no, then don't waste time trying to meet your community where they don't want to meet you and jump over to LinkedIn or an industry specific community.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • @gpraysman

    Touche Tracy.

    You certainly aren't alone when it comes to people who prefer keeping business and Facebook separate. I think this is why it's particularly important for brands to create a presence that doesn't make it's community feel like it's part of an email list and more a part of a culture. (This is why I argue against auto-posting.)

    But I've taken an interest to your point about Google+.

    Honestly, I'm not sure we can all bank on G+ overtaking Facebook. I don't know if it's powerful enough to knock Facebook off its feet, at least as it stands today. I'll give credit where credit is due and say that their record-breaking growth is nothing short of remarkable, but is Google+ really delivering enough value to cause a wide-scale migration?

    I for one have a Google+ account, but I have to admit that there's nothing there that's pulling me away from my Facebook. In fact, the only activity I've had to date is a couple +1's and a comment I made on someone else's thread. According to the article, this is above average activity. Are you using it more regularly?

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