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Is B2B Social Media Marketing Behind B2C?

The Perception

There seems to be a general perception that social media is better suited for B2C versus B2B marketing.  This view is supported by a general lack of easily accessible social media success stories in the B2B space; on the Internet and at conferences.  But it is a misconception.

The Reality

Without a doubt, there are countless impressive B2C success stories, including the funny Bodyform video created in response to a disgruntled Facebook post, and the successful OldSpice video campaign. But social media is also extensively and successfully in use for B2B marketing. We simply might not hear about it as much because the examples are not as entertaining.

B2B social media is best suited to generate awareness.  To just pick a few examples, social media can help build thought leadership, increase the reach of events, or strengthen your brand. But social media can also foster action and engagement. Used right, the social tool kit can help you leverage advocates and influencers to spread your message, generate content for you, and even generate leads.

When a B2C campaign goes viral, you are likely to hear about it. When a Global 2000 company manages to increase reach, action, and engagement with their target audience, they either keep it quiet, as a competitive advantage, or it simply is not an entertaining enough story to get much coverage.

The B2B vs. B2C Marketing Difference

B2B marketing often requires a different approach than B2C marketing, mostly due to the difference in sales cycles. The B2B sales cycle is generally more complex and of a higher dollar value; and the purchase decision is less emotional.

For example, my co-author Michael Procopio writes in our upcoming book “42 Rules for B2B Social Media Marketing”: “A car is the most complex thing I buy in my personal life, and yet it seems very manageable. When buying the car, I do all the research on a few web sites, check with some friends on Facebook, and then finalize my decision with a test drive. My choice is as much emotional as based on facts. Once I pick what I want, I just need to get my better half to okay the purchase. Done.”

In B2B, on the other hand – especially with increasing deal size - multiple people with potentially different pain points need to agree to the purchase. And, the sales cycle typically runs several months with different stakeholders participating at different points in the process.  Unlike selling a piece of consumer electronics, many people can say "no," and the "wow, this is cool" factor is minimized by the many meetings to discuss the purchase.

B2B vs. B2C Social Media Tactics

B2B marketers have a smaller set of social media marketing tactics available than B2C folks, and generating immediate sales from a great campaign is rare.

Some social media sites have higher success rates for B2C than B2B marketing and vice versa. For example, Facebook has been most successful for B2C in terms of lead generation. This is true to a large degree because B2C marketing can provide instant discounts and offers that do not make sense for the sale of complex B2B products to large corporations.  Conversely, LinkedIn is one of the most successful sites for B2B social media marketing but is not used much for B2C.

It has become common knowledge  - under the term pull marketing – that the majority of B2B buyers search for a solution online instead of waiting to be contacted.  Social media can play a key role in improving the “findability” of your information.  Fact is, as confirmed by the  2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, that “those investing a minimum of 6 hours per week in social media marketing saw improvements in search engine rankings. Marketers selling to other businesses were more likely to achieve this benefit (59%) than those selling to consumers (50%). “

What B2B and B2C have in Common

It is equally difficult for B2C and B2B marketers to create a viral video. According to Chris Wilson in an article in Slate “you might have better odds playing the lottery than of becoming a viral video sensation. “

What is also common between B2B and B2C marketing is that both must create and frequently update compelling content, focus on engagement, and interact directly with their audience to be successful. The main difference in B2B is that you must think about the overall sales cycle, who is involved, and how to address each individual's needs with the right content at the right time.

I think there is no doubt that there is a lack of available B2B social media use cases. The upcoming book “42 Rules for B2B Social Media Marketing” (due in December) is hoping to close that gap.

Join The Conversation

  • THINK_Lyndon's picture
    Jan 10 Posted 4 years ago THINK_Lyndon

    Hi Stephen,

    It's nice to hear somebody else saying this!  I wrote a post about what I've called 'false experts' you might enjoy it!.

    Have a great day, Lyndon



  • THINK_Lyndon's picture
    Jan 10 Posted 4 years ago THINK_Lyndon

    Thanks Natascha - it's an interesting piece.  One of the best I've read about the differences between B2B and B2C social media marketing.

    I don't think that B2B and B2C social media marketing should be compared in that way [one ahead of the other] because how social media is used as part of a wider marketing strategy and will vary by product, market, company and audience.  

    There are examples of good and bad in both B and C.  Some B2B campaigns I've seen are better than the majority of B2C campaigns - they just don't [generally] have the exposure of consumer social media marketing activity.

    Best wishes, Lyndon

  • Stephen Tamlin's picture
    Jan 9 Posted 4 years ago Stephen Tamlin

    Thanks very much for the kind words Natascha.

    What I'm finding is that for our target market (SME's in the UK) there are a lot of companies out there who sell themselves as 'experts' and have a one size fits all approach. Each business has different needs, we believe at Branching Out Europe online marketing needs to be individual for each client.

    And no Branching Out Europe has no affiliation with the BranchOut FB app thankfully. And I'll have a look at that book, I'm sure it's full of lots of good advice!




  • MarketingXLerator's picture
    Jan 8 Posted 4 years ago MarketingXLerator

    Thanks Stephen:

    very nice of you to say.

    I tell people, if you hire a consultant and they call themselves guru or even expert: RUN!
    At this point, we are all still learning and things change every day.

    I learn something new every single time I talk to people like you and other social media practitioners.

    Branching Out Europe sounds like a great company (initially, I thought you were afficilated with "BranchOut" a FB app I despise as it shares information of your FRIENDS, if you use it.

    Your offering sounds good and you obviously have integrity!

    Warm regards,

    PS: In case you'd like to check out my new book:

  • Stephen Tamlin's picture
    Jan 8 Posted 4 years ago Stephen Tamlin

    That Blog post is very funny, especially like the video.  The results in the article are scary though! I don't think you can call yourself a 'guru' within anything in life, it's the kind of thing someone else says about you. I think you're right we seem to share similar views.

    I studied business in a pretty good university and I've been working in online marketing for about 6 months, I work hard every day for my company and our clients. I try to take in as much information as possible, learning from others, trying things, measuring my efforts and learning from them. I can say I do understand how Social Media can be of a commercial benefit for businesses, but I am far from an expert. And would never call myself a 'Guru'.

    Something I can never understand is the stock 'We will get you 500 follower for £xx'. ' we will get 500 likes on your facebook page'. To me this is not business, this has no commercial value to anyone surely? You need to take each project individually, work out objectives and then work backwards,

    What's comforting though is that there are so many people like yourself that post fantastic content online and allow others to learn from their experiences, and you’ll find these are the people that don’t need to call themselves experts, because others do!


  • MarketingXLerator's picture
    Jan 8 Posted 4 years ago MarketingXLerator


    as we seem to share very similar views on social media, here a funny article about the abuse of the word expert and guru in social media :-):



  • Stephen Tamlin's picture
    Jan 8 Posted 4 years ago Stephen Tamlin

    This is another thing that I do not understand Natascha is that people are very free with proclaiming the importance of Social Media but are very unwilling to give away real hard data.

    I should explain that I know 5% to 50% is a big increase in terms of LinkedIn referral traffic, however it was very low beforehand in terms of the nominal numbers and I would not expect a similar increase over the next few months. From a standing start if you will though there is clear benefits with engaging online.

    That's what I mean about using Social Media for research. Finding those that are influencers and engaging with them can be done with Social Media, and the Ice example is proof of it.

    Looking forward to your next article Natascha, always have very good advice and opinions within Social Media.


  • MarketingXLerator's picture
    Jan 7 Posted 4 years ago MarketingXLerator


    I fully agree that communities are valuable for B2B marketing. Big branded ones as well as niche ones, depending on your offering.

    Do you have a URL for BNI? I get a lot of returns when I Google it.




  • MarketingXLerator's picture
    Jan 7 Posted 4 years ago MarketingXLerator


    thanks for taking the time to comment.

    The ice example is also a great example for influencer engagement. Rally your fans to get the word out. The most promising way to go viral.

    Your LinkedIn example is impressive. Many have a gut feeling but there seem to be free hard numbers, so thanks for sharing that.

    Wishing you a great 2013,



  • Stephen Tamlin's picture
    Jan 7 Posted 4 years ago Stephen Tamlin

    I agree with you Natasha, the general perception I find talking to potential cients is that B2C is far more suited to Social Media.

    You're right it depends on what you are looking to achieve. I keep usiing Hubspot as a B2B online marketing model of best practise. Like Hubspot using great content + social Media engagement can drive traffic to your site, and your site should be optimised to genereate leads, or at least a way to start a conversation.

    I know the value that LinkedIn has. When I started at Branching Out Europe google accounted for about 80% of traffic to our website, whilst LinkedIn accounted for about 5%. By just engaging in conversations within groups, and giving good and valuable advice traffic from LinkedIn alone now accounts for around 50% of our website visits. This increase was seen withing one month of activity, So there clearly is value for B2B in socia media marketing.

    Here's a great example of how Social Media can be used:


    What's particularly interesting in this case is how Scotsman Ice used social media for research as well as their campaign.




  • Kent Ong's picture
    Jan 6 Posted 4 years ago Kent Ong

    Hi Natascha, Linkedin is definitely good for B2B. There are many B2B social networking sites as well. Some of them are closed, e.g Business Networking International has its own B2B social networking site.

  • sociallygold's picture
    Jan 6 Posted 4 years ago sociallygold

    Great article. I find it stifeling that businesses don't have a B2B social media strartegy, which hinders my B2B strategy. Like you said, I do it to increase Search Engine Rankings and to make my content more available. 

    Businesses want social media to correlate to sales, but that can't be the focus. Once they realize that it is best used as an extension of the business, sales will come from friends of engaged fans over time. 

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