B2B Ecommerce and Social Media

Does social media matter to B2B ecommerce?

Consider these statistics:

  • In 2010, every 20 minutes on Facebook there were 1,000,000 shared links; 1,587,000 wall posts; 2,716,000 photos uploaded; and 10,208,000 comments posted. (AllFacebook.com)
  • Since April 2010, Twitter has gained 40 million users and a 62% increase in mobile use of the platform (Source: ClickZ)
  • Number of LinkedIn members worldwide as of January 30, 2011: 101 Million (SlideShare presentation credit: Amodiovalerio Verde.)

Social media is quickly becoming the leading way to interact with B2C ecommerce customers. But does social media marketing matter to B2B companies in the ecommerce space?

Does Facebook matter for B2B ecommerce?

Not yet.

Due to its social nature, Facebook is by far the most popular social media venue for B2C ecommerce companies. Facebook’s primary function is to connect individuals online in a purely social setting that has become a platform for sharing “likes,” status updates, and for online gaming.

In recent years, many B2C brands have developed corporate pages on Facebook in hopes that individual users will “like” them, thereby sharing the brand’s page with their network of friends. This space is dominated by consumer brands with emphasis on the individual, not on a business or group of people as a business entity.

While Facebook is not likely to drive huge amounts of traffic to a B2B company’s website, it is still important to create and maintain a company page on the site. This page serves largely in the capacity of an online billboard—in the event that someone goes looking for your B2B brand on Facebook, you want to make sure they find you and are redirected to your corporate webpage where they can interact with your brand or place online orders. Just make sure to update it regularly—a “dead” Facebook page won’t look good to the consumer!

Does Twitter matter for B2B ecommerce?

Yes and no.

Twitter is a real-time micro-blogging site that is, by nature, rather “noisy” in that you have to be selective in what you tune in to.

First and foremost, Twitter is useful in the B2B space as a way to listen to what the market is saying about your company and your competitors. The drawback is that you might not hear much as a B2B company. Twitter’s use by the B2B community is still developing and so it may not grant immediate access to your customer’s opinion right away. However, it is worth the effort to create and manage a corporate Twitter account as it’s likely to catch on with B2B in the future.

Twitter is also a great way to network with B2B marketing and sales resources as well as with other B2B companies in markets similar to, but not competing with, yours. The relationships you develop with these B2B professionals are probably the most immediate return on investment for developing a Twitter presence and you will find that they are invaluable.

Does LinkedIn matter for B2B ecommerce?

Yes.

Of all the social media venues, LinkedIn provides the greatest opportunity for social media marketing in the world of B2B ecommerce.

As the premiere social media venue for professionals—no lamp-shade-on-the-head-pictures here—LinkedIn offers the opportunity to create a robust company profile as well as network with professionals in your industry or target markets. LinkedIn Groups offer the opportunity to share best practices and ask questions of like minded individuals, fostering an environment of thought leadership and expertise in your industry.

Due to its professional nature, LinkedIn provides opportunities to educate and engage with potential customers in the capacity of a trusted advisor, not as a salesperson. Outright sales pitches are viewed negatively as they feel like SPAM to the recipient. The social media marketing model is about endorsement by friends and trusted colleagues and this is especially true on LinkedIn.

Conclusion

While a B2B company should actively curate a presence on each of the main social media marketing platforms, it is important to remember that the approach and outcomes for each are likely to be different. It is essential to have a company page on Facebook that redirects visitors to your website. Twitter is a listening tool and a way to connect with like-minded B2B professionals. LinkedIn is a great way to consult with potential customers and provide thought leadership, but isn’t a platform for outright selling.

Ready to take your B2B business to the next level? View the on-demand webinar, Ecommerce Best Practices for B2B and B2C.