Forget about the social graph, social search or any other product-related feature, there is a more important issue to consider when it comes to Facebook: is there a compelling reason for B2B companies to use it as a marketing tool? I’ve seen other posts on this topic, and they tend to say that FB makes sense because of the number of people using it or the time users actively spend in it. But all of this is pointless until the following question is answered – are the buyers of B2B products and services going to interact with product/service vendors on Facebook. To be clear, I’m not asking if potential buyers use Facebook, because undoubtedly with +1 billion users, they are there. Instead, the question is more of why people use Facebook.
At this point, let me disclose that I am an occasional Facebook participant. More importantly, though, I draw a clear line between the personal and professional aspects of my life. For me, Facebook is a way to interact with friends and family, to see what is going on in their lives and (when I’m inclined) to share information on what is happening in my family’s life. I do not mix work into my Facebook posts, and from what I see from my connections neither do they. I use other social tools (Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.) for work-related activities, and I never use Facebook to find out about companies that I want to buy from or partner with.
Given this perspective, why would you want to use Facebook to find potential customers if your company has a B2B sales model? Well, for one, I could be the exception instead of the rule – it is likely that many people do not consciously segregate their personal and professional lives in the social mediaverse. In addition, there are a couple strong arguments for why a company with a B2B sales model would want to use Facebook.
- Humanizing the brand. In a Dec 2012 blog post on this same topic by Ben Pickering of Strutta, he included a quote from Ekaterina Walter of Intel that basically says Facebook provides them with a way to interact with people who use products that contain Intel technology. Facebook is not being used as a way to find people who will buy directly from Intel, but is about connecting with end-consumers at a more personal level. Large companies such as Intel, IBM and GE have been doing brand marketing for years through traditional media and sponsorships, so Facebook is an extension to these efforts and gives them an easy way to push content directly to consumers.
- One less form to complete. In the never-ending quest to collect information on prospective customers, companies put a lot of content behind registration pages. This can be a disincentive for many people, as they just do not want to fill out yet another registration form. There are a number of social login applications (Gigya, Janrain, etc.) that authenticate using Facebook credentials. This allows the person requesting the content access it without having to fill out a registration form, and their profile information is then available for adding to the company’s CRM database.
- Gather feedback from existing customers. There are also several Facebook apps to gather survey feedback and comments, and many companies are testing the water to see if Facebook can become an effective platform as a user community site. The one issue with this is that it cannot be managed to the same degree as a stand-alone user community site…it is available for anyone to see, join, comment, etc.
Unfortunately, many B2B companies create a Facebook page without any strategy or plan. Don’t just create a page “because we need to be on Facebook”, otherwise you will end up disappointed with the lack of results and probably just stop doing anything with it. Just like a corporate website or blog, a Facebook page needs to be cultivated and needs to provide a reason for people to go to it/like it.