Marketing

Selling to Businesses? Don’t Bother with Facebook

If your target audience is businesses, my advice is: Don’t bother with Facebook.

Social media is huge in marketing circles these days.  All kinds of companies are experimenting with blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and many of other new channels.  Everyone else is feeling sheepish, and worried about missing the boat, or looking like a Luddite.

There are plenty of useful social media tools for B2B marketers, but Facebook is not one of them.  Here’s my case:

  • It’s the wrong environment. Facebook has been wildly successful in opening itself up beyond the college crowd.  I give them a lot of credit for broadening their business model, and in the process marginalizing MySpace, their once-dominant competitor.  But to anyone who has a child under 30 years old, it’s painfully obvious:  Facebook is still a rollicking consumer environment, for personal messaging, versus professional networking.
  • It’s a time suck. Maybe very large enterprises have the resources to feed the Facebook beast, but for most companies, the ROI just isn’t there.  It’s tough enough to keep up with LinkedIn, and your corporate blog, where you can actually establish thought leadership and join conversations with confidence.
  • It’s an inefficient lead generator. Facebook is a “pull” medium, where marketers can post their stuff—press releases, videos, product announcements, staff party photos—and hope that people drop by.  The only way to “push” is by generating “likes,” to whose walls your posts will be fed.  These fans are likely to be a good quality bunch, but it’s difficult to scale.  You can also advertise, but the targeting options are limited.

I’ve heard a few compelling arguments for Facebook in the B2B world.  Paul Dunay recommends Facebook as a good “listening platform,” where businesses can do market research and get an early bead on customer service problems.  I get this.  In his book The Digital Handshake, Paul Chaney suggests that a business’s Facebook Public Profile has the advantage of being indexed by search engines, which can drive higher rankings for the firm.

Clearly, for certain businesses, being on Facebook does have value.  If you sell products or services that cross B2B and B2C—like Office Depot or CDW —then a brand presence on Facebook serves your world well.

The more common argument t says that Facebook is just another touch, and any medium offering free access to 600 million individuals should not be ignored.  There have to be business buyers somewhere in that pile, right?  Well, certainly.  And it is “free,” after all, except for the time—and the risk—involved.

I’d rather reach business buyers where they work, or at least where their children are not behaving badly.  A client of mine who upgrades industrial boilers to convert wasted energy into electricity asked me about Facebook recently.  For him, I recommend a more targeted, business-like environment like Linkedin or an IEEE working group.

Put Facebook at the bottom of your B2B social media to-do list.


Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/stoneysteiner/

Category: Marketing

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Avatar About the Author: Ruth P. Stevens
  1. Ruth – You are dead wrong.  I would more closely examine the TONS of b2b businesses on Facebook.  We have 48,000 fans and we are B2B, look at Intel, American Express…  My advice to you is don’t follow your own advice 🙂

    • Ruth thanks for your point of view but I think i’d have to agree with Mike. Socialmediaexaminer.com is a great example of a company who engages the B2B audience on Facebook and provides a service to them. Facebook can be used as a lead generator it just has to be used correctly – also advertising on Facebook is very effective and more targeted than almost any other online advertising bc you can target by psychographic data. To the time suck point- yes social media does take time and resources but you can establish thought leadership through Facebook and have conversations with your audience a lot of the times in a much more engaging manner than you would get on a corporate blog or on LinkedIn. The key to marketing B2B on Facebook is knowing your audience and knowing how to provide value to them through this medium- if you can do this correctly then sales or leads will come naturally.

      • Ruth

        July 9, 2011 at 8:43 pm

        Thanks to you both for your comments.  I agree that FB can be effective with the right audiences.  The reason I wrote the (admittedly controversial–and certainly debatable) article is to help B2B companies that are struggling with how to develop a reasonable social media strategy.  There are so many options out there: Where to begin?, they say.   My aim to to help them prioritize.  And I’d still argue that a blog, and tweets to annouce blog posts, plus well-crafted landing pages are the best place to start in social media for B2B. 

        • Cbernard

          July 11, 2011 at 9:11 pm

          I think it depends on your audience, and is also about presence and culture.  We have been perceived as a fun, active, engaging company based on several likes and comments that we have received.  I don’t view facebook as a real business generation medium though.
          Charles Bernard

    • Ruth thanks for your point of view but I think i’d have to agree with Mike. Socialmediaexaminer.com is a great example of a company who engages the B2B audience on Facebook and provides a service to them. Facebook can be used as a lead generator it just has to be used correctly – also advertising on Facebook is very effective and more targeted than almost any other online advertising bc you can target by psychographic data. To the time suck point- yes social media does take time and resources but you can establish thought leadership through Facebook and have conversations with your audience a lot of the times in a much more engaging manner than you would get on a corporate blog or on LinkedIn. The key to marketing B2B on Facebook is knowing your audience and knowing how to provide value to them through this medium- if you can do this correctly then sales or leads will come naturally.

  2. Gil Fishman

    July 11, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Ruth – I agree with your comments.
    I find Facebook to be the least popular medium for trying to generate leads or new appointments.
    New business starts with promoting and developing sustainable relationships. For me, FB is too social and LinkedIn has proven to be a successful touch to my current business partners and others that I might want to service by offering solutions to their growing list of specific needs.

  3. I agree that Facebook is a given on B2C.   I also agree FB is the biggest time suck since IT departments began pulling solitaire off of new installs.

    And B2G is an absolute waste of time on Facebook or in most social media channels.

    But B2B?   It’s certainly not our top priority with clients or for ourselves.  But every client needs to be on there at some point, especially our smallest business clients.  This is where informal testimonials happen.   It’s also a place where you can look at the type of folks liking the page and get a look at how the company operates in yet another channel.  

    Is the page dead?  If it’s not dead, is the company trying to engage customers and prospects and missing?   If the company has steady engagement and looks to be a resource, then why would we want to limit exposure.  I think there is a syndication route that runs from Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn with different audiences at each step.   We set up different loops and set different messages through them.   

    We may see immediate feedback on Facebook in terms of comments or likes, but every so often, I’ll hear that a client mentioned reading the company’s latest blog or position on a news event in their Linked In feed. 

    That’s heady stuff!

  4. Jim Lerose

    September 17, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Ruth, Facebook just hired a new COO, a very impressive woman with an impressive resume working with Google. Her dream is to get every small business in the world to grow their businesses, you guessed it, using Facebook.  I personally do not like using Facebook and don’t really understand why people spend so much time on it. I use Linked in for business and Facebook for personal. Crossing the two is akin to the Amway model which drives me crazy.  The last thing I want to do is discuss business with my friends and family. Is that a good analogy? Your comments above seem spot on.  We’ll see how this plays out!  Please write more!
    Jim L

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