Social media is driving a fundamental change in the way in which businesses engage with consumers.

A glance at the statistics is all you need to appreciate the remarkable and seemingly unstoppable force that social media has become: 100 million connected on LinkedIn, 1,200 tweets per second, 700 billion minutes spent on Facebook, in any given month.

The growing commercialisation of what were originally intended as personal social platforms has seen ad spend on social media sites grow by more than 200 percent over the last year, according to a recent report by PwC.

E-commerce via social websites looks set to follow a similar growth path, with global names like Coca Cola and Disney adopting a ‘social shopping’ presence.

Facebook to the fore

Heading the commercial revolution is social networking giant, Facebook, whose current unrivalled dominance has resulted in the coining of the term ‘F-commerce’, which itself is a market forecast to reach $30 billion globally by 2015. Certainly, the evidence suggests that the business-to-consumer (B2C) market is seizing every opportunity to hone in on the commercial opportunities afforded by social media platforms, with many now integrating these channels within their marketing mix. At the same time, the impressive figures have not gone unnoticed by business-to-business (B2B) marketers, who are quickly wising up to the potential value of social media as a commercial platform. In this dynamic environment however, and one in which Facebook has been propelled to major commercial platform status, some crucial questions remain from a B2B perspective:

  • Is Facebook, a name synonymous with personal not professional networking, really a suitable platform for supporting B2B ambitions?
  • If so, how can B2B players emulate the success of B2C players in harnessing the power of this medium most effectively?

Some practical tips for B2B facebooking

The debate continues to rage on internet forums as to the ROI that could be realised via B2B investment in social media platforms such as Facebook. What is clear is that ‘social business’ has the potential to boost more conventional campaigns, provided it is in keeping with the nature of the platform – i.e. social – and integrated seamlessly within the overall PR and marketing strategy.

With this in mind, here is a best practise guide to B2B Facebooking:

  1. Map out a clear direction from the onset – Facebook’s features, such as Places and Deals, might be ideal for a consumer market but are of little value to business clients. Instead, a B2B Facebook campaign should incorporate business elements with a social twist. Microsoft’s Facebook page is a good example of this, encouraging interaction via recent event photos and new product demonstration clips.
  2. Adopt a personal touch – Social media is not only about showcasing the progress of your business, but giving it a human face (a factor all too often overlooked). Adding the personal touch with a carefully considered campaign is essential on Facebook, particularly as it is still primarily perceived as a social site. Real-time interaction with fans opens up the opportunity for discussion, as well as providing a platform to demonstrate yourself as a thought leader in your space. Dell’s business page is a good example of this, directly engaging with its fans’ wall posts and encouraging interaction with business polls and webinars.
  3. Keep content fresh and engaging – Encouraging fans to engage with your business should be at the core of your social media campaign. Not only must content be relevant, but updated regularly in order to attract fans and populate your page. With 500 million active users, the chances are your business targets are on Facebook, but ill-fitting and/or overly promotional content may be considered an infringement on their ‘downtime’. Keep to these basic guidelines and, at the very least, a Facebook presence can increase your brand visibility, customer engagement and earn you more face time with customers.

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