If you are not involved in B2B social media marketing, you are missing a huge opportunity, especially as it relates to attracting younger generation customers. 

The upside of getting involved in social media marketing is that doing so is free. The challenge, though, is that it involves a time commitment to do it properly 

How should one start? One-mistake distributors often make when getting involved in social media marketing is using a scattergun approach—trying to do a little bit with a lot of different social media tools. 

The first step, instead, should be to identify and understand the two different audiences for social media. One audience is composed of real people who are viewing it. These are your customers and prospects. The second audience relates to search engine optimization—the robots that index websites and determine how things are available on Google. 

When you post content, you need to post it for both. For example, if your message first emphasizes excellent customer service and that you will answer the phone in three rings. The robot doesn’t know if you’re a flower shop or an industrial distributor. You have to write copy and content for the audience you are trying to reach. However, you can’t write it purely for the robot. It iessential to maintain a balance. 

The next step is to create a database to determine who your customers and prospects are and what their profiles are. Identify which audience segment is using social media. 

You need to remember that there are different age groups in your customer base. For example, the adoption rate for a Gen Y person, who has probably never even seen a rotary phone, is high. Social media is how they get information. 

Identifying your target audience isn’t always easy. For example, the person who is doing the sourcing in a customer or prospect organization usually isn’t the person who signs the purchase orders. It’s probably a young engineer or another young person. As a result, you need to know who these people are and where these people are searching. 

These days, people don’t do business with faceless businesses as much as they may have done in the past. Instead, they do business with other people. It is about relationships. Industrial distribution in specific is about relationships.   

  

WHERE TO START IN SOCIAL MEDIA 

I think the place where most distributors should start with social media is to create LinkedIn profiles. Take the time to do this properly and fill in all the blanks. It can be annoying because it is time-consuming, and it is detailedMoreover, be sure to include a photo with each profileHowever, once you have yourself, your salespeople and your customer service people set up on LinkedIn, you can start to connect with customers. 

After LinkedIn, I believe that YouTube is probably the next best social media tool for an industrial distributor. Customers use YouTube, including on their iPads and iPhones. They can get a lot more information a lot more quickly; they don’t want to have to read a manual. 

One beautiful thing about YouTube is that you usually don‘t have to create your videos. You shoulbe able to get most of the videos from the manufacturers you represent. The more videos your customers begin watching on YouTube, the more opportunities you will have to cross-sell. Besides, you can have your salespeople show the videos to customers on their iPads or iPhonewhen they aron sales calls. By having these videos available on your site, you can take customers and prospectdirectly to your website, rather than having to take them to thmanufacturers’ sites. It is crucial, because the manufacturers may be selling through some of your local competitors, too. 

Markets can vary in terms of who is adopting what, and a lot of thiis through geography. 

For example, urban area customers are more likely to be early adopters of social media technology than customers in rural areas. In urbaareas, for example, you tend to have more Facebook people. However, Twitter is advancing rapidly in the industrial sector. Research says that in the US, the adoption rate of Twitter in industrial states is about twice whait is among young engineers. In other words, this is where young engineers are finding information. It is where they go to the source.   

  

A DIFFERENT KIND OF MARKETING 

If you want to get involved in social media marketing, you need to realize that there is a marketing component and a tech component so that you will require people with marketing experience and people with tech experience. Even this combination may not be enough, in any case. What you need are employees or managers who are well versed in current social media. One of these might be the 23-year old receptionist that you just hired. The thing to be careful of here, though, is that while this person may understand social media, she likely doesn’t yet fully understand your business. 

Another issue to consider in social media marketing is that it is a different kind of marketing beyond just the technical aspects. Traditional marketing involves talking at someone; however, Social media marketing involves communicating with someone. If you try to take a traditional marketing approach with social media marketing and talk at someone, by just blasting out a message, customers will not respond. In social media marketing, the focus is on the conversation. 

In sum, the world is moving ahead, and distributors that fail to catch the train of social media marketing may be successful in retaining their old customersOlder people run the organizations of the latter. However, it is unlikely that they will be able to capture the younger market. Distributors need to take advantagof sociamedia if they want to remain relevant in the marketplace.