social media

B2C brands are struggling with social media.

Maybe that’s not entirely fair. There are certainly exceptions to that opinion—mostly in large enterprise B2C companies that seem to “get it” when it comes to social media marketing.

To understand where we are, it helps to have a clear understanding of the past: It used to be that B2C and B2B were very different animals. Different tactics, different approaches. Then we collectively decided that B2B should feel more like B2C – after all we realized, at the end of the day, we’re all consumers.

But the tables have since turned. And that means, especially when it comes to social media, B2C companies should be taking a page from B2B companies’ social strategies.

Connect before…

In addition to being a mom of three kids, I’m also stepmom to two. One piece of advice I heard early on was to “connect before correct.” Meaning, you don’t get to offer advice or correct a stepchild’s behavior until you’ve connected on a personal level. Until you’ve built trust. B2B companies killing it in social media know this – first you must connect with a prospect before you can correct behavior or offer advice. Once you connect on LinkedIn, you start conversations, share helpful content, maybe set up an in-person meeting. As long as you can bring value, and create a stronger relationship, you can earn business and even loyalty.

B2B companies seem to have mastered the game on Twitter and LinkedIn. Let’s say you go to a networking happy hour event. You meet someone who might be a great vendor, partner, or contractor. Ten years ago, you’d exchange business cards. Today, you’d say “look me up on LinkedIn.” You connect. Then you share something useful. You like a post, or comment on an article they share. Then you message the person, invite them for coffee or lunch. Talk business, get to know each other.

B2C brands can do this on Facebook or Instagram. Much the same way, you don’t just start asking strangers to follow your brand on Facebook or IG. You have to have a reason for doing so. You meet them somewhere – at your brick and mortar store, on your website, or at an event. Maybe they tag you on Facebook because they bought your product. Or share a picture of themselves on vacation wearing one of your t-shirts, or enjoying a massage at your spa. That’s…

a connection.

a networking happy hour.

permission for you to reach out and introduce your brand on a personal level.

Thank them for the mention. Tell them you appreciate them. Invite them to follow you on Facebook. Or Instagram. Or whatever. Make them feel special by creating a customized reactive post. That’s the LinkedIn equivalent of commenting on the article they share. Now, you have to develop and grow that relationship. So, you answer their questions, send them an offline gift, perhaps. Begin to blur the lines by inviting them to a local event, or to a special online sale.

Four steps to stronger social media engagement:

  1. Listen. Use listening tools to find conversations happening in social media around your brand. Good or bad, you want to know what people are saying, what questions they are asking – and not just about your brand, but also about the products or services you provide, in general.
  2. Respond. Answer their questions and comment on their posts – not in a public post, but in a direct reply to that follower.
  3. Get reactive. Know who your strongest engagers are, and go out of your way to thank them and make them feel special. Create a customized reactive post with a custom image. Consumers like to feel heard, respected and understood. Going out of your way makes them feel valued, and they’ll be likely to share that post, and continue being engaged in the future. They’ll also remember your brand when they are in need of your products or services.
  4. Take it offline. Begin blurring the lines between your virtual relationship with followers and your real world one. Send them a gift, invite them to a VIP event. Ask for their opinion. The more touchpoints you can create with them, the stronger your relationship and the greater their loyalty.

These four steps will help you to drive engagement, traffic and, eventually, sales.

Tracking is key.

In B2B, we can track closing a deal all the way back to the first meeting – that connection on LinkedIn. But in B2C? We can’t seem to track it. We aren’t sure whether any sales are coming from those “anonymous leads” on social platforms.

Guess what? They’re not anonymous.

I worked with a media company who insisted that email marketing was far better than social media marketing because “social media followers are anonymous” while email marketing let you develop a relationship, learn more about them. I disagree. Handled the right way, every single social media friend or follower can become a potential qualified lead. You can – and should – track these relationships. We’re doing it in B2B. There’s no reason we can’t do it in B2C, as well. With the right tools (Sprout Social’s my favorite dashboard for listening, tracking, and gathering insights into our most engaged followers) you absolutely can.

Want to help your SMB create stronger social media relationships that lead to sales?

Let’s connect.

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