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Social Media for Consumer vs. B2B: Three Fundamental Differences

I guest-wrote this post for Deirdre Breakenridge, and it was originally published on her blog PR Expanded.  Click there and check out her site as well! Thanks again to Deirdre for this opportunity to share and collaborate!

As with any other tactic in our PR arsenal, social media can help us make waves for our clients. Most of the work I’ve seen profiled in best practices, case studies, award entries, panel discussions and other channels has been consumer-facing – as in work done by companies or agencies to advance the agenda of a B2C company or a consumer product (Oreo, Dove or Skittles anyone?). But there’s plenty of quality work in the B2B realm as well. Most of the time, you just have to look a little harder for it.

There are some fundamental differences in how social tactics are applied in the two arenas, which I think is only right given that they contain different kinds of organizations with differing agendas and audiences. Here are some of the biggest distinctions I’ve seen:

  1. Consumer-facing voices tend to be louder, energetic, more flashy and sometimes more controversial. B2B voices, on the other hand, are generally plainer and more understated. But don’t confuse this with weak; in both arenas, quality social media voices can be found all over the place, and the meek are quickly overwhelmed by the strong.
  2. Calls to Action. In B2C social media, you see a lot of product and brand-oriented calls to action. Enjoy our experience…buy our product…come to our event. In the B2B space, most calls to action try to get audience and community members to visit a website to read a blog post, download a collateral item or sign up for something. It’s about information sharing first, and experiences and purchases second – which I think is an interesting microcosm of the differences in audience buying cycles in the two arenas.
  3. B2C social channels use a ton of video, images and other media channels. Moreover, B2C companies are very often the earliest adopters of emerging technologies, and you see them pushing the envelope all the time to try to gain a competitive edge. B2B companies, on the other hand, are starting to understand the value of sharing media in social channels. I still see a lot of text-only posts, but wiser companies are integrating screen grabs and creating eye-catching creative – if not even more.

After reading about these variations, you might draw the conclusion that B2C social media – and maybe B2C PR in general – is sexier and more fun. Depending on who you are and what you value, you might be right. But I’m here to tell you that B2B PR can be plenty fun and interesting too. More on that in a future post.

What else have you seen in terms of differences in social approaches?

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