Social Media Etiquette in the B2B Marketplace

When brand equity trumps your impulses

These days the tweet is ruling the news cycle. But B2B businesses do not have the freedom to speak our minds without consequences on Twitter and other social platforms. Setting a businesslike tone that builds your brand; is not too “cutesy” or stridently salesy; and is consistently pleasant to encounter requires planning and consistency. Here are five areas to watch to make sure that you are following social media etiquette in the B2B marketplace.

1) Bump up Your Brand. Start with your branding. This will not only inform what you’re posting, but who you reach out to, and why. It’s poor form and poor brand management to silently friend and follow without telling people why—it could be as simple as “I liked your photos” to “we went to the same college” to “it looks like your company might need our services and I wanted to say hi but don’t worry, you won’t hear from me again.”

The other thing to do to protect brand equity and avoid potential gaffes? Don’t go somewhere you don’t belong. Most B2B widget makers don’t belong on Pinterest (but fabric softener companies selling to consumers and recipes most assuredly do). And if a huge prospect or big client accidentally finds you there, they’re going to think, “Why?” and assume you’ve got bad judgment. The one exception I’ve run into was when we were doing content work for a firm marketing a wholesale website to professional interior designers and architects. Those folks are on Pinterest sourcing materials so our client needed to be in that community, too.

2) Right Speech. Watch your tone! Each platform has its own “personality” as digital marketing guru and one of my favs, Jeff Bullas says. Whereas a Facebook post might be friendly and frank, LinkedIn might have a denser look, feel and more formal tone. Make sure yours matches the platform or you risk looking foolish or worse, careless. I don’t know about you, but that’s a scary word for me when it comes to potential business partners!

3) Bad Robot! If you’re using Hootsuite or Buffer, you may be tempted to automate everything, posting the same stuff at the same cadence for all of your platforms. Then you can check “social media” off your list for the day, right? On some platforms, you will look ridiculous posting something that fits right in on another—on others, you will look positively deranged if you post too often. “Just because you’ve created the accounts doesn’t necessarily mean the followers will come flocking to you. There’s a lot more work to do…you want to be very cautious about what gets shared on which accounts.” Bullas notes.

4) Converse Like Humans. Stop broadcasting and start discussing stuff with your social media communities. These cohorts are so jaded and overwhelmed, if they bother engaging with you, you’d better answer (reply to comments) fast! Return the favor later in the week by retweeting, commenting or sharing something of theirs. Maybe get on their website and pull some of their content for your followers. And by all means, don’t start a conversation and drop it. That’s like someone turning their back on you during a chat at a cocktail party. It doesn’t feel too great and its bad manners.

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5) Me, me, me. You can’t talk about yourself and sell to prospects in every single post. That’s one of the rudest and most obvious things that I see B2B accounts do when they’re trying to build a social presence. They know they have to be there and they figure, “Hey, let me hawk this while I am at it.” Get out there in your industry and find cool stuff and share it. Duh.

“Before you post, tweet, or share anything, think about how others might interpret it – will it be perceived as insightful and informative, or crass and boring…the 4-1-1 rule, which was developed for Twitter, but can be applied to other platforms, is a good template for engagement. The idea is that every time you post something that’s “all about you,” you share at least four pieces of content written by someone else,” said Brian Martucci writing for Money Crashers.

We have all seen many more social media blunders than I have time to mention here. As a B2B business owner myself, I know it’s all too easy to post before pondering—but what I think is fun and harmless in an attempt to humanize my Twitter account might seem jarring to my potential clients, partners, and industry colleagues. My company has a proven and measured social media audit and planning process we use to make sure we’re all enjoying each other’s company on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere. You can always reach me for more, or PM me, if you please. @pattytomsky

Patty Tomsky

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