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Social in B2B.

The B2B Marketing seminar on ‘Exploiting Social in B2B Marketing’ was an eye-opener. For a start the Century Club was rammed.

It may not be the panacea of the B2B world, but nor is it the dirty word(s) of just a few years ago. I have the impression we’ve successfully managed to flip a very impressive bird at the traditionalists who have been hoping that it would all just go away because they had a pressing lithograph issue to deal with down at the typesetter’s.

So I had a hot ticket, I was dressed up all like my dad with a suit and everything and I waited to be enlightened. And then I wasn’t. Perhaps I already knew more than I was giving myself credit for.

I’m new to the social space. A curmudgeonly old fart, much like myself, is inclined to recoil from the word ‘social’ as Count Dracula might from a tended bowl of Penne Arrabiata and garlic bread. So I’ve avoided it whilst the geeks and propeller-heads have filled their boots. But now it’s my turn.

Firstly, there is, so far, little in the way of specialist B2B expertise in the field – decent case studies are still hard to find. The lack of understanding of the B2B sensibilities became apparent at the event when the age-old difference between B2B v B2C was raised as a defining measure of social credibility.

In the social world there is no difference between business and consumer. We are all people. Apparently.

Utter bollocks of course. I’ve spent decades making a passable living from knowing the differences between businesses, consumers, business people acting as consumers and consumer’s behaviours in business. I’m acutely aware that deep down ‘we’re all consumers’ but in the social space we are absofackinlutely not all the same. I’m still more than a little upset that this regressive step was the entry point to the afternoon’s festivities and the subject stumbled into the post-event discussions on Twitter. There was a room packed with well over a hundred people from the B2B marketing fraternity and, whether client or agency, the common denominator was everyone seeking a business model for social activities. Whether the model was to be experimental or commercial was uncertain, but we were all there as B2B specialists (knowing that we’re different from B2C) and we were being told we can use these tools in the same way a consumer does. That, in my humble opinion, is less than helpful. The social model I will be employing will focus on the differences of the business audience and their specific business needs not the commonality. But maybe that’s just me.

We certainly have a new set of weapons in the armoury. Tools. Social tools. And we haven’t had a new set of clothes on the B2B circuit for as long as I can remember. That’s pretty exciting, right?

We’ve had the web evolution in the last decade which has certainly changed marketing behaviour, but it has, until now, been a comparatively slow evolution, providing little more than online versions of offline thinking. The advent of social media is the evolutionary leap that will hopefully get us all down from the trees. It was mostly agencies patronising this event and I’m not sure if that means the client’s haven’t ‘got it’ yet or if the agencies are trying to keep up – either way, it’s on the agenda. That’s hugely exciting from where I’m sitting. The power has shifted from the corporate propaganda machine to the selective conversations that the customers are prepared to engage with. How’re we going to handle all that then?

I have no idea. Actually, I have several ideas – you can read them on my blog, you can watch the video, you can see the pictures, you can listen to the webcast, you can even shape my thoughts directly on Twitter. The truth, however, is they’re your ideas. Yep, I admit, I’m prepared to listen to what you want. Tell me that’s not exciting.

Scot McKee