Asked on LinkedIn: Has anyone had success using social media to market B2B?

The business-to-business versus business-to-consumer dichotomy can be a bit of a trap when thinking about social media. To achieve a critical mass of participation on a social media site, you need to be drawing on a potential audience of tens of thousands, ideally at least hundreds of thousands; this will be rapidly narrowed by the relatively small percentage who are interested in checking out any social media presence, let alone actively contributing to one. There are very few business niches in which you have a large enough, or techie enough, audience to achieve that necessary critical mass.
What social media CAN do for B2B is provide businesses with what they’re really after: customers. If you’re in a B2B market and want to win your customers’ hearts (and accounts), the best thing you can do for them is create a compelling B2C site that provides them a way of reaching their customers.

Think of your social media presence as a party: you’re inviting lots of pretty people (the end customers), who in turn will bring in lots of smart/rich people (your customers).

This is not a new play for a B2B markets. Lots of companies host events or create offerings that appeal to “regular” end customers, as a way of building brand, trust and relationships with the businesses that want to serve those same customers.

What’s an example of a successful B2B project, masquerading as B2C? You’re looking at one. Think LinkedIn is making its nickels off of you, the lowly end customer? No — you’re just one of the pretty people (really!) that LinkedIn has marketed to, as a way of appealing to its real customers: the companies that recruit and market to professionals.

Last night I went on one of my periodic LinkedIn answering binges. Since LinkedIn doesn’t provide me with a way of directly aggregating my own answers back onto our site (!!) I’m manually posting my answers back to this site.