How B2B companies are using social media to reach customers

by Lee Hopkins on May 2, 2013 · 4 comments

in strategy

Guest post by Simon Salt

 3d social media as concept 

When you read the words “social media” in the context of brands and companies, you likely think of Disney, Pepsi, Marvel or McDonald’s, or any number of other consumer brands that have a big presence on Twitter, Facebook and the other social networks.

Social media campaigns made for the business-to-consumer arena are abundant and sometimes newsworthy, but can the same be said for business-to-business brands? Can social media about construction equipment, yard tools or household appliances ever be notable to those outside the industry (or those in it, for that matter)? B2C brands benefit from being able to leverage existing brand passions among their audience. Disney, for example, released a Facebook page and garnered more than 1 million likes in 24 hours. Unfortunately, not all brands have that instant connection with their communities, and it can takes months and longer for an unsexy brand to gain just a toehold in a social network.

The key to social media success is to produce fun, informative and shareable content. That can be a hard target to hit for a company manufacturing something like heavy machinery. After all, how do you find the equivalent of a Disney princess in a machine shop?

Manufacturers Step it Up

It takes effort, time and above all, a solid strategy to develop a meaningful presence on social media platforms. Here are some examples of manufacturers that got it right:

  • General Electric (GE) is well-established on Facebook, with about 940,000 likes on its company brand page. That number wasn’t easily gained; the conglomerate uses great imagery, strong content and audience engagement to attract members to its online community. Over on Twitter, GE engages its nearly 125,000 followers with topics like electric power, heavy machinery and biofuel.
  • Caterpillar, manufacturer of heavy equipment and machinery, has done some interesting things to bring about awareness of its brand and products. The company has partnered with clothing manufacturers to license its brands’ logos—for example, the footwear manufacturer Wolverine has exclusive worldwide rights to produce Caterpillar footwear. You can learn more at Caterpillar’s Facebook page, which has 155,000 likes.
  • The yard and garden equipment manufacturer Husqvarna is promoting its products through a "Challenge the Impossible" story contest on Facebook. Users are encouraged to submit a story detailing how they overcame a life challenge, and the winner gets a free outdoor adventure. Here’s the clever twist: Entrants must go to the company’s business site for the contest rules, which can turn into sales leads. Husqvarna’s garnered more than 36,000 likes on Facebook, and it hawks its top-selling Husqvarna riding lawn mowers in the process.

Benefits for Manufacturers

Efforts like the ones above bring inspiration to other B2B manufacturers looking to increase awareness of their brands and products. Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight, but the benefits can be enormous for committed companies. According to the Manufacturing Innovation Blog, there are four key benefits that manufacturers get when they increase their social media presence:
  • Business customers can more easily find and connect with a manufacturer on social media channels
  • Social media helps manufacturers showcase their products—think YouTube videos, Instagram pics and Facebook posts
  • Credibility is established on social media; business consumers may be reluctant to work with a business if they can’t find it on social media
  • Website traffic increases from specific social media directives; bringing fans back to your main site can turn into customer leads

Besides the brands’ own content, a lot of content on social media sites is being created by the community members themselves. Crowdsourced solutions (aka user-generated product or marketing ideas) have become effective play for manufacturer brands; use fans who already like your brand to help suggest new markets and new product extensions. Without a strong social media presence, it’s practically impossible to achieve crowdsourced solutions effectively.

User-Generated Content

General Motors involved its community by inviting groups of high-profile online influencers to its plant. A “media” day was organized at a GM plant in Arlington, Texas, that brought in bloggers, video creators and photographers and introduced them to the manufacturing process. This outreach enabled the influencers to see first-hand how vehicles are made and assembled.

There was an enormous amount of fan-generated content created for the brand from that visit. This type of content will always resonate more with the community than something produced by a brand’s public relations department. Encouraging user-generated content is beneficial (especially if it goes viral), but brands need to learn from their users and manage this carefully. User-generated content can have insights that the average product marketing team might not push out on a regular basis.

Last year, Connecticut companies celebrating Manufacturers Month came together to produce a video to highlight the state’s manufacturing base. This could have been a dull, unappealing video that would have had very little appeal outside of the industry.

Instead, they saw an opportunity to co-opt a popular trend on social media at the time, videos that had groups of people signing along to a popular song. This has been done with dozens of different songs and dances. They chose the then-popular Carly Rae Jepsen song, “Call Me Maybe.” The result was not only a video that highlighted manufacturing in the state, but one that’s silly, cute and somewhat viral. The video has more than 10,000 views, no small feat for a video about manufacturing in Connecticut. They got their message across and in a way that was of interest beyond their target audience—and that is how social is done.


Simon Salt is an Author, Writer and Speaker (Creativity, Mobile & Digital Marketing). He has published two books – Social Location Marketing and the Amazon bestseller, The Shorty Guide to Mobile Marketing. When he isn’t working he is usually out on his Harley Davidson taking photos.
https://twitter.com/incslinger (~12k followers!)


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