B-to-B Branding and Social MediaWe often hear the term “brand” used in the world of marketing communications. Many times the term “brand” is used interchangeably to mean a “logo,” so it’s important to distinguish between the two concepts.

A “brand” is typically defined as the emotional relationship a product, company, organization or even person has with their customers, audiences, consumers, and community.

A logo, by contrast, is a design representation of a brand. In a way, a logo serves as a brand communications “shortcut” when it is created effectively.

You can read more about the nuances of branding in this Forbes article entitled “What is a brand anyway? http://www.forbes.com/sites/jerrymclaughlin/2011/12/21/what-is-a-brand-anyway/

B-to-B Branding

In terms of business-to-business marketing, a brand elicits thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and responses from business customers.

Responses are based on key elements such as the product/service itself, the company reputation, the company history, the logo, the website, product packaging, the company employees, news articles, etc.

Social Media and B to B Branding

So how can business-to-business marketers use social media as a branding tool? The following tips are key considerations.

1)    Do the hard work up front. A social media program can only reinforce your brand if you’ve taken the time to develop one in the first place. Is your organization striving for a “thought leadership” brand? If that makes sense for you, then social media platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, etc.) can reflect cutting-edge information, leading industry trends, and other materials supporting that brand image. You can only be effective when you have a sense of the brand. Are you hoping to brand the company as a leading edge innovator? Than social media engagement should reinforce that brand image by directing followers to innovation success stories, accolades and awards for innovation, breaking news of other innovators in the marketplace, etc. Again, this only makes sense if that branding work has been done beforehand.

2)    Consistency is key. Branding must be consistent across all marketing communications programs. As an example, a financial consultant might use print and online ads and its website to portray a conservative and trustworthy brand. Thus it wouldn’t make sense for the financial advisor to use social media to share jokes or off-color comments, personal observations about the weather, politics or unrelated topics. Be human throughout social media outlets, but don’t go off-brand. The advisor’s tweet stream, LinkedIn updates and social media postings should reinforce a consistent brand image that relates to other programs.

3)    Use common sense. Courtesy goes a long way when it comes to social media. Don’t be reckless, use profanity, or insult. That makes a terrible brand impression! Don’t Tweet or post when angry. Refrain from being intoxicated when Tweeting, as many organizations have learned.

4)    Stay current. What does it say about a business consultant’s “brand” when the Twitter feed hasn’t been updated in more than 12 months? If you start a social media marketing program, by all means, maintain it in a timely fashion. It is a detriment to the brand if a blog, LinkedIn company page, Google Plus profile, Twitter account, or Facebook goes through a “set it and forget it” process, and the last post was from a year ago.

5)    Focus on the fundamentals. Business-to-business companies are smart to take time to draft an effective social media biography profile. Be sure the profile includes related imagery, logo, location, website URL and full description of the company, product and service. Relevant followers search Twitter bios, LinkedIn and other social outlets using keywords when looking for folks to follow. If a corporate trainer, for instance, leaves the bio blank, or doesn’t use keywords in the bio like “training,” “corporate training,” “learning workshops,” they are missing out on a great branding opportunity.

Next Steps: B-to-B Branding and Social Media

Your brand is the foundation of all marketing activities.

It takes thought and effort, but social media marketing can effectively reinforce your brand, and deliver a favorable collection of perceptions in the mind of your prospect.

Ready to consider social media management and branding for your company? Contact Markit Strategies to get the conversation going.