There’s a great line in Donny Deutsch’s memoir Often Wrong, Never in Doubt where he goes on a tirade about the shallowness of the advertising industry who, prior to the ’90s, turned their nose up at pharmaceutical advertising. “Where does it say that only running shoes and beer ads can be sexy?” This paradigm is also at play in the world of social media — specifically as a stigma impacting B2B social. 

While stylish B2C brands like Nike, Starbucks, and Ford often nab headlines and case studies, many in the B2B world are doing great things with social media too. In many cases, B2B brands new to social media simply need to understand that they too can boldly go where other brands have gone before. The social media frontier is not the exclusive domain of running shoes and beer either.

A major barrier for many B2B brands is their own self-imposed boring complex, which is to say that they feel that their widget or specialized service can’t gain the same kind of fame as other social brands. If your brand struggles with this — take a deep breath — and consider this your intervention from the stigma that your B2B is too boring for social media.

Your Stuart Smalley Moment

Go find a mirror, take a long look, and remind yourself that you’re good enough, smart, enough and doggone it — people like you. Seriously. Your B2B brand was likely built to serve a very specific need for a very specific type of business. Embrace that because it’s through this specificity that you will find your place on the social web.

The B2B Line Everyone Says

Wait for it … B2B is really B2P or Business to Person. Regardless of your industry, you’re not selling to a monolith or a building. You’re selling to a person. In all likelihood, as a B2B business, you’ve probably defined that person pretty well through your previous direct marketing or advertising efforts. Dig out that profile and consider this consumer’s online behavior. What questions do they have about your category? Can you make their life easier in some way?

How You Can Help

Perhaps part of your concern over your B2B brand and social media stems from a lack of online conversations currently taking place around your category. That’s OK. Remember that profile of your target customer and their needs? Rather than taking the ‘conversation’ route, B2B marketers need to first remember that other ‘C’ of social — content. The Content Marketing Institute reports that 90% of B2B marketers use some form of content marketing.

Take your list of target customer needs and brainstorm how your brand could begin producing content around them. Maybe it’s a podcast addressing the needs of a purchasing agent at a large company. Or perhaps it’s a blog about the behind-the-scenes issues in the HR department. See a need, fill a need.

Hub & Spoke

With an established content hub, now you have something to talk about. Share your content across social networks relevant to your community and host conversations around your topic. You might even consider a Twitter chat. If one already exists in your space don’t worry about competing with it — join in and help those in need.

Who Would You Rather Be?

If you stop and think about it, would you rather be a spring manufacturer who makes harrow tines for combine harvesters or another coffee company? Why be David to Starbucks’ Goliath when you can be the Goliath of your own quirky, unique space? As someone who’s worked with many B2B brands, some of the most rewarding and fun work has been for brands with an un-sexy stigma. Break free and the world — including the online world — is your oyster.

This may sound a bit like a self-help post but the industry’s intense focus on consumer brands often make insurance companies and manufacturers feel like they don’t have a place on the social web. As you can see, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

What B2B social media barriers do you or your clients struggle with?