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8 Simple Rules For Social Media Marketing in Business to Business Markets

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 13 years and 316 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

B2B folks tend to struggle with social media marketing. After repeatedly being asked the question of how b2b folks can use social media marketing, I’ve come up with a handful of rules that apply. If you’re not willing to comply, chances are you should stick to direct marketing and cold calling people.

1. Get on the Clue Train
There is no good for having not yet read the Clue Train Manifesto. Don’t even attempt a campaign until you’ve read this. At bare minimum read the 95 Thesis points. Social media marketing is just the cluetrain come to fruition with some new technology. The logic and process remains the same. As much as AJAX, gradients, and mirror effects are really cool – that’s about all that’s different. This is now prerequisite reading for all social media marketing (if it wasn’t already). The concepts are not new, and their is very little real process.

2. Don’t be "that guy"
Thanks to Lisa Barone for the inspiration for the catchy sloganYou know who I’m talking about. The wanker that is always trying to impress people telling them how cool he is. Cool people don’t tell you how cool they are. He’s the same guy trying to put a press release on digg, or wondering why his "industry news" isn’t compelling enough to garner traffic and links. Don’t be an idiot blogger. Just because you win a game of whip it out, doesn’t mean people will like you.

3. Don’t be "professional"
This is what we love about blogs and the internet. Despite sitting in front of a computer all day it makes us feel more human. We can experience emotions from people we barely even know, and it sure as hell isn’t from a "professionally" written memo that we could read in the corporate propoganda. It’s from humor, shared experiences, stories, and HUMAN emotions. Not from some corporate zombie wearing a suit, trying to figure out how to game the internet for higher quarterly earnings.

4. Have a personality
No – not a personality according to the company bylaws and mission statement. A REAL personality. Even large corporate websites had a personality in 1996 – the personality of the one person in the company that could build them. How come when MORE people were added to the mix, the sites got LESS personality? Don’t be the CEO that doesn’t get the web, and is scared to experiment. What’s wrong with a little corporate punk?

5. There’s No Magic Bullet
Social media applies to everyone. Yes, even b2b folks. The question is how? The answer is – in speaking to your customers/clients/vendors/partners/friends on a one-to-many basis. The magic bullet is in figuring out how to do that. There is no process. There is no direct correlation to productivity or efficiency. There is no solution that will raise revenue in a quantitive fashion for next quarter. What there *IS* – is the opportunity to speak to other humans like humans, and have them appreciate you doing so.

There is not a process for social media marketing. There is only opportunities. How you approach and execute on the opportunities will determine your success. How well you understand linkbaiting will determine how many links you get.

6. Pander to the mind of your audience
Great marketers know this. It’s not really rocket science. Speak to your audience. Don’t TALK AT THEM. Talk WITH them. Give them something to talk about. Speak to them on a personal level. Entertain them. Cater to their egos. There’s not much that is more powerful than the ego hook.

Remember also – you are pandering to TWO audiences –

  • The audience that is your distribution point (digg, reddit, netscape, myspace, facebook, etc. etc.) and
  • Your usual audience. You have to get through audience number 1 to effectively get to audience number
  • Make sure to know BOTH audiences, and craft your campaigns to be effective to BOTH groups, and the crossover between them. This, as well as a lack of creativity (and willingness to stretch relevance) are the two top reasons that I have seen people fail at social media marketing.

    7. Don’t be afraid of failure
    If you sit around debating every decision in a committee meeting, your little competitor is going to kick your ass. That’s the beauty of the web (at least right now) – it’s small, it’s fast, it’s efficient, and it gives the little guys a fighting chance to compete on big playing field if they use these assets to their advantage.

    If you’re worried about getting fired – you’re never going to create anything cool. If your company is always worried about offending someone, or what the legal team say – you’re dead, and you’re likely on a long, painful decline.

    8. Stretch the relevance
    This should probably be number 1, as it’s the most important, but I wanted to make sure you were paying attention. I have a good friend who could really stretch the relevance of a link. Not too many people could think that a fish oil link would be relevant to a motor oil page, but when you’re thinking laterally, this is the type of results that you will get. It worked for anchor text, and though it was a stretch, there was some marginal relevance there. Think to this extreme, then scale it back – but only a little.

    This is THE most important part of social media marketing. You MUST stand out. It’s scary – you make yourself and your company vulnerable, but it works. And when it works great, it is an amazing thing. When it doesn’t work, most the time nobody notices most times, and you might only end up offending 3 of the people you didn’t like anyways.

    Example of stretching the relevance:

    You need to attract engineers to your website since they are the decision makers. You build a trebuchet builder. Whoever pitched that project deserves a huge raise because they have giant brass balls. I can picture the meeting now as they describe building a flash game that will generate zero revenue, but "be really cool" for engineers. The fact that it was produced and launched is truly a miracle. The results in links alone speak to it’s success for those that understand their value. I can only imagine how many engineers sent it to their buddies and wasted hours at work on it instead of playing tetris or doing ACTUAL work.


    You will kill all your creativity if you second guess, and put everything through committees. If you have no creativity, you will fail at social media marketing. You could always pay a consultant to come in and do it for you if your scared, or need someone to blame the fallout on (I’ve got broad shoulders, or friends with great ideas – we generally work in our bathrobes – though I do have a few suits for meetings, I still prefer jeans and retro jordans).

    1. Get on the Clue Train
    2. Don’t be "that guy"
    3. Don’t be "professional"
    4. Have a personality
    5. There’s No Magic Bullet
    6. Pander to the mind of your audience
    7. Don’t be afraid of failure
    8. Stretch the relevance

    Other good articles on B2B Marketing:

  • More information about Todd Malicoat aka stuntdubl.

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    • Harlem

      Nice post and great advice.

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    • Khalid Hajsaleh

      Hi Todd,

      Excellent post. I would add that choosing the right social media network is another important factor or rule. Linkedin is great for an B2B business, myspace on the other hand might not be the best channel.


    • webconnoisseur

      Great post Todd. Glad to see you writing again. I like your style!

    • Ciaran

      Great post Todd, my last job was with a B2B publisher, so this is very apt.

      I have to disagree with #3 (Don’t be “professional”) though. I realise that this is probably an issue of semantics, but hey – I’m picky :)

      This would probably be better described as Don’t Be Corporate – I think that professionalism is essential when trying to do B2B – you have to show that you know your stuff, and understand what you’re talking about – but you don’t have to be dull or corporate (as you say).

    • Jake

      Great post Todd – very, very helpful. I’m always open to more ideas on B2B. It’s quite a different animal, but a fun one nonetheless.

    • Single Grain


      I should really stop telling people that I like to eat babies for link juice. I guess I’ll just share that with my close friends

    • David Mihm

      Todd, Glad to see that someone is finally addressing this in a blog post!! The Trebuchet builder is a great link.

    • SEM In-house

      Great post Todd. Thanks for thinking about since we chatted at SMX.

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    • Sarah E. Wilson

      Brilliant post.

      I’m off to click-then-devour every link you’re sited here.

      I’ve been pouring over 2.0 tactics and the blogging phenomenon for days, and am really struggling to see how one can be seen poignant as anything other than self indulgent.

      Voice overs can be a tough sell in the blogging world, when what really sells the point is your voice, not your typing skills.

      Thanks again,


    • Brad

      Great advice. I love the Trebuchet builder idea. It’s really hard to explain the value of ideas like that which usually leads to me getting shot down constantly.

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    • Alex

      Wow, this *almost* over my head. I’ll have to come back and read all of these tips, especially the linkbaiting stuff.

    • Will Rowan

      Hi Todd

      can you believe just how long Cluetrain has been around… from way before folk were talking about ‘social marketing’… and how relevant it *still* is!

      thanks: great post


    • Terra Andersen

      Great stuff! Very true *=)

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    • Bud Caddell

      Great post Todd. It’s been a while since I hit your site, I’m definitely missing out.

      I’m trying to be the ‘right’ kind of business blogger these days… trying.

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    • Paul Buchhorn – Online Marketing News

      nice summary. the “proffesional” point is realy interesting :D

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    • Tim

      Some excellent tips, B2B is tough. Thanks heaps!

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    • Rita

      I’m new to this blog world – yes, I’ve been living in a cave – your rules are helpful. Rule #2 especially made me laugh.

    • Marzena Nowakowska

      Nice article. Rules are simple, funny but also very true. Following them, improving your social media activity and measuring the results with proper tools ( like ) will help to achieve success.

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      yes, creativity is very vital in social marketing

      i adopt so your advice in my site

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      its so amazing, that you are sharing are steps for practice now and get the earning from there. socia marketing its works.

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