With the prevalence of social networking, more and more businesses are jumping onto the social media bandwagon by building a presence on platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

One might think that building a presence on social media might make sense for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies.

But are there valid reasons why business-to-business (B2B) companies and, particularly, small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) should use the new platform too?

A common misconception among many B2B and SME companies is that social media are only relevant to businesses that target young people.

Therefore, investing the additional time and resources to develop marketing strategies for a social media platform is unnecessary for their business models.    

But there is a simple argument for using social media that should appeal to B2B and SME companies.

When social networking sites like Friendster and Facebook started becoming popular in 2003 and 2006 respectively, their members were mainly students and young working adults.

Many of these students have now graduated and started work, and some of the young adults have either climbed higher up the corporate ladder to become important decision-makers or have started their own businesses. 

The point is, many of these people are probably still active social networkers despite advancements in their lives because they are accustomed to using social media.

What better way to reach out to them than through the platform they are comfortable with?

Below are some practical ways in which B2B companies and SMEs can effectively utilise social media to enhance their business strategies:

1. Targeted ad options on Facebook and LinkedIn 

Businesses can leverage advertisement options available on Facebook and LinkedIn — a professional networking site — to target specific age groups, genders and industries.

Options like these suit B2B companies, as their target clients are usually quite specific compared to B2C businesses. 

2. Using LinkedIn to search and connect with prospective clients

Let’s say your company is offering a new service and you need to consolidate contacts from various industries to promote the service.

What you need to do on LinkedIn is to simply key in the specific industry you want in the search option and you will get a listing of professionals whom you can connect with.

Instead of making phone calls to prospects, which might not be appropriate as they could be busy and you also risk the chance of aggravating them, why not send a private message to their inboxes on LinkedIn?

By doing this, you give your prospects some time to reflect upon your message.

If the need for your services arises, they can revisit your message and make contact with you.

Moreover, you could potentially reach out to many more prospects in a shorter time using LinkedIn than traditional methods such as cold-calling.

3. Searching for prospects from your own “friend list”

On a more casual note, you can also look for prospects among your own friends on Facebook.

Many people have an average of 200 to 300 friends on their “friend list” and a fraction of them are probably acquaintances whom they rarely keep in touch with.

So here comes the opportunity: One of the best tools that Facebook has implemented is the live chat function that allows a real-time live chat experience.

You could use it to engage your acquaintances in casual yet important conversations when you see them online.

Some of your acquaintances might require services that your business offers and vice versa, while others might even turn out to be viable candidates for a job your company is looking to fill.   

Now is the right time

If B2B companies are still wondering when the right time to jump on the social media bandwagon is, it is now.

They should consider all the potential opportunities that this platform can bring to their business.