The other day at a meeting with one of our business-to-business brands, I raised the topic of social media. When I suggested that there could be some value in it for their company, the CEO disagreed.

“No one is going to buy a five-million dollar software solution on Twitter!” he laughed.

His opinion runs parallel to that of most of the commercial-industrial brands I’ve spoken with. They’ve been to Facebook, they’ve looked at Twitter, and they can’t see how social media fits with the way they market and sell their high-technology, specialized-audience products.

That’s because it doesn’t.

B-to-B brands go to social media for support and information to help build their business.

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Traditional marketing for commercial-industrial brands has included trade shows, advertising in trade publications and on trade websites, building a data-rich website and producing lots of printed collateral. Public relations, which has typically been a separate discipline, was all about “news” releases and editorial in those same trade pubs and sites – most of it focused on products or technologies being sold by the company, wrapped in an industry or thought leadership topic.

Going to market like this always been effective, and it still pretty much is – which is one reason a lot of brands feel they don’t need to think about social media.

The other, bigger reason – and the reason for this blog post – is that they don’t actually know how they could or should use social to meet their business objectives. Most B-to-B brands who are on social use it as a news-broadcasting platform, which is completely contrary to the way their customers and prospects are using it. Business people don’t go to Twitter and Facebook to hear news about providers. They go to join communities of individuals like themselves, for support and information that will help them build their own business.

Join the conversation and serve your audience before asking anything from them.

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This gives manufacturers a tremendous opportunity. Join the conversation, provide something of worth, give your time and your assistance first before expecting anything in return, and you will become a respected and valued presence. You will gain followers, see your information retweeted to larger communities, win word-of-mouth among your audience, and drive prospects back to your website where they will become bona fide leads.

In a lot of commercial-industrial industries, there is literally no one doing this yet. This leaves it wide open for the first manufacturer who gets out there and starts giving value to the community.

It’s not a quick process – you need to build your presence step-by-step, and there’s a method and a science to the art. But there is absolutely no denying that social media is the next frontier for marketing. Your customers are already there. Go find them and you will own the territory