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This article was first published in the January 2019 issue of British Dealer News.

Every other industry had B2B social media marketing figured out long ago. It’s about time motorcycling caught up.

Happy New Year! I hope you’re starting it with a shiny new marketing plan that has achievable objectives and social media at its heart. If not, take a look back at the December issue of BDN for some suggestions on how to go about making one.

Partly because the Devitt Motorcycle Expo at Stoneleigh Park is the big fixture in the diary this month, and partly in reaction to opinions I’ve been hearing recently from across the industry, I’d like to challenge the concept that Twitter in particular, and social media in general, isn’t relevant in a business-to-business environment. It simply isn’t true, so don’t be fooled by the folk hiding their lack of knowledge behind a veil of bravado. If you’re savvy, their ignorance can be your opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

I’m sure you’re comfortable by now with the idea that social media is an essential tool for communicating with consumers – your existing and potential customers. After all, social media is about reaching and engaging an audience in conversation around content (yours and theirs), creating awareness of your brand and building your reputation, supplementing your customer service operation, delivering people to your website where they can find out more, and ultimately generating new sales.

Now switch your thinking away from consumers and back to the trade. Whether you’re a dealer, distributor, manufacturer, industry body or publication, all of the same purposes and benefits still apply, because people do business with people, not faceless organisations. You still need to engage a defined audience in conversation around content, brand awareness and reputation remain vital, and customer service is equally important to trade customers as it is to consumers.

But we don’t want the general public hearing trade-only chatter, I hear a chorus of readers saying aloud. Well, no, of course not. There will always be conversations best had by private message, email, over the phone, or face to face, but that doesn’t negate the value of social media as a facilitator. Also bear in mind a couple of other things. Demonstrating the strength of your social communication will give your trade partners more confidence in your overall marketing capability (e.g. your ability to promote and sell their products). Secondly, even if you’re not active on social media, people are still talking about you. If you’re not there to take part in those conversations you’re missing opportunities and, frankly, making your organisation look pretty incompetent.

If social media is just as relevant to B2B marketing as it is to B2C, albeit with some common sense differences in tone and approach, you might wonder why so many people in the motorcycle trade have such a mental block about it. I suspect there are three fundamental reasons.

1) Social media isn’t an integral part of a business’s marketing strategy in the first place, which in turn means owners/managers and staff have limited exposure to its best practices and benefits.

2) The majority of motorcycle industry social media activity is little more than blatant promotional messaging, which owners/managers can’t imagine being relevant to trade partners. This misses the point that social media is at its best when used for conversational communication, not advertising.

3) As for Twitter specifically, although the platform’s use across the motorcycle trade has increased in the last year, on the whole the penny hasn’t dropped for most people about how to make use of it. Of all the social networks, I’ll argue all day that Twitter is by far the most relevant and powerful for B2B communication (and no less so for B2C), while Facebook for instance is of very limited practical use.

The next time you hear someone say that social media has no relevance to trade marketing, ask them to explain why. In the same vein, ask them how long they’ve been personally using Twitter. You may find their answers illuminating.