Social Media in B2B – Moving beyond just your customers

It’s no secret that most of the conversations happening about Social Media and how it affects businesses speak primarily to the B2C relationship between business-and-customer. However, when you get in to the world of B2B Social Media discussions, there’s one area that I don’t believe has received much attention, and that’s the effects of Social Media on the relationships between a business and it’s suppliers, and how those relationships can impact the customers of that business.

There can be significant ramifications for your company and the relationships you have with your customers as a result of the actions of your suppliers. For example, if one of your suppliers is implicated in some type of scandal or cover-up, how does it look on you that you’ve done business with them? Or if they do something exceptionally good and garner a lot of attention for themselves, how can you as their customer benefit from that as well?

There’s a great deal of give-and-take that goes on between businesses and suppliers already, so exchanging Social Capital should be a natural progression in those relationships. Let’s break it down according to some of the effects that can occur as a result of Social Media cooperation between businesses and suppliers:

1 – Greater reach & community growth

If you’ve got a great relationship with one of your suppliers, why not share that positive relationship with your community? And why not encourage your supplier to do the same? People always like to hear about successful business partnerships, so why not partner even more effectively and share your audiences? Sharing great news about either one of your businesses shows that there’s good stuff happening for your industry, and this positivity can have far-reaching effects for both of your brands. People like to associate with winners, even if it’s a second-tier connection.

2 – Improved damage control in times of crisis

If something goes terribly wrong for either the business or the supplier, you can be there for each other to help smooth things over during tough times. In the event that your facing a problem as a result of a purchased component, or if your supplier is facing a problem with a component they supplied, you can both discuss the issue openly and candidly within your communities, and publicly between the two of you to make sure that “Yes, we are aware, and Yes, we are working together to fix it.” Of course, this is provided that the the ‘damage’ in question isn’t so horrible that it completely poisons the relationship. But for your average, everyday screw-up, having another company vouch for your commitment to make things right can go a long way to improving both of your positions in the short-term and in the long run.

3 – Price becomes less of an issue for everyone

When you’ve got a great relationship with a well-known supplier, and people are aware that whatever you’re buying from them is the ‘best’ component you can get, then a slightly higher cost becomes less of a factor when they make their purchase decision. It’s one more way to differentiate yourself and your products from your competitors. The more unique you are, the less likely you are to be viewed as a commodity, and using quality parts and services from reliable, well-known suppliers is just one more way to accomplish this.

4 – More power at the negotiating table

Looking at those previous effects of utilizing Social Media to boost your relationships with your suppliers, you can easily see how by taking these steps your business becomes even more valuable to your suppliers, and much more difficult for them to let you go to one of their competitors. This can give you an improved position at the negotiating table when it comes time to determine pricing, payment terms, and other factors if you are committed to showcasing the relationship you have with your premium suppliers. By partnering more effectively with your suppliers, you can add value to your offer above and beyond ‘what you’re willing to pay’.

This is really just a short list, and as Social Media becomes more and more ingrained in to the B2B culture, I’m sure that other benefits and effects will come to light that we aren’t currently aware of. Ultimately, what you need to realize is that Social Media doesn’t just relate strictly with your customers. There are many other areas where your efforts in these new communication channels will have an impact, and if done properly will strengthen your business in ways you never could have anticipated.

What other potential impacts do you see that could result from taking a more ‘complete’ approach to Social Media in the B2B world? What about detriments or cautionary items that should be considered? Let’s hear what you’ve got to say!