James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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10 Relationships Your B2B Business Should Be Engaging on Social Media

James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

Full Profile »

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We need to engage with our customers on social media. Got it. Don’t worry: this list is about so much more. Beyond your customers, there are nine other relationships you need to engage on social media to really optimize your presence there. This list came from our recent interview with Kyra Reed, Co-Founder of Made to Order Agency. Here are the 10 relationships you need to engage on social media.

1) Customers

Engaging with your customers is a given. Duh.

2) Employees

After customers, the number one group to engage is your own employees. They are the closest to your brand and your biggest advocates.

Over half of millennials say that if their company is engaging them on social media (and incentivizing them to communicate about the company), they’re likely to stay at that company.

Also, anyone you’re going to want to hire now will have a LinkedIn, and they will check you out. How will they expect to be treated, if hired?

Companies like IBM do an incredible job with this internally and externally. Sandy Carter is in charge of all social for IBM, which has a lot of programs that incentivize employees toward employee advocacy.

There aren’t enough companies doing this well, but it’s catching on. Employee advocacy is a buzzword this year.

3) Vendors

You might look at social media as a space to interact with customers, but your vendors are on there as well.

If you work with someone on a regular basis, thank them on social. Who wouldn’t want to be called out publicly for doing a great job? Who wouldn’t want a public recommendation? It helps to make that relationship even more solid.

There’s something else, too. Most people who participate in social media are voyeurs: they watch and make their judgment about you not based on their interaction with you but on how you deal with the people and brands around you.

When you publicly acknowledge another brand at no benefit to you, people see that—and it speaks volumes.

4) Neighbors

Your neighbors aren’t always your competition, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar storefront.

Kyra worked with the Sunset Strip in California years ago. At that point, no one wanted to go there, so the businesses got together with their neighbors and shared each other’s tweets, put on shared events, and worked together as a community. In the past, they fought over every dollar that came to the strip; now, they were looking at how to divide that dollar among themselves and keep people coming back and bringing their friends.

This shift in your mentality can really change an entire community and business district. Do whatever you can do to create a unified message with neighbor businesses.

5) Sponsors/Partners

This is more common: if somebody wants to do an event with you, they’re going to look at how you use your social media. They’ll ask for tweets, promotions, that sort of thing.

But beyond that, there is a full relationship you can have with that sponsor. Share information that isn’t about the event you’re doing. That way the public sees that you care about more than obligatory promotion.

6) Competition

This is a hard pill for a lot of people to swallow, but if you can bring yourself to do it, it can pay dividends. Remember Kyra’s Sunset Strip example, how competing businesses banded together.

Or here’s a more recent example: Burger King reached out to McDonald’s for World Peace Day, suggesting they make a burger together, sell it, and raise money for charity. McDonald’s turned their nose up at it, but seven other burger chains clamored to join BK.

Who do you think got the great press? Burger King. And McDonald’s took a hit, looking like jerks.

A sense of community changes the way the public views you.

7) Influencers

Influencers are people who have a lot of sway. They have either a huge following or substantial power online.

If they’re an influencer in your field, you want a relationship with them. And the best way to get that is through social.

8) Community Leaders

A community leader may or may not have a lot of influence, but they’re very mission-driven.

For example, let’s say you’re a podcaster, and the issues important to you are FCC rulings around communication and internet accessibility. If things were to change in that area, you’d be severely affected. Community leaders are the lawyers, authors, etc. who may not be interested in creating influence, but want to make a difference in areas that impact others.

You need to know who those people are and make sure things stay safe in your industry by forming a relationship with them. If you’re doing an authentic job, you’ll share a bit of their spotlight as well.

9) Journalists/Bloggers

Journalists and bloggers may also not have much influence, but they can help you with a variety of things: SEO, press releases, etc.

And they always need stories and content. The best thing to do is find the ones you like and follow them. Read their previous stories and suggest new ones based on those topics.

10) Other Companies

These are companies that don’t fall under vendors, competition, or neighbors. You may want to join up in various capacities with other companies. An association with your brand might be a great thing, depending on what you do.

And engaging content is hard to produce all the time; sometimes you can lean on other relationships to help you turn out content. There’s no money changing hands, no contractual obligation, but it’s a good relationship for all involved.


The biggest mistake that people make with social media is thinking that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are marketing platforms. They’re not. They weren’t built for marketing: they’re relationship platforms that you can market on.

And as we’ve seen, there are many relationships to form beyond your obvious customer base.

You’ll need to take advantage of many of them to have a complete online presence for your brand.

This post is based on an interview with Kyra Reed from Made to Order Agency.

You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on iTunes. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode by clicking here.