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While “Social Media” in all of its forms is now a fact of life for anyone using the Internet and has become an important aspect of B2C marketing, this is not the case in B2B marketing. In fact, many businesses have no clear idea how to use theses myriad networks or if they can play any part in helping them market their products or services.

Here are five things to consider when contemplating using Social Media as a business-marketing tool:

Social Media is Just That – Social

Unlike advertising where a business communicates what it does or sells to the consumer and hopes the consumer will purchase it, which is very much a one-way street (business > consumer), social media flows in both directions. The consumer is, in varying degrees, an active participant on social media networks – from choosing to be connected to actively liking, commenting and recommending. If, as a business, you aren’t interested spending the time and energy it takes to engage in a dialogue and communicate publicly with consumers, social media is not for you.

Strategic Planning Is Essential

In order for any form of Social Media to be successful, it requires both time and resources to set up and to maintain. In addition, you need to have a clear understanding of what the Social Media network’s dynamic does and does not do and how it relates to your overall marketing strategy.

It makes no sense to have a Facebook page unless you understand how Facebook works in relationship to marketing your business. Once you understand a network’s dynamic, it’s essential to come up with a clearly defined marketing strategy – only then should time and resources be allocated.

Know Your Network

Knowledge is power and research is key to deciding which Social Media network is right for you. Do you have the contacts for Facebook, the time for Twitter, the business associates for LinkedIn or will a smaller, more focused “niche” network be better for your needs? What your product or service is will have a great deal to do with the Social Media network you choose. So learn what’s out there and how the networks work before making a commitment.

Content Is King

A blog, newsletter, article, interview, video or podcast are ways of communicating who you are and what you do. Since the essence of Social Media is content sharing, it is essential that if a business wants to be in the Social Media game they have to come up with content, and they have to come up with it on a regular basis.

If you want people and search engines to be interested in what it is you do, you have to create content that shares the who, what, where, when and why of you with the world. Content creation takes a lot of time and time is money so either you have do it or you have to turn your content generating over to a third party.

The Road is Long But Can Be Rewarding

Social Media and Internet Marketing is a process not a product. The process involves engaging people and allowing them to learn about who you are and what you do. The object is to have the consumer develop a trust in you and be willing – even eager – to share that trust – that recommendation – with others. This takes time and consistency and if you aren’t prepared to provide the necessary content over a prolonged period of time, you would probably be better off not engaging in Social Media rather than gaining followers and then dropping or ignoring them.

Social Media is just as effective in hurting a reputation as it is in building one.