A question was asked on twitter that I find myself wanting to express an answer two albeit not in 140 characters. The question, or the comment really, was simply this “have fun defining the narrow difference between B2B and B2C social marketing” (@intellagirl, Aug 31, 2009).  To me this question is relatively straight forward.

B2B Social Marketing is the perpetuation of social realities as defined by the relationship between a communal demographic and the brand that symbolizes those ideals.

B2C Social Marketing is the perpetuation of social realities as defined by the relationship between a competitive demographicand the brand that symbolizes those ideals.

While the essence of social marketing is the influence over social constructs of reality (i.e. what is justified is true) the essence of defining a difference in B2B and B2C marketing practices is one of the relationship between the firms competing within that market space.

B2B competitive practices require that both parties defining the relationship identify with a common communal consumer base which reinforces a brand to the benefit of both business parties.  The idea is that if the pie is worth $100M separately in combining forces in a shared approach the pie could be worth $150M. It is obviously therefore in the interest of the business parties involved to collaborate. So by increasing the size of the pie every party in the B2B collaboration receives economies of scale while the balance of power remains relatively constant.

B2C competitive practices by contrast assume that while a common consumer base exists, it is more advantageous for the company to pursue exclusionary marketing practices to gain a larger share of a pie that isn’t necessarily increasing in size. In this case the organization that focuses on B2C social networking is seeking domination of a market segment through competitive practices rather than cooperative engagement with key stakeholders inside and out of its value / supply chain.

That is not to say that there aren’t nuances of positioning in-between these two radically different ideological positions in terms of strategy. It is classic game theory. How much of each does an organization need to build into their business strategy in order to remain competitive without giving up their overall percentage of the pie regardless of which approach is the dominant strategy employed.

Its not a question really because only in looking at the overall make-up of the organization’s strategic partnerships can the decision be made. Also those decisions will change as market and social conditions change. Culture leads – marketers follow. While each influences the other to some degree customers ultimately vote with their feet as Apple learned in the 1990s and PC manufacturers are learning today.

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