There’s a rather large elephant in the room.

It’s an elephant unique to b2b and it can’t be ignored any longer:

By its very nature, our content can’t be liked.

Can’t be shared.

Our content just can’t be distributed on our behalf.

Fresh lunacy? Well, let me explain through the power of made-up storytelling.

The story of the poor neglected white paper

The IT director of Tech-co stumbles across a white paper on ‘The future of IT Networks’.

It’s a page turner. It’s not just bread and butter ‘explanatory content’.

It’s the type of content that can start fires – it’s ‘revelatory content’.

The IT Director diligently leafs through page after page. Only pausing to draw breath as he ponders the impact that this information will have on his departmental strategy, his career and his pay cheque.

He would have paid a month’s salary just to have the knowledge he now has to press the strategy  reset button.

As a piece of content it’s a home run. A winner in every way imaginable.

So, who does the IT director tell about this wonderful creation sent by the Gods?

Absolutely no-one.

By rights he should be lavishly sharing, liking and commenting. But he doesn’t even offer a wink.

But can you blame him? He isn’t stupid.

He knows that the vendor who produced the white paper has a new product suite that underpins the narrative. If he offers any public endorsement of the whitepaper hell will be unleashed in the form of:

1)  His current vendor having kittens and demanding a meeting

2) Every other vendor in the space getting wind that Mr IT Director is in the market.

The moral of the story

The whitepaper has done its job admirably well. But will never get the social recognition it deserves.

OK, so Google is now officially not factoring in social signals into its ranking algorithm.  But social distribution is still up there in the list of most potent content distribution mechanisms.

In short, b2b marketers get short changed.

B2c content marketers have it easy. If a piece of branded content is interesting enough we’ll share it.  We won’t worry about our implied endorsement of Kit Kat or whoever published it.

What’s the answer?

I wish I knew.

Do marketers invest in stand-alone content brands so far removed from the corporate brand that target prospects can share without fear?

I’m not sure. Even if prospects like the idea of a ‘Smarter Planet’, it’s not a huge breadcrumb trail to lead back to IBM.

Do we focus more on industry influencers who can socially distribute for us?

More time and effort on Follerwonk and Buzzsumo rather than collating prospect email data?


On the positive side, if this helps stop the inane requests for ‘viral content’ then it can only be a good thing.

Asking for viral content is a bit like asking a film producer to create a cult film.

Audiences decide whether it’s cult. And our b2b audiences will decide whether or not it goes viral.

They just can’t help us out. Damn it.