By Kyle Fiehler

The folks at Caterpillar know a thing or two about the hard-hat-wearing lifestyle. They also know a thing or two about B2B social media strategy and industrial marketing.

Kevin Espinosa, social media manager at Caterpillar recently spoke at the Sheraton in Clayton, another quality event hosted by the Business Marketing Association of St. Louis. I was lucky enough to attend. Having recently come on board here at Gorilla76, I’ve been thinking a lot about maximizing the impact of social marketing in a B2B context.

Espinosa and Caterpillar jumped into the game before the playbook had been written up. While others were dismissing social media as a fad or something sketchy their kids were up to, they realized early on the power of social platforms in connecting buyers to sellers. After all, isn’t that what markets are all about?

Okay, so someone looking for a 150,000 lb dump truck probably doesn’t hop on Facebook right away to get one (although apparently it has happened). But that line of thinking dismisses one of the biggest opportunities a well-planned social media presence provides—establishing your company as an industry thought-leader. Filling info gaps with your hard-won expertise designates your company as a source worth keeping up with. Any armchair enthusiast can write a blog post about earth-movers, but only Cat knows what it takes to re-equip them for a winter trip across Antarctica.

Potential customers should already have you in mind when the right time in their buying cycle comes along, because you have been consistently providing them with innovative content. Lead-nurturing in its most classic form.

“People are sick of the advertising part,” Espinosa pointed out. And it’s true, whether it’s on the web or between the covers of a magazine; we’re so bombarded with advertisements that reading often feels like a hunt for actual content. What is far more persuasive (and a lot less expensive) is earning a retweet or repost from a respected industry source. Cat can blast the web and trade journals with ads for a new line of skid steer loaders, but if the unaffiliated @skidsteerloader showers it with 140 characters of praise, instant legitimacy.

Social media is just one tool in the B2B web marketing toolbox, but its usefulness in establishing your reputation can’t be underestimated.