Some people believe we only use 10% of our brain’s capacity. Whether we actually do (or not) is beside the point. It’s a good analogy for how B2B companies are using social media – merely scratching the surface of its true potential to deliver better customer experience.

The good news is that most enterprises that sell to businesses are now active on social. The bad news is that, in many of these companies, social media is still viewed solely as a channel to build brand awareness and promote products and services. The result? B2B marketers flooding social media channels with their latest “it’s all about me” press releases, blog posts, and content marketing efforts.

Pretty engaging for customers, right?

Instead, B2B companies need to start thinking of social media as their best opportunity to get close to their customers – to get into their heads, if you will. This is more important than ever, as customers are increasingly comfortable voicing their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with companies on their favorite social media channels, and many expect the companies to be present and responsive on those same social channels.

With this in mind, here are five ways B2B companies can get smarter about how to use social media:

1.  Better understand customer behavior

Build your marketing approach around listening to what your customers are saying and analyzing what they’re doing on social media. Invest in a social listening platform to discover the conversations your target audience is having around pain points, products, competitors, and your brand. Then take action on what you learn. For instance, focus your social media efforts on those social networks and communities where your customers participate and incorporate social insights into your buyer personas, content marketing, and communication strategies.

2.  Engage customers in real-time feedback

Social media is great for asking questions and engaging in conversations with customers. So go ahead and prompt your Twitter followers for real-time feedback about your latest website redesign, product release, or mobile app. Start discussions within the LinkedIn Groups that your customers are active in. Use this social feedback mindset to inform how your company engages on social networks, and you’ll be able to reap the rewards of tapping into the wisdom or your customers… while also making them feel valued!

3.  Embrace social customer service

Business professionals are becoming more like consumers in terms of what they expect from the companies that serve them. This means the time has come to provide customer service via social media, especially since your customers are going to ask support related questions on your Twitter handle and Facebook page (if they haven’t already). The key is to decide where you’ll provide social care, and to develop the right social “playbook” that documents how you’ll respond to customers in an appropriate and timely manner.

4.  Leverage social collaboration inside your organization

Sales, marketing, account management, and customer support, are all customer touch points within your company. How are these departments (and others) collaborating to share experiences and expertise about customers? Sure email is great, but this is where leveraging the right social collaboration software (e.g., Jive, Chatter, Yammer) for your organization can result in a more informed team, and a more consistent experience for your customers. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to have strong buy-in from department leaders, as adoption of collaboration software can be an issue.

5.  Identify and mobilize brand advocates

There’s no better advocate for your company than your most satisfied customers. So how are you using social media to identify and mobilize brand advocates? For example, are you leveraging social media to discover who’s saying positive things about your brand, and asking them to share positive reviews or testimonials? Or how about inviting advocates to contribute to the company blog? Regardless of how you mobilize your advocates, make sure and flag them within your CRM system so it’s easy to reach out again when needed. And don’t forget to acknowledge their efforts in being the voice of your brand!

Now it’s your turn

How is your company using social media to improve customer experience? Which areas of untapped social media potential does your organization need to focus on? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments!