Social media might conjure up images of bunny ears, cat videos, and frog memes, but it’s been the elephant in the room for the B2B sector. Until now. Marketers are realizing that the engagement and reach of social media is something to be taken seriously. 71% of consumers who have had a good social media experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others. No other channel offers the same potential for social engagement and lead generation. The key, however, is to understand the nuances of B2B social media marketing compared to B2C, and to integrate efforts with a clear content marketing strategy.
What exactly is social media?
The ultimate goal of social media is to drive traffic to a website, but an alarming 45% of small businesses have yet to create an online presence. For those contemplating a first foray into digital marketing, we have provided a handy primer here:
For businesses that have graduated from traditional digital marketing, through email marketing, to website content, social media might be misinterpreted as a B2C discipline. Certainly, social media platforms offer a cost-effective way to drive brand awareness and increase traffic to landing pages at a consumer level, but the goal should be to generate quality rather than quantity. It’s about leads rather than likes. That means solving a customer problem and providing a direct channel to a business website where that problem can be resolved (and the engagement tracked through the sales funnel). In that respect, five social media platforms stand out:
LinkedIn – social media for your professional network
Now approaching 500 million users globally, LinkedIn is the go-to platform for connecting, sharing, and profile building within the professional community. It’s already used by 91% of B2B marketers for paid advertising and/or organic content, and offers the ability to post or share video and blog content to a targeted audience. LinkedIn allows a B2B business to build awareness for individual products or services, as well as establish ongoing thought leadership across a sector.
Advantages: Reaching customers in the right frame of mind. LinkedIn isn’t a place where users seek diversion from the daily grind. They’re looking for answers, inspiration, and collaboration.
Disadvantages: The most expensive pay-per-click rates.
Facebook – the #1 platform
The social media Leviathan may have taken a battering for a series of gaffes around its news feed, but its 2.2 billion users globally dwarfs the competition. Traditionally, B2B has steered clear of Facebook, but that is changing. As Forbes notes, it’s where 24% of buyers look first when making a purchase. As with all platforms, the key is to create content that chimes with the medium. Facebook offers the chance to establish a fun, personal voice for your business, and more important to engage with your customers.
Advantages: The outstanding Ads Manager function offers a user-friendly suite of video and carousel ad tools that you can target to specific audiences, making it especially effective for local advertising.
Disadvantages: a harsher environment now for organic content in the newsfeed.
Instagram – worth watching
Part of the Facebook stable, Instagram has grown rapidly to 800 million users worldwide, and has moved aggressively to fend off competitors with a range of new features, such as video stories. The offering is little more than photo and video content, but the integration with Facebook means it’s easy to run Instagram campaigns with little additional effort.
Advantages: Show the side of your business your B2B customers don’t otherwise see. Tell your brand story.
Disadvantages: Because Instagram does not allow links from posts (only from the profile) click through is harder to nurture.
Twitter – listen carefully
Launched as a micro-blogging platform with a 140-character limit (initially), Twitter is predicted to reach 275 million users by 2020. To use it most effectively, follow the golden rule of three community posts for every business post. Users don’t want to be inundated with business promotion messaging—they want to see how you engage and interact with others in the sector. Above all, though, Twitter is an excellent listening tool for tracking the pain points and trends within your sector.
Advantages: Hashtags allow you to hitchhike on trending local or national events, and the direct-message feature means you can respond quickly to queries.
Disadvantages: If your company has a misstep, it’s easy for others to hijack your story. A series of negative reviews can impact your brand.
YouTube – an offer you can’t refuse
The scale of YouTube is staggering. From its launch in 2005, it now provides more than 5 billion video views a day. If your business is currently running expensive pay-TV or cable ads, that could be about to change.
Advantages: YouTube is a great platform for hosting how-to videos, brand story content, and case studies.
Disadvantages: Production counts, at a cost. Most businesses will need to bring in outside expertise for shooting and editing content.
Should I choose paid or organic content?
Whereas so-called “vanity metrics” (likes, shares, etc.) cut the mustard in B2C, the holy grail in B2B is lead generation. Content should be planned and targeted to deliver quality leads into the sales funnel, with the understanding that the B2B buyer cycle is slower and more dependent on serving content across numerous touch points.
Two schools of thought come into play where paid versus organic is concerned. For building awareness, Facebook remains the leading platform, where 34% of users go to find useful content. On the flip side, the sheer popularity of Facebook means there is more noise to cut through, especially for organic content. Regardless of platform, organic content is vital in building SEO, engaging with customers, and building trust.
For pay-per-click campaigns, LinkedIn remains a dependable platform for a well-crafted campaign that covers the entire buyer journey. By targeting users in a proactive frame of mind, B2B businesses can maximize ROI.
For paid content, social media offers unbeatable cost-per-acquisition and targeting compared to other forms of advertising, with the ability to track the user journey from the first engagement. Not surprisingly, greater investment in social media marketing is a priority for many B2B marketers, with 38% prepared to allocate any extra budget to social in the future.
How to get started in B2B social media
Perhaps the best way to illustrate social media best practice is to provide a caricature of the B2B business getting it wrong:
- What platform? All of them!
Social media is not like a box of chocolates. You do know what you’re going to get. Bad B2B throws poorly conceived content at every available platform in the hope that some of it will stick. It rarely does. You don’t have to have a presence on every platform. In fact, the time and cost of managing content across too many channels can be counterproductive. Instead, get to know where your customers are, where your competitors are, and create content to fill the gaps.
- It’s all about me
The potential to connect directly to customers can bring out the worst in marketers. Suddenly, marketing teams are liberated to produce a stream of content championing products, products, and more products. Why, though, is no one listening? Quite simply, social media marketing is about solving problems. Jump into consideration and decision content at your peril—the first touch should always be awareness content that anticipates a buyer need.
- The plan? There is no plan
One statistic to sound alarm bells ringing: 92% of B2B marketers use social media content, but almost half do not track it, according to Hootsuite. This for a platform that lives and breathes through analytics. The temptation with social media is to let marketing run away with the budget, then wonder why sales teams aren’t seeing the ROI. What’s missing is the data crunching. Someone needs to be on point, trawling the analytics dashboard for actionable insight, because social media marketing demands agility. If the campaign isn’t hitting forecast targets, it won’t “do its thing.” It needs A/B testing, retargeting, or even abandoning.
Likewise, too many B2B marketers start without a plan. SMART goals are just as important in social media marketing as traditional marketing. In fact, most social media platforms start with establishing goals before any content is uploaded. Never allocate budget to a campaign without a clear strategy on what key metrics are to be targeted.
- We’ll handle this in-house
This may never be easy to absorb, but perhaps the best person to tell your company’s story isn’t part of that company. Too many in-house teams produce dry, product-led content that fails to resonate with what the buyer is searching for. It may be time to outsource social media to an agency that specializes not just in managing the campaign, but also creating the content. It may be time to invest in platform natives who speak the language of the medium, and can humanize your business with engaging content.
Trying to get started on social media? We help wholesale distributors build their digital marketing strategy. Find out how.
The importance of mobile
In 2015, mobile overtook desktop as the preferred destination for content. Fueled by the growth in smartphones, mobile is now the device where more than half of emails are opened and where 80% of Facebook users access their account. B2B marketers must create social media campaigns with mobile front and center—from short, punchy copy that takes character restrictions into account, to showcasing video content above all else. The rewards? Mobile offers highly localized targeting that reaches customers at key moments. If they like your content, they can request a call back or send a message with one tap of the thumb. Satisfy them, therefore, with clean user experience and optimized content that directs seamlessly to a web page.
Never before has the playing field been so open for B2B businesses, regardless of size, when it comes to marketing. But never before either have businesses needed to be so up to speed on meeting their customers on the platforms explored above. A social media presence is no longer desirable; it is mandatory.
AMMEX offers all our partners digital support in using social media to drive business growth. If you would like to find out about how we can help you, get in touch to speak to our support team.