B2B Social Media Marketing
A common misperception marketers have is thinking that social media marketing is best suited for the B2C industry, and has little place in the B2B marketing world. However, B2B social media statistics reveal that 87% of B2B companies are using social media as part of their online marketing strategy, more than any other content marketing platform:
Common platforms used by B2B brands
According to the same Marketingprofs report linked above, the top three B2B social media platforms are LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook:
It’s no surprise to see LinkedIn taking the number #1 spot given it’s the world’s biggest business social media community.
What does stick out is social media sites that focus mostly on image and video content (except YouTube) seem to be less favourable options in the B2B space. Furthermore, Tumblr and Vine sit at the bottom which is due the sites attracting a younger audience.
From dissecting the data above, the ideal B2B social media platforms are sites that don’t focus on a single media type to distribute content, and have an older (29+) age demographic.
Looking past the statistics
LinkedIn is a great social media B2B platform as it provides rich features to showcase your business, but that shouldn’t be the only deciding factor when choosing your platforms.
Your objective is to engage with your customers and it’s more important for you to be on platforms they commonly use. For example, plenty of large brands use Instagram (Nike, Adidas, Coles, Target) and Tumblr (Vans, IBM, Coca-Cola).
Make a list of 20 ideal prospects you would like to convert to customers, investigate which social media channels the majority use and spend time building a presence there. I will discuss this in detail later in this article.
Who is your audience and how will you communicate to them?
In most B2B sectors, they were will be two sets of audiences you will be engaging with. The first will be at the organisational level, these are managers, directors and maybe even CEOs of companies you’re trying to win businesses for.
The second will be at procurement level, these are decision makers who have the power to make purchasing decisions. Not everybody in the business has purchasing power, and you will be wasting time if you target the wrong people.
Whereas in B2C marketing, business can targeted thousands of prospects, in B2B you will only be looking to engage with a handful of people for each business.
You will need to decide if you will be using a company social media account, or allow your marketing team (or whoever’s in charge of winning your business) to use their private social accounts to represent your business.
Here’s Deloitte’s LinkedIn account where they dispense industry information and articles through their company account:
They also allow their directors to have their own personal accounts where they share content and drive awareness using the Deloitte name in their profile:
Which is best for your business? Having a company account and allowing specific employees to create private accounts that represent your band will give you the biggest reach and humanise your brand. Even though you operate in the B2B community, the people you interact with are human beings, they will naturally feel a closer connection to an employee’s social media account than a corporate one.
Pro-tip: When allowing certain employees to have social media accounts that represent your business, set out guidelines for what is acceptable to post. For example, it’s best they avoid getting involved in political issues, display controversial views or use words or images that could harm your brand.
Employees selected to represent your brand through private social media accounts should be involved throughout your B2B social media marketing plan. If they don’t understand your objectives, brand goals, tone and voice, they could put your social media strategy in jeopardy.
Here’s Google’s Matt Cutts, the head of the Google Webspam team keeping his tweets light and inline with industry news:
Plotting your social marketing strategy
When dealing with customers the buying processing process is pretty simple. The typical buying process in the B2B space has multiple layers, as you’re often dealing with people at different levels of the business, not all of whom will have decision making powers.
While the end goal for any business is to make the sale, when pitching to businesses it’s quite difficult to make an on the spot sale for the reasons stated above. A consumer can make an impulse purchase, while business owners may need to consult with directors, managers or their finance department before taking action.
There is a lot of friction from first contact to sale in B2B. To reduce these friction points, there are 3 main components to creating a killer social media B2B marketing strategy, they are:
- 1. Building your brand
If you buy the wrong brand of cereal, you only lose $5 and can always revert back to your previous brand once finished (or you can throw it away). The damage is minimal and a minor inconvenience is caused. However, if you buy the wrong software product which you install on all your business computers, the damage can result in thousands of dollars lost revenue.
With much more on the line, B2B buyers need to know if they can trust you, this is why branding is pivotal in B2B. Generally speaking, more money is spent in a B2B transaction than B2C, and the better your prospects knows your brand, the safer they will feel making their purchase.
The risk of trying a new cereal brand is $5, while the risk of buying new company software can turn a profitable year into a negative one.
A Forbes article found that decision makers in the B2B industry considered branding one of their key factors to the product’s value proposition.
So, how to build your B2B brand? Jon Quelch, a writer for the Harvard Business Review mentioned the best B2B brands focused on the following:
- 1. A CEO who can act as a cheerleader for brand
- 2. Branding that is focused upon the business rather than individual products
- 3. Consistent branding through all online marketing materials and platforms worldwide
Apple is the perfect example of this. When Steve Jobs took over as the CEO in 1997, he managed to transform a struggling business into the world’s biggest brand.
Rather than focusing the attention on himself or individual products, he turned Apple into a powerhouse brand. The iPhone is not just a mobile device, it’s the dream of being able to do everything you want you want on the go. Steve Jobs was a great story teller and knew how to brand a business and make it recession proof.
He changed the company logo and put Apple on a new path. You can visit any Apple store or country specific website and see that everything is consistent. An Apple shop in Australia will look exactly the same anywhere else in the world.
The last great recession started in 2007 and ended in 2009, during that period Apple actually increased their share price:
When it comes to branding your business, focus on branding the business and not individual products. You can have the perfect product but if buyers don’t trust your brand, you will find it very hard to seal the deal.
- 2. Showcase your skills
Business don’t use social media just to interact with fans and reach marketing goals, they also use it to receive industry related news, developments and to learn from other experts in their field.
Unbounce and Wistia are two well known B2B brands that offer various marketing services to businesses. Their social media updates are full of informative content, helpful tips and very little promotional content:
Trust is an important factor in the B2B buying process, to establish trust you will need to create content that your audience will pay attention to. By dispensing high-quality information you boost your brand’s visibility and are considered a contributor of value in their eyes.
However, not all your prospects will visit your company blog, check your LinkedIn Page or subscribe to your mailing list, so how do you showcase your brand’s expertise? You mix in your prospects’ social circles.
LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Plus all have discussion groups, while Twitter allows you to search for relevant discussions through their hashtag search. The goal is to place yourself in their social circles and showcase your skills and knowledge. Instead of contacting the discussion starter in a private message with how your business can solve their needs, show them by answering their questions.
Contracting them directly can come across as spammy and could potentially brand your business in a negative way.
When searching for social groups to join, look to join groups between 150-1,000 members that contain potential prospects. These groups are big enough for your business to brand themselves as an authority. Groups that contain 5,000 or more members is much harder to penetrate, you will not be able to make the impression you want as the newsfeed will be too dense and your comments will get washed away underneath other comments.
Here are two potential groups for Hello Social to find new prospects. After looking at the group numbers, the first group has over 14,000 members which is too big to brand ourselves effectively. The second group is the perfect size:
- 3. Engaging with the prospect
Building a brand and showcasing your business’s expertise is all done to make the first business interaction with your prospect smooth. Cold interactions with prospects on social media don’t work so well, most will not know your brand or what you’re capable of doing, and will often ignore you and list you as a potential spammer.
As mentioned earlier in the article, you should find a list of 10-20 businesses you would convert to customers. Research the business to find the decision makers, then find decision makers’ social media accounts.
This won’t be difficult, most will use their names as their username or include company hashtags on their profile page. If all else fails, search their email address on each platform and see if it’s linked to their personal profiles.
Let’s say I want to find myself, I enter my name into Google and add social media at the end:
Within seconds I’ve found my LinkedIn and Twitter account. If someone wanted to win my business, they can visit my LinkedIn profile and see what discussions I am involved in. You should be doing this recon on your prospects.
Once you locate their accounts, find out where they get involved in topics of discussion online and join in. Every interaction should result in the prospect associating that action in a positive light for your brand. This can be from retweeting an update, to answering a question they asked.
Build a friendly relationship with each prospect, this will put you above your rivals when it’s time to make contact. When the time is right, you can send them a message, conduct an interview or if you’ve done everything right, they will be contacting you.
Social media for B2B operations can be a valuable tool if you create the right strategy. Since the average transaction is of a greater amount, the ability to brand your business plays a critical part of your B2B social media marketing plan.
Before you go ahead and plan your social media strategy, it’s imperative to find out your potential buyers and which platforms they use. Unlike B2C sales, you will need to gain the attention of decision maker, knowing who they are before you start will dictate the rest of your B2B social media marketing plan.