Social media is a natural channel to focus on for Business to Consumer (B2C) companies. At the same time, it’s one that many Business to Business (B2B) companies tend to overlook. This is unfortunate since there are a lot of B2B social media strategies that can be extremely effective. Even when you’re selling to other businesses, it’s important to remember that your audience members are still people. They can be just as receptive to social media marketing techniques as the average consumer – if not more so. By adapting your approach to focus on connecting with your target companies’ key decision makers, you can build relationships and drive conversions.
At this point, it’s hard to argue the relevance of social media marketing for consumer-focused businesses. The widespread popularity of social platforms and the high levels of engagement they encourage make them ideal for enhancing visibility and building an audience. Still, it’s easy to assume that social media is less crucial in the B2B world. It’s tempting to focus on more traditional strategies, such as cold calling and attending networking events. However, your target isn’t really businesses. It’s the key decision makers within those businesses – and they’re likely to be just as engaged with social media as anyone else. Let’s look at a few numbers to illustrate the importance and prevalence of B2B social media marketing:
As a B2B company, your target audience is almost certainly smaller than most B2C companies. This means you have to work extra hard to locate buyers and get their attention. Fortunately, as the above numbers illustrate, developing a B2B social media strategy can make the task a good deal easier.
When it comes to B2B social media, you’ll want to consider your approach carefully. In many ways, you can benefit from the same techniques that are useful in any social media marketing campaign (regardless of business type). However, to really make your mark you’ll also want to keep your B2B goals and target audience firmly in mind. Let’s look at five of the best practices you can follow when putting together your B2B social media strategy.
When B2C companies use social media, they tend to naturally gravitate towards sharing fun and engaging posts. On the other hand, B2B companies often make the mistake of being boring. Since you’re targeting professionals and not the average consumer, you may feel that personality and style are inconsequential. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Sharing bland, dry content on social media isn’t an effective way to get anyone’s attention, whether they’re a 20-something college student or a high-powered executive. Brand personality is just as important in B2B social media marketing as anywhere else – perhaps even more so. As such, before starting up your next campaign, take some time to consider what your brand should look and sound like. If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to put together a brand style guide. Your specific approach will depend on your niche and audience, but some good general rules to follow include:
Above all, the goal is to not be boring – even if you work in an industry or sell a subjectively ‘dull’ product. This is one of your best ways to attract the attention of your ideal buyers.
Another often-overlooked aspect of B2B social media marketing is audience research. Before you can create conversion-focused content, you need to know who you’re talking to. Again, it’s vital to remember that your audience is made up of people, not companies. In other words, you don’t want to target industries or types of companies, but the specific decision makers inside those businesses. These are the people who will be choosing whether or not to purchase your products and/or services. For example, if you sell office supplies, your customers aren’t the businesses themselves or even their CEOs – they’re office managers, or possibly individual employees. To put this best practice into action, here are the general steps you’ll want to follow:
In regards to the last point, you don’t want to simply create direct advertisements targeted at your audience. Instead, it’s often best to speak to their needs in a broader sense. To clarify what we mean, let’s look at the next B2B social media best practice on our list.
If you’ve read our other posts on effective social media marketing, you’ll know how important content is to your campaigns. While direct advertising can be effective, social media is all about communication and engagement. Therefore, it’s often better to attract your audience’s attention by sharing fun and interesting content, rather than trying to sell to them right away. This is especially pertinent to B2B companies, for a number of reasons. As an example, B2B buyers tend to be a bit savvier overall, and may simply overlook direct advertisements. They also tend to conduct a lot of research before making a purchase and to want to make highly-informed decisions. The data backs this up – B2B buyers want content to educate and inform them, not content that’s just trying to sell them something. In particular, they seek out white papers, webinars, and case studies, along with (to a somewhat lesser extent) e-books, infographics, and blog posts. In a nutshell, when creating content for your own B2B buyers you’ll want to stay away from straightforward promotion and ‘salesy’ language. Instead, you need to provide educational content to inform and provide value. This can include:
Naturally, you won’t want to publish this content in full on your social media profiles – B2B buyers are busy people. A better strategy is to house it on your website, and to post small ‘teasers’ on social media with links out to the full versions. You can even automate the sharing of your blog posts to various social platforms, which is an excellent way to provide a lot of quality content with minimal effort.
So far, we’ve been talking about social media in a general sense. Of course, the social media landscape is made up of numerous platforms, each with its own style, audience, and unique set of advantages and drawbacks. Your own time is limited, so you probably won’t be able to market your business on every available platform. Instead, you’ll need to choose a few key sites to focus your efforts on. There are three main ways to do this:
Let’s look at each strategy in turn – as it’s often best to employ a mix of all three. First and foremost, you’ll want to take a close look at the buyer persona we talked about earlier. The demographics and interests within should help direct you towards the social platforms your buyers are likely already using. Focusing on those sites enables you to meet your audience where they’re already at. It’s also worth considering traditionally-useful platforms within B2B marketing – especially LinkedIn. Time and time again, LinkedIn is rated as the most effective B2B social media site, which makes sense. After all, it’s the only major platform focused specifically on business professionals and is a place your buyers will gravitate towards to make connections and discover new partners.
On the other hand, LinkedIn – along with Facebook and Twitter – is so popular for B2B marketers that other platforms often get overlooked. This can make it well worth your while to target at least one less obvious platform, particularly if it’s a site your ideal buyers frequent. It can be far easier to stand out and drive conversions on a platform not already saturated by your competitors’ messaging. For example, Snapchat and Instagram are two sites with a lot of potential. They may have a younger audience, but 73% of millennials are involved in purchasing decisions at their companies. These buyers may very well represent an under-served market in your industry, so they’re worth seeking out.
It’s right there in the name – social media shines at connecting people and enabling communication. This is one of the primary reasons social media is such an indispensable channel for B2B marketers. While many B2C companies can thrive on one-and-done purchases, what you’re selling likely requires further investment. Your products may be more expensive, or you might be offering long-term services. Either way, you’ll see a better return on your marketing expenses if you can build a relationship with businesses who come back time and time again. In a practical sense, this means you don’t simply want to send your message out into the void and wait to see what happens. Instead, your B2B social media strategy should be focused around forging connections and creating loyal customers. There are many ways to do this, but some of the best ways to start are:
Above all, remember that relationships (even online) are a two-way street. To put yourself in the right mindset, don’t just focus on what your potential customers can do for your business. Instead, make it clear how you can benefit them as well, whether that’s through your products or services directly, or simply by offering information and sharing your insights.
How do you approach social media as a B2B company or marketer? Share your insights in the comments section below!
John is a blogging addict, WordPress fanatic, and a staff writer for WordCandy.co.
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