November 16, 20155 min read
Businesses have engaged target audiences via social media for the better part of a decade. B2C companies have done so with great success, quantifiable in both rising sales and increased one-on-one interactions with customers.
And how have B2B companies done with social media? Not so well.
That does not mean B2B companies should abandon social channels. Rather, it underscores the need to develop a realistic social strategy aligned with business realities and overall marketing objectives.
If your B2B company struggles with social media, take a step back. Establish exactly why social is a worthwhile investment. Keep three things in mind as you develop your business case:
- Social Media is Everywhere: Millennials have led the way in social media, but social reaches far beyond that cohort today. A recent Pew Research study the majority of internet users are on at least one social network, with Facebook remaining the most popular network. Besides Facebook, 52% of adults use two or more social networks, up from 42% in 2013. While multi-platform social media has increased, Facebook remains the lead content-sharing platform among Millennials, Generation X-ers and Baby Boomers.
- Own Your Brand: When a new prospect hears about your company, whether through email or word of mouth, the prospect will likely search for you online. Think about what shows up in those results. An old blog entry? Your About Us page? A competitor’s site? Active, regularly updated social profiles go a long way to ensure control of your brand’s search results. And if you don’t claim your company’s user name across social channels, someone else could, and that would confuse your customers.
Active, reguarly updated social profiles will appear on the first page of search results when users search for your company.
- Social Search: People conduct more than 2 billion social searches daily. A company profile across these channels ensures users can find you as they look for the products and services you provide. The prevalence of social search will increase over the coming years as networks such as Facebook and Instagram continue to spotlight “near you” content.
Developing and Measuring Your Social Strategy
Be realistic as you develop your B2B social media strategy. B2B marketers, accept the hard-to-swallow truth: Social media will not generate B2B sales. Similarly, boosting tweets or Facebook posts will not instantly lift your numbers of followers and fans.
B2B social strategy should aim at raising brand awareness and engagement, developing thought leadership, and leveraging brand enthusiasts. (After your strategy is in place, you can also use social media to generate content topic ideas and spy on your competition. But make sure you have a strategy in place first.)
To create an effective B2B social strategy:
- Decide Where and When to Post: You can choose from literally hundreds of thousands of social networks. If you’re just getting started with social media or revamping your current efforts, start with the “big three:” Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Facebook has the world’s largest user base. Twitter and LinkedIn are most popular among B2B audiences. When to share content often depends on your industry. Study your competition or use a free tool, such as Buffer, to determine the best days and times to post. Then evaluate regularly.
Use a free tool like Buffer to determine the best times to post on social media and schedule content in advance.
- Engage with the Leaders: Set a goal of engaging with 10 industry leaders each day. Like their Facebook pages. Follow them on Twitter. Join relevant LinkedIn groups. These leaders can include co-workers, trade publications or organizations, clients and potential clients. This “follow the leader” mentality counts especially on Twitter, a give-and-take channel, so follow everyone who follows you.
- Curation is King: Curating valuable, worthwhile content is a key social-media function. We recommend the 70-30 rule: share others’ content 70% of the time and your own content 30% of the time.
- The 70: Share relevant industry content, such as articles or studies from trade journals. Retweet or share content from other thought leaders, and highlight clients to develop a robust profile others can turn to for the latest news and updates within your industry sector. Tailor the message for each network.
- On Twitter, use hashtags and the @ symbol to engage with other users.
- On LinkedIn, share industry and company news with a business focus. It’s also appropriate to share longer-form content on LinkedIn.
- The 30: Share upcoming company events, new products, employee photos and, most importantly, such content as whitepapers and blog entries. This content should drive users back to your website.
- Use Facebook to show the human side of your company, with clever language and jokes. When sharing your own content, don’t be afraid to share candid employee photos and videos.
- Measure, Revise and Repeat: Measure your social efforts monthly. Note what works, so you can continue to integrate those tactics into your overall digital marketing strategy. You likely won’t be able to tie your social posts to sales. Focus on these metrics instead:
- Engagement: Measure cross-channel engagement to determine how users interact with your content. Resist the urge to tie engagement to leads, website visits or online conversions. Much like the impressions generated by 20th century print magazine ads, social engagement is a worthwhile standalone metric.
- Website Referrals: Tracking website visitors from social channels will shed light on audience interests. Continue to develop content around those popular topics.
- Brand Awareness: Increased visits to your company’s social profile pages are an important measure of brand awareness, even if the visits don’t result in new likes, retweets, shares or favorites.
Avoid Common Mistakes
It’s easy to fall into the “tweet and leave it” mentality of social media: quickly post content in the morning to get it off the to-do list, rather than fully integrate it into your digital strategy. Avoid these common pitfalls to help keep social efforts on track:
- Relying on One Social Specialist: Sure, one or two people can post and share content. But a team, including individuals from outside the marketing department, should design and implement a comprehensive strategy aimed at specific industries and audiences. At Northwoods, for example, our social media team meets bimonthly to review the content we’re sharing and recommend improvements.
- Ignoring Employees: Encourage employees to participate with the company’s social campaign by sharing company content with their personal networks.
- Expecting Instant Results: Give your company time to increase engagement, awareness and website visits. Social media is a long game.
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