When you think of the brands that are killing it on social media, the first five to 10 companies that come to mind are probably B2C (business to consumer). You rarely hear about the IT management company that’s crushing it on Twitter, or the granite manufacturer that’s dominating Facebook. But these types of companies exist. The problem is they’re in the minority.
For some reason, a lot of B2B companies have either struggled to grasp social media marketing or flat out ignored it. Despite the success that B2C companies have seen with social media, B2B companies are still relying on traditional tactics like cold calling and attending business networking breakfasts. Those tactics are still effective, but they shouldn’t be used in place of social media. Instead, you should be integrating social media into your strategy for even better results.
If you’ve been shying away from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram because you think it won’t work for companies that serve other businesses, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Here’s what you can do to get started with B2B social media.
The Biggest B2B Social Media Marketing Myth
You’ve probably heard this at some point, or even thought it yourself. Social media won’t work for me because I’m in a “boring” industry.
Erase that thought from your mind completely. Social media is not reserved for clothing and beauty companies. There are more than a billion people around the world on social media. You can bet that at least a small percentage of them are interested in your industry. Your job is to find them.
One of the best examples of a B2B company in an industry that might be considered boring, but is rocking social media, is Novartis, a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland. Most people wouldn’t expect a company in this industry to be on social media at all, yet alone have any level of success. Surprisingly Novartis has built a strong presence on Instagram, without posting hundreds of selfies and inspirational quotes. Instead, you’ll see images like this:
The key is to think about the type of content that your audience will like, rather than being self serving.
For instance, business insurance is about as uninteresting as it gets for most people. Sharing links about business insurance all day isn’t going to build a following. But when you think about who is your your likely audience and tailor your social media content toward those people, the scope of what you can post becomes a lot wider.
In this case, the target audience is business owners. Hiscox offers insurance for small businesses. If you look at Hiscox’s Facebook page, you’ll find posts about business financing, marketing and entrepreneurship. These are topics that Hiscox’s audience resonates with, and the content can actually benefit them even though it isn’t all about insurance.
Make social media about your audience, not your business. That way, even if you’re in a “boring” industry, you can still deliver share-worthy content on social media and continue to build your audience.
Don’t Restrict Yourself to Just LinkedIn
Wait, what? We’re telling you not to use the most effective B2B social media platform? Before you think we’ve lost our minds, keep reading.
LinkedIn has developed a reputation for being the top B2B social media platform for these companies, and it makes sense. Content Marketing Institute found that 63% of marketers rated LinkedIn as the most effective B2B social media platform.
As a result, a lot of B2B marketers feel they need to be on LinkedIn and nothing else. The reason behind this is they’re looking at social media strictly as a way to generate leads, which makes LinkedIn appealing. However, your first goal of B2B social media marketing needs to be branding, not leads.
When you put branding first, it gives you a different perspective on which social media platforms to choose. All of a sudden Instagram and Pinterest are no longer off limit. Social Media Examiner found that more B2B companies are starting to pick up on this and are expanding beyond LinkedIn.
- 89% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn
- 88% use Facebook
- 83% use Twitter
- 61% use Google+
- 55% use YouTube
- 39% use Pinterest
- 26% use Instagram
The companies using Instagram, Google+ and other platforms that aren’t traditionally used for B2B marketing realize the importance of using social media for branding instead of just looking for leads.
A perfect example of this is the commercial real estate company CBRE. If CBRE saw social media as a way to just generate leads, it would put all of its effort and resources toward LinkedIn. However, the company branched out and recognized how beneficial social media can be for branding, and started utilizing other platforms like Instagram, Twitter and even Google+.
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One of the best ways to find other social media platforms besides LinkedIn for your B2B company is to see what your competitors are using to successfully build an audience. Most businesses have links to their social media profiles on their website. Take a look at the top companies in your industry and see which platforms they’re dominating. That will give you an idea of where to start.
You can also take a look at these social media demographics to find out where your audience hangs out. Despite what you may have heard, LinkedIn is not the only social network for B2B companies.
Create A Personality
Being boring and dull on social media is a good way to fail. Unfortunately, since a lot of B2B companies treat social media as an afterthought, their posts lack personality and a human touch.
The fear of being too edgy or controversial keeps some B2B marketers from taking a more creative approach with their posts. However, you don’t have to be a Twitter troll or go over the top to be entertaining. There’s a big difference between Tweeting offensive jokes and just sounding like an actual human instead of a robot. You can develop a social media voice without being inappropriate and making headlines.
Here are some tips to get started:
- Use a conversational tone. Your company can be its own entity. For instance, you can use words like “we” and “our” when you’re speaking about your company.
- Engage with other users instead of just broadcasting your message. Social media is all about conversing and being able to have real-time conversations. Don’t be afraid to talk to your audience (whether they’re angry or happy) through your social media platforms.
- Don’t be afraid to have a sense of humor. Most social media creators didn’t really intend on making a platform that’s perfect for your business, but instead, as a space where people can have fun, share content and converse. Don’t be afraid to let your hair down a bit when it comes to social media. Just make sure not to go over the top and know whether or not your audience will appreciate your social presence.
— IBM (@IBM) March 7, 2016
@JasonKaestner1 Almost! The actual height is 21.5 feet.
— Raytheon (@Raytheon) March 2, 2016
— Zendesk (@Zendesk) March 18, 2016
Consumers aren’t the only ones that don’t like dealing with faceless corporations. Use social media as a way to humanize your brand. Follow in the footsteps of B2C companies and add some spunk and flavor to your social media to connect with your audience.
Put the Right People in Charge
This could mean hiring a social media manager or having a current employee take the helm, but someone has to be in charge of your social media marketing. It’s not something that you can just have different team members participate in when they have some free time.
If you choose to hire a new employee, look for someone with a social media marketing background, not just someone with knowledge of your industry. Talented social media marketers will learn the ins and outs of your company and industry. Forcing someone who doesn’t have a passion for social media marketing into the role of a social media manager can result in a lot of struggling.
Not every company is in a position to hire on a new employee strictly to handle social media. In those situations, it’s common to hand the job over to a current employee. For B2B’s, this usually falls on the sales team or administrative staff. If you’re going this route, invest in educating employees on social media marketing. Whether it’s through seminars, online courses or reading blogs, the people in charge of your B2B social media need to learn how to get results.
Create a Written Strategy
Does your company have a plan in place for social media? If not, you’re not alone. Although 80% of B2B marketers have a social media strategy, only 32% have it written down somewhere.
Documenting your social media plan allows you to set goals and paint a clear roadmap of how you’re going to reach them. Your strategy should answer important question such as:
- Who is your target audience?
- What social platforms will you use?
- What type of content will you be publishing?
- What are your goals?
- Which social media metrics will you be using to measure your efforts?
- How are your competitors using social media?
Having all of this documented keeps everyone on the same page, and allows you to adjust your strategy when you need to.
Learn the Art of Social Selling
We’ve established that leads shouldn’t be your primary focus of using social media. However, it’s still very important to make sure your social media efforts are paying off, particularly for B2B companies. That’s where social selling comes into play.
Social selling is using social media to introduce prospects into your funnel. To be clear, it’s not hard selling or cold calling. The goal is to find people who could benefit from your product, and build a relationship with them through providing helpful content and value. You’re not just Tweeting a link to your product every time someone mentions they have a problem.
Here’s an example of how Sprout’s community manager Sarah Nagel used social selling to answer a question about social media tools on LinkedIn.
The buying process has changed significantly thanks to social media, and B2B companies are not immune. Today, buyers don’t need companies to reach out to them to discover new products and services. Buyers are conducting 90% of the purchasing process on their own. They’re looking at reviews, Googling solutions for their problems and finding out about new companies through social media. In fact, 55% of B2B buyers search for information on social media. By the time they talk to an actual sales person, they’ve already made the decision to try your product.
Another reason why social selling is beneficial for B2B companies is because there are so few brands doing it. Most companies are relying on outbound tactics like cold calling and direct mail. Building your presence on social media sets you apart from the competition.
Although LinkedIn is the clear standout for gaining B2B leads on social media, Facebook and Twitter are also being used to generate leads as well. Here’s a breakdown of B2B leads generated through social media.
- LinkedIn: 80%
- Twitter: 12%
- Facebook: 6%
- Google+: 0.21%
Again, that doesn’t mean that you should put all of your focus on LinkedIn marketing just because it can earn the most leads. There are other benefits of social media that aren’t as measurable, such as brand loyalty or the trust you build with a potential buyer from sharing valuable content on Twitter and Facebook.
Are You Using B2B Social Media Strategies for Your Company Yet?
We’re no longer at a point where you have to question whether or not social media works for B2B companies. That has already been proven. Now, you have to figure out how to make it work for your business. If you haven’t been using social media marketing, you’re already behind. It’s time to hop on board start using social media to grow your brand and get leads.