“Social media is just a buzzword until you come up with a plan.” – Unknown
Well, chances are that you have heard a lot about B2B social media and are convinced that it has moved beyond just a buzzword. You want to start adopting this new way of marketing and sales, but not sure what to expect and what mistakes to avoid.
Through this blog post, I have tried to capture 9 key points which every B2B company must know while planning their social media and content marketing initiatives –
B2B Social Media is different than B2C
The nature of B2B businesses is different – the sales cycles are complex, purchase decisions do not happen in seconds, there are multiple decision makers involved in the sales cycle, and fitment of the solution plays a more important role than emotional connect. Considering all such factors, don’t you agree that the social channel which you visit for connecting with your family and friends is probably not the best channel for educating the buyers about how they can solve a business problem?
As Erik Qualman has very rightly said, “Successful companies in social media function more like entertainment companies, publishers, or party planners than as traditional advertisers.” Bombarding your message to hundreds of thousands of people is not going to help you close a deal.
Not only the distribution channels, but you need to think differently in every aspect when it comes B2B social media – does your audience prefer a serious language or humor can work with them, what is your choice of social channels, which type of content is used by decision markers vis-a-vis the influencers, and how can you integrate your marketing efforts with sales campaigns.
In a nutshell, while B2B social media is still about human-to-human interaction since the goals and intentions are different, the efforts need to be tweaked appropriately.
A team of interns would possibly not be able to pull off your B2B social media efforts
Many companies think that social media is about setting up accounts on popular social channels and posting updates on those. This, according to such companies, is a very simple task and can be done by virtually “anybody” – even as a side project. Don’t mistake it to be just an activity. You need to start looking at it as an investment of valuable time and resources. Don’t have a Twitter or Facebook strategy. Have a social media strategy. As Brian Solis has said, “Social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.”
B2B social media requires a strong strategy, the right choice of tools, right message, understanding of the customer needs, ability to listen to what they want and what are they looking for, and engagement with the target audience – I would say this is too much to expect from a team of interns without a business acumen.
You can measure the Social Media RoI
If anybody has told you that you cannot measure the RoI with B2B social media, don’t believe them. You definitely can measure the RoI as far as you remember that R stands for “Return” and not only “Revenue”. Social media and content marketing can help you achieve –
- Increased awareness and visibility in front of your target audience
- Greater engagement
- A chance to be front of the digitally-driven, socially-connected, informed, mobile audience
- Opportunity to engage with your buyers through relevant and authentic conversations
- Stronger relationships with your target audience
- Your thought leadership
And all these things will eventually lead to sales, which is your ultimate objective.
You can’t avoid content marketing – content is king
And by content marketing, I do not mean the brochures and corporate presentations. When today’s B2B buyers are looking for information, finding answers to their questions, and doing their research, you need to be in front of them through educative content which helps them in their research – this content can be in the form of blog articles, whitepapers, eBooks, webinars, podcasts, case studies, presentations, etc. Do note the word educative here, because if you try to constantly sell through your content or keep on talking about how great your product or service is, then you aren’t talking about content marketing.
Your website needs to be a strong one to capture the interest of the audience
Thousands of visits to the website are worthless if they don’t take any action. Of course, your products and services have to be relevant and useful for the visitors for them to take any concrete action. However, it is also important to showcase the information in the right format, through right visuals, and with the right CTA (Call-to-Action buttons). Some of the ways you can capture the interest of the visitors are: having a CTA on popular blogs, a banner image on all pages for unique events like webinars/ podcasts, option to download a whitepaper on relevant pages of the website, links to case studies from the services pages, etc.
B2B social media is not a replacement for your sales engine
That’s right. Social media is the top of the funnel activity in your sales engine. It can create awareness, generate interest, get people interested in your content (blogs, whitepapers, webinars, etc.), and drive traffic to your website. But if you think people will fill out the contact form after reading the blog, then it’s little unlikely to happen – and that’s because B2B sales cycles are complex, there are multiple decision makers involved, the questions of every decision maker and influencer are different, and people don’t make decisions based on impulse. Having said that, based on my personal experience as well as our experience of working with several B2B companies with their social media initiatives, I can confidently say that these things play a huge role in your sales cycle and you must integrate these efforts with your sales efforts. Don’t run these two engines in silos.
Influencer marketing works – even in b2B
People listen to people. People value opinions of the experts in the field. A thought leader talking about the latest trends in the industry holds more weightage than an advertorial. Therefore, it makes a perfect sense to connect with the right thought leaders in your industry, share their thoughts, ask them questions, seek feedback, invite them for guest blogging, or run a webinar series with them. Of course, this is a long shot and it has to be a subtle and consistent effort. The thought leaders need to get convinced that your offerings and ideologies resonate with them.
You need the involvement of your employees
In today’s digital age, the whole company is your marketing department. Marketing departments cannot run in silos. You need involvement of various department stakeholders to make your B2B social media initiatives successful – for example: you need to involve the subject matter experts in your content creation efforts, your need the sales teams to leverage the content created by the marketing teams, you need the external facing employees to amplify the impact of the social promotions, and you need your HR teams to leverage the content and social properties to connect with the right talent.
Executive branding is important
Companies need to ensure that their leadership team is highly visible on social media. Especially for companies where the top leadership is involved in large value sales deals or is the face of the company for talent acquisition, it is important that the leaders depict the right image of themselves in the online world. Publishing thought leading content, being active on B2B focused social channels like LinkedIn and Twitter are some of the ways to be in the eyeline of the right audience. I agree that the CXOs may not be able to spend a humongous amount of time in this activity, but trust me, if you can, it is totally worth it. Have a concrete personal branding strategy (define what you want to be known for), choose the right channels, engage with the right people (don’t forget to respond to the comments), and ensure that you are consistent with your efforts.
Some of these things might appear to be very obvious and basic – the key lies in following these consistently and diligently. Good luck with your efforts!