Why should B2B companies use social media?
Social media is by no means new, but there still remain misconceptions around it. There’s still a perception that social media is the preserve of B2C companies, but the truth is that there’s plenty of scope for B2B organisations to enjoy success with social media marketing.
Social media is a trust indicator and an opportunity to establish your Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (EAT). Social media is more than just cats and memes; it represents a way to influence your clients to choose your services over those of a competitor. In fact, 84% of C-level and VP-level buyers use social media interaction to influence purchase decisions.
But even where B2B business owners know they should be using social media, there’s often one more misconception that stops them getting started on their strategy.
Misconception: you’re not interesting enough for social media
If you’ve ever seen someone’s eyes glaze over when you tell them what you do for a living, you could be forgiven for thinking that your company is too boring for social media. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Having worked in double glazing in a past life, I know what it’s like when no-one wants to talk about your job at parties. But that isn't because your business is inherently boring; it’s because the person you’re talking to isn’t your target audience. If I turned around and talked to someone who needed new windows, their interest in my job was dramatically higher!
The same is true when it comes to your company and social media. You might not excite the masses with the work your company does. But there are people out there who are interested; you just need to find them. If you need any more convincing, just ask yourself this: you find your industry interesting, don’t you?
There are no dry subjects, only dry content.
Let’s be honest: there’s a limit to how interesting fruit smoothies can be. But innocent drinks are enjoying plenty of success on social media. Not because their blended fruit drinks are inherently exciting, but because they’ve made their presence engaging.
Of course, an insurance company that acts like innocent is going to struggle to be taken seriously. But you don’t need to make daft jokes to be engaging. You can encourage engagement by sharing content that is interesting, emotive, useful, or helpful, by asking questions, and even by looking for conversations that you can contribute to. More on that later.
For instance, you might be hard-pressed to say that logistics company Maersk works in an exciting industry. But by posting information about their sustainability efforts, environmental issues and climate change, alongside company updates, they’ve created a social presence that enjoys high levels of engagement despite the “dull” nature of their business.
So whether your business offers something exciting or something “dull”, a social media presence can still deliver huge benefits to your brand. So how do you go about building a B2B social media strategy?
How to build your B2B social media strategy
Your B2B social media strategy boils down to answering three questions that seem deceptively simple:
- what are your goals?
- how will you measure your success?
- how you will achieve that success?
Deciding what your goals are gives focus to your strategy.
Understanding how you will measure your success helps you establish whether your strategy is working.
And putting together a plan for achieving that success will help you establish what kind of content to post, which social channels to use, which groups to join, who you should target with promoted posts, and what you should be promoting.
What are your goals?
Before you do anything else, you need to establish your goals. Understanding what you’re trying to achieve will influence everything else you do, so it’s important to identify exactly what you want your social channels to do for your organisation.
For instance, many social accounts attempt to:
- Raise awareness of the brand
- Provide customer service
- Drive conversions
A social account can potentially undertake all three of these activities, but you’ll be better served by establishing one as your primary goal. Trying to measure your success against three different bars is going to be a thankless task. In fact, many companies set up dedicated social accounts for customer service.
You don’t need to set up different accounts for each of these efforts. If your primary goal is to raise awareness of your brand, this doesn’t prevent your social media manager from answering questions from an existing customer. You just won’t be measuring your success by how many of those questions you answer.
Paid social campaigns can also help you seek to achieve multiple goals with a single account. More on that later.
How will you measure your success?
Once you know what your goals are for your B2B social media efforts, you can start to establish what success will look like and how you will measure it.
Measuring the success of your B2B social media strategy ensures that you’re not wasting time and resources on something that isn’t furthering your business’ ambitions.
There’s plenty of data to wade through when it comes to social media, but it’s important not to be distracted. Depending on your goals, there will only be a handful of metrics that matter; don’t get distracted by vanity metrics that don’t contribute to your goals.
If your goal is to raise awareness, you’ll want to measure engagement metrics such as reach, likes, comments, and shares (the terminology will differ from platform to platform). If you’re trying to raise awareness of content you’ve produced, such as an article on your website or a video, you’ll also want to measure clicks.
Be wary of measuring by follower counts or the equivalent metric. Not only will you need to contend with bots artificially inflating your numbers, but the odds that all of your followers are seeing your posts are slim.
The truth is that organic reach on social networks has been in decline for some time now. The platforms claim they are using new algorithms to improve the user experience by only showing posts they’re likely to be interested in. Cynics suggest the reduction in organic reach is an artificial attempt to boost the adoption of paid social ads. You be the judge.
Each social network will offer you data for many of the metrics that are worth measuring. There are also a number of third-party software solutions. Buffer and Hootsuite are both free. Sprout Social, Falcon, SocialBakers, and Agora are paid tools that offer more functionality.
Measuring customer service
If you’re providing customer service, you’ll be tracking the number of enquiries as well as the number of positive resolutions. Social networks aren’t geared towards measuring this kind of information, so you might want to consider integrating a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) with your social platform. Alternatively, you could use a tool with sentiment-tracking, such as Mention.
If you’re driving conversions, perhaps by sharing links to your website, you could measure how many clicks those links receive. But you’ll be better served by turning to your website analytics and combining goal tracking with referral traffic. A social click doesn’t equal a conversion; there’s still a way to go between clicking a link to your website and filling in a form or making a purchase.
Instead, you can set up goals within Google Analytics, and run a report to show how many conversions came from traffic that was referred from your social platforms. Don’t forget to account for assisted conversions; that represents users that visited your website from your social platform, but for whatever reason converted at a later date. You can use UTM tracking in your social links to help identify these types of conversions. Don’t sell your own efforts short by omitting assisted conversions from your reporting.
How will you achieve your success?
Now that you’ve established your goals and decided how to measure your success, it’s time to figure out what you need to do to find some success to measure.
Your approach will be unique to your business so, while there are plenty of methods you could use, not all of them will be suitable. The following methods and tools are both useful and applicable to the majority of strategies. But remember that your business is unique; not every method, idea, or recommendation you’ll find on the Internet will necessarily be suitable for you. Carefully pick what will work for you, and ignore everything else.
Make the most of your customer personas
There are worse places to start than with your customer personas. After all, these are already telling what kind of content your customers respond to, and the same will largely hold true for the content you’ll post on your social channels.
But your personas will also help you establish which social networks your customers are using.
Don’t make assumptions. For instance, it would be easy to look at Jeff and assume he’s not using Snapchat or TikTok. But, if you’ve taken the time to build solid personas from solid data, you won't need to assume anything; you'll know exactly where to find Jeff and people like him.
Take the time to revisit your personas, expanding them (and taking the opportunity to see if they need updating). Use the data to understand where Jeff can be found online so you invest the time and resources on the correct social networks.
People buy people
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to B2B social strategy is that you’re not creating social media posts for other companies. You’re creating them for the people that work there. With that in mind, think about how personable you want to be.
For instance, you might set up an account for your business and post messages from an anonymous “we” (e.g. “We’re meeting today with our partners to plan the year ahead.”)
Or you might post messages from your social media manager on the business’ behalf (e.g. “I’m in London today to meet with some of our fantastic partners, always fun to get together in person!”)
Or you might find a middle ground where the business posts messages written by employees.
There’s a whole spectrum of personality you can use for your business, and you need to find one that works for your tone of voice. If you have a serious and authoritative voice, tweets from Erica might not be best for you. But tweeting quotes from employees might.
The more personable you can be, the more people are likely to engage with you. As our Commercial Director likes to say, “people buy people”. Your social media accounts are a great way to show off your people and put a face to your business.
Give people a reason to follow you
Be wary of the fact that people don’t sign into a social network to be sold to. They’re online for interaction, entertainment, news, even research. You’ll struggle to find people who will like your Facebook page in order to receive your sales pitch in their feed every day.
With this in mind, consider what value you can offer to people that will leave them wanting to see your posts. For instance, as a B2B organisation, your customers will likely be interested in the valuable insights and data you can provide about your industry.
But don’t neglect entertainment; for instance, you could provide humorous observations about your industry, if it’s suitable for your business. For instance, Pornhub releases loads of unusual and amusing stats about the searches on its site, such as a spike in traffic during the Hawaiian hurricane!
It’s also worth tying up your social efforts with your content team; after all, the content they’re creating is already geared towards attracting the interest of your target audience, so sharing or adapting it to your social channels should help you to create value for your audience.
Whether you’re offering entertainment, information, news, insights, or something else, be sure to keep your customers’ interest at the forefront of your efforts. Give them a reason to follow you, and to look forward to your updates.
You can use social monitoring tools to receive alerts whenever someone mentions a key term. This gives you the opportunity to join the conversation and offer helpful advice, insights, or resources.
For instance, a social monitoring tool could alert a car insurance company that a Twitter user is asking their followers a question about insurance. The company could then take a look at the tweet and offer a helpful answer. This tactic can work well alongside a content strategy that includes a knowledge hub on your website.
This tactic can deliver results, but it should be used carefully. Few potential customers will appreciate an unsolicited sales pitch (unless, perhaps, it’s delivered with humour), so use this tactic to demonstrate how your company is authoritative and helpful.
Engage with people who are talking about your industry; you don't have to focus on selling your product. If you've answered a query or helped them solve a problem, their brand recall is going to be much higher than if you just pitch to them.
This is just a quick note about who should be in charge of your social media accounts. The answer is not someone who is on work experience, an intern, or whoever has a spare five minutes!
Your social media accounts are a public face of your company and should be placed in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing. If you don’t already employ someone like that, consider hiring someone or asking an agency for help.
Consider employee advocacy
One social account can only reach so far, but a dozen can reach even further. Your employees are the experts behind your success, so consider setting them up with branded accounts (or asking them to affiliate their existing accounts with your brand).
Your team can then create posts that support and further your business’ message. Setting up a few key members of your team as thought leaders also contributes to the Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (EAT) of your brand.
Consider paid social
I mentioned earlier that organic reach on social networks has significantly reduced in recent years. With Facebook’s latest efforts to emphasise community, this reduction is set to continue. As such, supplementing your organic posts with paid campaigns can boost your reach, impressions, and following, as well as helping to build upon the organic engagements you’ve acquired.
As well as looking to boost your organic stats, you should consider bigger campaigns with the aim of driving conversions. For instance, separate paid campaigns can help you pitch the right social content to potential customers at the right stage of their journey. An awareness campaign focused on reach might drive traffic to a landing page on your site.
This can be supplemented with a campaign targeted to users who clicked that link, pitching mid-funnel content about a particular product. Finally, a third campaign retargets these users with end-of-funnel content that encourages them to convert.
Delving into the complexities of paid social is beyond the scope of this article, but feel free to get in touch if you want to know more!
When and how to change your strategy
Sometimes you can build a fantastic strategy on paper, but it just doesn’t work in the real world. That’s okay; no-one gets it right all the time. It’s fine to adjust your strategy over time; in fact, improvement is vital to any successful strategy.
But before you alter your strategy, first ask yourself if you’ve given it enough time to succeed. No social media strategy is going to be a runaway success by day two. Only you can decide how long is long enough, but I’d recommend giving your strategy a few months before making any changes.
And when you do make changes, make them slowly. Don’t throw out your entire strategy and start again. Instead, make one change and see how that affects things.
So, for instance, if your posts aren’t getting enough engagement, you could potentially change the content you’re posting, change when you post, or change how often. Don’t change all three at once or you won’t know which change had a positive effect. Change one and wait for the data to come in. If engagement is still low, make a different change and measure that one.
Changing your strategy this way means you can be absolutely certain of every element of your strategy. This doesn’t just give you confidence in what you’re doing; it also helps you understand your strategy and know what you need to do if a pivot is required. It also helps you explain how you’re spending your time and resource, and help rationalise any requests for further budget!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
No-one is an expert in everything. Social media, like any other aspect of digital marketing, is a complex beast with some mysterious algorithms beneath the surface that can seem confusing at first. If you have any questions about your B2B social media strategy, feel free to get in touch with us; we’re always happy to help!