January 30, 2017
5 ways to make social media work for your B2B brand
The fact that almost every other business has jumped onto social media doesn’t necessarily mean that yours should, too. After all, you probably got to where you are partly because you took a risk to be different, stand out, and break your own path. But, in this case, go ahead and do what all your friends are doing.
In a 2015 study released by Social Media Examiner surveying 3700 marketers, 92% of them who use social media said that it had been a valuable investment. They cited these as the top reasons:
- Increased exposure
- Increased traffic
- Developed loyal fans
- Provided marketplace insight
- Generated leads
- Improved search rankings
- Grown business partnerships
- Established thought leadership
- Improved sales
- Reduced marketing expenses
While it may seem like businesses marketing directly to consumers have more to gain from social media, B2B brands find success with social, too. Here’s how to make social media work for your brand:
Use social media to share expertise
Businesspeople, like any people, like to learn. In fact, education is one of the top three things that psychology researchers have found makes people keep reading whatever is currently on their screen. (The other two are entertainment and inspiration, which I’ll come to in a minute.) And so while B2B brands sometimes use social media to simply promote a product or service, they see more engagement when they share thought leadership that brings a unique perspective on industry issues important to their client base.
Business leaders want to work with other businesses who are knowledgeable, innovative, and part of the current conversations. Your budget and time will determine what shape this will take—posting insights from your company blog, sharing articles from the media, reposting other companies’ posts, or a mix of them all. (Read also our post on how publishing a book can accomplish this). The key is to always put your own perspective onto any post you make. And—here it is—try to make them entertaining and inspirational while you’re at it!
Embrace the opportunity to be personable and authentic
You’re a business doing business with other businesses, but you’re still talking to humans. I’ve read this same line from a number of different sources, which only reinforces the common wisdom behind it. Several social media platforms—Facebook and Instagram most of all—allow you to put a human face to your brand. Literally, you can provide glimpses into the culture and people behind the scenes. My experience has consistently shown that content that shares the daily activities of a B2B brand’s team travels the farthest. It comes down to the fact that people like to see photos of the people they work with, both their own co-workers and those they partner with at other companies. And the raw and spontaneous nature of these posts, which are quite in contrast to brand advertisements, brings authenticity to your brand in a truly authentic way.
Even if your brand is global, think local
You know when a performer mentions a city on stage, and then everyone from that city cheers? You have to do that with your social media. Social media—like many B2B brands—operates globally, but what it’s also good at doing is connecting with people right now and right where they are. Social media can mobilize local clients towards a networking event, can promote an appearance by a company’s owner, or reinforce participation in local charity drives. Telling behind-the-scenes stories from regional offices highlights that the sum is greater because of its parts.
I’ve also seen great ongoing campaigns from B2B brands that engage customers—businesses or end users—to post interactions with their product while using a hashtag that can be easily searched and then re-posted by the brand. And, by the way, all of this is why it’s important to create a brand language at the outset of your content strategy that is flexible to local uses and needs.
Engage with and build your network
Taking advantage of the “social” part of social media is key for B2B brands to make the most of of their efforts. These channels are all two-way streets and sharing, liking, and talking to your network—dealers, reps, suppliers, etc.—shows them you value the relationship and will encourage them to do the same. Your posts can also build your network through tagging other companies, experts, and industry media. Create dialogues through replies, retweets, and reposts.
Although it can be difficult to concretely measure the ROI of social media, the majority of the marketers surveyed by Social Media Examiner found that a sustained commitment improved business. More than half of marketers who’ve invested in social media for at least one year said they gained business partnerships, and B2B brands reported the highest gains. Also, by spending as little as 6 hours per week on social media, more than two-thirds of those surveyed said they saw lead generation benefits.
Start with strategy
And lastly, here’s what needs to come first: strategy. Social media is an aspect of your brand, and just like any other brand tactic, strategy needs to lead. Many businesses and customers will encounter you first through your social media, so it’s important that it presents consistent and brand-appropriate content. Some questions to kick-off your strategy analysis: What audiences do we want to engage and what topics will engage them best? What type of content best communicates the brand and products? What content can be realistically produced on a regular basis?
Where you start with social media will depend on the outcome of your strategy sessions. While you might find that it would be useful to engage with multiple platforms, depending on your budget and bandwidth, a staggered launch approach may allow for the focus necessary to make each one truly effective. This way, you’ll not end up with an abandoned account, and will have the processes in place for regularly educational, entertaining and inspirational posts.
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