Social media marketing has been met with mixed reception since its emergence as a potentially viable marketing strategy for the modern age of communication. Some people will point to brands like Coca-Cola, which have attracted millions of social fans and found great success in popularizing certain hashtags and images for brand visibility. Others will point out that most blowout social successes are for consumer brands that have already built a solid reputation.
These people aren’t wrong. As a B2B marketer, it’s nearly impossible to generate the tens of millions of followers that a national consumer brand might wield—but that doesn’t mean social media isn’t valuable for your business. It’s a free communication tool for you to use, and depending on the value of a sale in your business, it’s likely that only a handful of new leads a month will more than pay for whatever effort you invest into using it.
That being said, B2B social media marketing has different goals than a traditional B2C social approach, and it therefore requires a different type of campaign. When planning your social media strategy, be sure to incorporate these five important tactics:
As a general rule, professional decision makers tend to spend more time making a buying decision than consumer-level decision makers. Not only are these purchases generally more expensive, they’re also relevant for a longer term, and have a bearing on a person’s livelihood in addition to his/her personal life. Because of this, B2B customers require a much greater reputation from their potential vendors, and social media is your perfect opportunity to build this reputation.
Start by looking for influencers in your industry—anyone with a large following who is seen as an “expert” in your field will do. Exchange ideas and guest posts with these influencers, and before you know it, your audience and your reputation in the field will start to grow. You can also build your reputation by leveraging the power of brands you’ve worked with in the past. Syndicate testimonials or regularly engage with your previous customers to show that you’ve worked with the best.
In a B2C setting, quantity is as good as quality when it comes to audience. Many consumer brands draw power from having a passing relationship with a massive number of people rather than having a closer relationship with a smaller number of people. In B2B companies, this tends to be the opposite—a following of 100 passionate, dedicated users will be far more valuable than a following of 10,000 disinterested people.
Achieve this feat by selectively targeting your audience. Use Twitter lists to find and organize potential contacts on the platform. Use LinkedIn Groups to find highly relevant professionals in the type of market you want to sell to. The more relevant your initial social audience, the more success you’re going to eventually have.
For retailers, social media is a perfect channel for product promotion. Every other post highlights a product and attracts at least a few dozen clickers to scope it out as a potential purchase. As a B2B company, since sales are your bottom line, it can be tempting to follow suit by posting about your products or services. However, you must resist this temptation; it is far more valuable to promote resources that your company can offer, and worry about the sales component later.
Most professionals use social media when they’re looking for contacts, information, or help with something—not when they’re looking to spend money. If you can be the voice that helps them find what they’re looking for (in the form of a whitepaper, new research, or an interactive tutorial), you’ll be the brand they come to for all their needs.
As I mentioned above, the power of social relationships for B2B companies is more about quality than quantity. In order to generate that level of brand enthusiasm, you’re going to have to spend time nurturing individual relationships. Let your brand have a more personal voice, and engage individual followers about their current needs and pain points. If your brand helps someone with a solution, follow up with them later as an additional touch point. The more time you spend building these relationships, the greater they’ll pay off in time.
A common social media strategy is to use discounts, promotions, or giveaways to attract new followers. For B2B, this isn’t as effective. Selling things aggressively is only going to turn away your target demographic. Make sure your audience knows what your company is and what it does, but don’t push them to buy anything. Instead, your social media channels should only be focused on two goals: first, building relationships by improving your reputation and catering to individuals, and second, attracting more people to your website. If you can accomplish those two goals, the sales will be a natural byproduct.
As each B2B company is unique, finding your perfect social media rhythm is going to be a learning process. In your first few weeks and months, you may find that your strategies aren’t generating a ton of traffic or a ton of followers; this is normal. Measure whatever data you can about your posts and learn which of your strategies are or are not effective. The “ideal” social media campaign for a B2B company isn’t one that follows a set regimen, but instead is one that evolves gradually over time. Make adjustments, learn from your mistakes, and eventually you’ll have a consistent stream of leads for your operating pleasure.