There’s a common misconception that social media marketing for B2B marketers is impossible, or at the very least, inefficient. However, while B2C companies have an easier time generating mass visibility for their products and services, B2B companies can accomplish a similar return on investment—as long as they’re using the right strategies.
As with any marketing campaign, success in B2B social media marketing comes down to knowing your customers and building a relationship with them. Fortunately, there are ampletools and strategies to get the job done.
Before we take a look at specific strategies that can improve a B2B social media marketing campaign, let’s examine the differentiators that make B2B companies unique.
The target demographics for B2C companies and B2B companies are radically different. B2C companies generally target residential purchasers of a given product or service, which means they could theoretically target anybody from ages 5 to 100. They have a rich, diverse pool of consumers with varied backgrounds, jobs, income levels, and personalities. Some niche B2C companies won’t be able to take advantage of social media because their target demographics don’t use it, but the vast majority of B2C companies can find some subset of users they can market to on social platforms.
The target demographic for most B2B companies is business professionals. Age, race, and gender can still vary, but B2B companies usually target a specific type of person working in a specific job in a specific industry. This narrow range leads many B2B marketers to believe that social media is less practical than it is for B2C companies, because they’re casting a smaller net. While this demographic difference is true and significant, it is not an obstacle holding B2B companies back; instead, it is simply a consideration you’ll need to make when formulating your broader social strategy.
The sales process is also a typical concern for B2B marketers. B2C companies have the luxury of short sales flows; usually, a consumer reaches a decision point almost immediately after seeing the product or service being offered. Since many purchases are one-time-only and demographics are so wide and diverse, B2C companies can create a short path for the consumer to make a purchase.
B2B companies, on the other hand, typically go through a lengthy series of qualification rounds before eventually making contact, and even then, close rates can still get in the way. Since most social media users are more likely to make fast decisions, B2B marketers do have a unique challenge. Again, this isn’t necessarily a hindrance. It’s simply another strategic consideration.
Brand relationships are another differentiating factor for B2B marketers in the world of social media. Brand loyalty, while important for many B2C customers, is more prevalent amongst B2B customers. B2C customers want to make sure the product they are buying is the best, or cheapest, while B2B customers want to make sure they’re being taken care of in good hands. While budgetary considerations are still important, most B2B customers would rather have a strong relationship with their provider than a flawless or perfectly priced product. This is another consideration and key opportunity for B2B marketers, as it requires a different angle in social messaging.
Despite all the differences between B2B marketing and B2C marketing in a social context, both types of marketing ultimately boil down to the same principle. The goal is to speak to a person, and convince them to make a decision. Even though your business is seeking other businesses, at the root of the exchange is one person seeking another person.Because that personal exchange remains at the center of the B2B marketing strategy, social media marketing offers a strong opportunity to make that exchange.
Now that you understand the fundamental differences between B2C and B2B social marketing, we can start looking at practical strategies that can earn you more business over time. First, we’ll examine the most popular platforms for B2B marketers and why they’re advantageous for most industries. Then, we’ll look at a handful of posting and interaction strategies that can build your reputation on each of those platforms.
Twitter is a popular platform for both B2C and B2B marketers because of its sheer popularity and the public availability of its users. B2B marketers can use this to their advantage because they can skip several rounds of qualification in what is otherwise a lengthy and unpredictable sales process. Rather than casting a large net by broadcasting messages to thousands of users (of whom only dozens may be relevant), Twitter allows you to study user profiles and target the most relevant users available.
List segmentation is one of the most relevant strategies for B2B marketers. By searching for users associated with a given keyword, or by looking at the followings of your competitors and industry associates, you can start sorting Twitter users into different, hyper-segmented groups known as “Lists.” With these lists, you can selectively target your messaging and eventually build a specific following of users who fit your target profile, thereby skipping you directly to the end of your sales funnel.
LinkedIn is another incredibly popular platform for B2B marketers because its demographics are already narrowed down to business professionals. There aren’t any children and there are very few retired individuals on LinkedIn; combined with the fact that everyone on LinkedIn is interested in using the platform for their career in some way, LinkedIn makes a perfect starting board for the average B2B marketer.
Group building is the best, but most intensive strategy a B2B marketer can use on LinkedIn. Through this strategy, you’ll be able to establish or grow a dedicated following of users who are interested in your brand. If you’re new to LinkedIn, you can find an existing Group that’s relevant for your industry, and join it as an individual user. Through that account (or by acting through your Company’s page), you can engage with different users through discussions, questions, polls, and other opportunities to interact.
If you want to take the next step, you can even start your own group, and gradually build out. You’ll need to nurture your community as it grows by posting relevant conversation topics regularly and bringing value to the group, but eventually you’ll have a gradually growing community that you can sort through for professional business connections.
Resource provision is another, less intensive opportunity for B2B LinkedIn marketers. Through Groups, you can post promotions in the form of articles leading back to your site. And of course, you can always post articles on your Company’s profile page. Giving users valuable information is a great way to attract new people to your website, and it will also give you the opportunity to see who’s commenting on your posts and engage them for a follow-up discussion.
Of course, there are dozens of social media platforms available for B2B marketers, and all of them have unique strengths and weaknesses. What works for one industry may not necessarily work for another, but Twitter and LinkedIn will give you a strong start in the social media marketing world. Once you learn what types of users to look for and which types of messaging appear to be the most effective, you can increase your efforts and widen your strategy by seeking out other mediums that your target audience might use.
Social media marketing for B2B marketers is the same as for B2C—you’ll have to experiment and revise on a continuous loop if you eventually want to find success. Just remember the central foundation for your strategy: people like to talk to people. If you find the right people and talk to them in the right way, there should be nothing holding you back from the results you want.