(This article was first published in Marketing Magazine’s blog on 22nd October 2014)
Maybe it’s in the water but, despite a hesitant start, we are seeing renewed interest in B2B social media.
An AdAge survey earlier this year projected that 80% of B2B marketers plan to increase digital spending with a significant percentage going towards social media marketing.
B2B marketing exhibits some key differences to consumer marketing, for example:
- Decision making is based more on logic than emotion,
- the cost of a sale is more expensive,
- the decision process takes longer, and
- the process usually involves more than one person.
Interestingly, whether it is B2B or B2C, regardless of company size, there are a set of common mistakes being made which can act as a deterrent. So here are 5 steps towards successful B2B social media marketing including some ‘top tips’ on how to avoid the most common mistakes.
1. Invest in a plan
Rather than just dive in, which is not an uncommon approach, make sure you define your strategic goals, objectives, strategies and tactics. Assign a purpose to each channel, noting that not every platform is right for every business.
Establish an editorial calendar and determine what internal capacity you have (if any) to manage social that can begin to set you apart from your competitors.
A great example is Maersk Line who, at first glance, seems to be the most unlikely social proponent. It defines its goal as, ”The ability to closely connect with all our stakeholders around the world including current and future employees, and those that are simply interested in what we do”.
They recognise that additional benefits include ”better press coverage, higher employee engagement, more brand awareness and bringing in high-level insights and intelligence from shipping experts around the world”.
Top tip: do not set out to measure the wrong things such as chasing fan numbers or viewing social as another mass medium through which branded content can be pushed.
Focus instead on who is sharing your content (posts, video or tweets), brand sentiment, speed and quality of customer service resolution and engagement (comments, shares or CTRs etc).
Outcome: an integrated and well-considered approach with clear KPIs that can set you apart from competitors.
2. Build a capable team
Put the right people in charge. Social media is NOT a role for a keen intern or an additional role for someone who is already busy.
The skill sets required will include writing, editing, photo-editing, some tech know-how and being able to respond in real time.
As a very public manifestation of your business you will want people who know your tone, character, language, purpose and can effectively escalate process in the face of customer complaints.
Outcome: a social community management team that can take responsibility for day to day updates and long term thinking.
3. Select the most effective tools
Top tip: It is better to use just a few channels really well than to be stretched too thin and be everywhere inconsistently.
Many regard LinkedIn as the hero B2B social tool, however there are pros and cons.
On the up side, LinkedIn has more easily discoverable business targets than any other network within the context of common connections. It can help expand your reach, build brand awareness, add credibility, drive engagement and distribute quality content.
On the downside, other tools have much higher share ability than LinkedIn (Facebook: 300x, Twitter: 22x and Pinterest: 96x).
Additionally, an interesting insight is that, nearly 60% of LinkedIn’s revenue is attributable to job search activities.
Going beyond LinkedIn, General Electric does a great job on Pinterest.
Finally, as search engines dominate first phase research, don’t forget to participate with Google+ to bolster your search rankings.
Outcome: a complementary mix of social platforms to deliver on your business objectives.
4. Be socially aware
In social settings brands, like people, are really boring if they only talk about themselves.
Great content marketing can be best described as anything a brand produces that, were it unbranded, would still hold value and be of compelling interest.
The starting point is to better understand your customers and the relationship they have with your business. In turn, your content can become the centre piece for meaningful conversations with many audiences, uniting people who want to know more about you or participate with you in some way.
Social can be particularly effective at engaging multicultural audiences too, previously considered to to difficult to reach using mass media (25% of Australians speak a language other than English at home).
Outcome: useful and engaging content that unites people around interest in your brand to create mutual value.
Every business is multi-functional (internal) and has partners (external).
Social media doesn’t discriminate, rather it is all pervasive.
Top tip: do not isolate social within one department (usually marketing) which often limits the multi-functional role it can play for business.
In our brand integration workshops it quickly becomes clear that social media can contribute and benefit other departments such as HR, customer experience, search, web development, sales, research, PR and creative.
The opportunity, externally, is to connect with all partners who regularly engage online with activities such as sharing their posts, leaving comments, liking their photos and collaborating on content.
Partner amplification should be a priority and can help you reach new audiences within your own industry.
Outcome: striking the right balance between being a social business (internal attitude) and having an inclusive social media engagement strategy.
In summary, let us remember that at the core of social media marketing we are quite simply people talking to people. With a considered plan in place, the right team, the right tools, some creative ideas and partners involved then every B2B company has the opportunity to shine.