July 27, 2016
Unlock the Power of Social Media for B2B
By McKenzie Telthorst
Last fall, I attended a conference with a session called “Visual Storytelling in B2B Social Media”. Since I manage several B2B accounts, I was pumped to hear about exciting new ways to engage B2B customers in the social space. Know what the session was about? How an international freight company stumbled upon a hidden archive of 4,000 photos they could use to launch their Instagram channel. Color me disappointed, since most B2B brands—at least the ones I work with—don’t live in an Indiana Jones movie.
So, like everyone else in this business, I started compiling a veritable treasure chest of social media research. Subscribing to all the lists. Reading all the articles. Lurking on social media platforms. Pestering our partners at RevUnit.
Soon, the B2B social media landscape started to make sense. I’m lucky to have clients who trust us to try some things—things that actually helped their businesses grow. Along the way, we both gained some great insights on using social media to generate awareness and leads in the B2B space.
Prepare Your Digital Hub
First things first—don’t start with social media. Like any other tactic, it should be a part of an overall marketing strategy to achieve your goals. And if your goals include lead generation, you can’t count on social media alone to convert buyers.
Consider your larger digital presence and your customer’s journey through the conversion funnel. Create a clear path for potential buyers: Reach, Engage, Convert. Social media can be particularly effective in the reach and engagement phases, but customers may need more information to convert. Your website is an ideal place to provide more info and drive action. Here, you control the content, experience and analytics.
But before you send anyone to it, make sure your website is ready for prime time. Audit your digital presence with user experience and technical SEO in mind, then design your site based on your goals. If leads are your main priority, make it easy for customers to convert with ubiquitous contact forms and prominent calls-to-action. And don’t forget to address the basics: Millennials, who make up somewhere around 46% of B2B buyers nowadays, don’t have patience for broken links, slow load times, or outdated Dreamweaver designs.
Create Compelling Content
Once you have a strong website as a content hub, continue to add to it. Develop content on a regular basis that your customers care about, giving search engines a reason to index more pages. The approach is scalable depending on the size of your industry, company and budget. Updates could exist in the form of a bi-weekly blog post or content-rich landing pages based on trends, seasons or, better yet, benefits that differentiate you from your competitors.
If you’re having trouble coming up with content that works, use social media to find out what your customers are interested in. Create Facebook or Twitter polls to ask them directly. Search industry terms on underutilized platforms like Quora to get a transparent lens into what people want to know.
Promote and Test Content
When you have strong content in place, it’s time to broadcast it, which is where social media is most effective. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn are essentially elaborate content distribution machines. Whether your followers number in the 100s or 100,000s, set aside a budget to reach new customers through paid social ads. Each platform has sophisticated targeting tools designed to help you hit your audience bull’s-eye. You can even hide the paid stuff from the organic stuff with dark posts to avoid annoying your loyal audience.
Keep in mind that for smaller brands or low-engagement categories, your followers may never see your posts unless you pay to boost them. Luckily for many B2B brands, paid social ads can be very affordable. Start small—like $5 a day—with 2 different ads for a few weeks. Examine the results and reallocate your budget to support the best performing ad. Then try another test. And on and on until you have more leads than you can handle.
If budget allows, supplement your social media content promotion with other digital tactics like paid search campaigns, display network advertising and retargeting to keep your brand top-of-mind. Salesforce claims it takes 6 to 8 touch points with buyers to create a viable lead, so make sure you are scheduling enough visibility and frequency to make that a reality.
Use Social Media Effectively for B2B
All this isn’t to say social media can’t or shouldn’t be used to meet other objectives organically, like recruitment, customer service or research from your current audience. Each channel has particular strengths and weaknesses for B2B products and services. Define clear objectives for organic content, a process for creating it, and the resources to support it.
To unlock real results for your business, the key is to incorporate your social media plan into a larger, more strategic whole. If you’re interested in taking your digital presence to the next level, we’d love to talk to you.