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How to Leverage Social Media for Your B2B Company

Learn about social media best practices specifically designed for B2B companies, practical advice for getting started and how you can measure social media ROI.

Last Updated:December 12, 2018

Digital Marketing

Reading Time:10 minutes

When you think about companies using social media successfully, you're probably thinking about big B2C (business-to-consumer) companies like Coca Cola:

coca cola instagram

Southwest Airlines:

southwest airlines facebook

Procter & Gamble:

procter gamble twitter

and other international behemoths.

That's easy, because a lot of their content goes viralSomething that “goes viral” is an image, video, or link that spreads rapidly through a population by being frequently shared with a number of individuals. (VerticalRail) simply because the number of followers they have and the amount of resources that they can put into creating incredible posts.

Unfortunately, we think that sets the bar for how our company's social media should be performing.

Problem #1: B2B companies trying to make content that will go viral

Yes, it's usually a good idea to try to emulate the strategy of big companies. After all, they're big for a reason, right? So they must know what they're doing.

But when it comes to social media, your audience isn't likely to be as big and your brand recognition isn't likely to be as mainstream. Because of this, your posts might not have the same effect and you'll find yourself wondering why your social media activities aren't hitting the mark.

After all, according to a Stanford University study:Less than 1 Tweet in a million goes viral

When we get frustrated, we taper back our activities until we finally give up.

Problem #2: B2B companies giving up on social media

Companies that either try and give up or never even start both belong in this category.

Many companies that I work with give me their reasons for not embracing (or even thinking about joining) social media for their company. Here are a few that I've heard:

  • My audience isn't on social media
  • Social media doesn't work for my business
  • It's impossible to measure the return on investment
  • My company doesn't have anything to post

Sorry, but I don't believe any of that and I'm not even a social media-first marketing consultant. Your audience is on social media (you're on a channel or two aren't ya?), maybe it's not that social media doesn't work for your business but rather you haven't found a good strategy yet, there are a lot of real business metrics that you can use to measure ROI, and your company has plenty of things that you could post.

Unfortunately, for a lot of B2B companies that are active on social media, they're not posting the right things.

Problem #3: B2B companies posting primarily self-serving content

Maybe the challenge here is that you think your company is in a "boring" industry so you default to posting news or updates about your company all of the time.

Consider Hiscox Insurance. According to their Facebook page, they're a B2B company that works with businesses to find competitive health insurance rates.

hiscox insurance b2b facebook

They have over 35,000 followers and 221 recommendations.

Instead of posting about themselves and trying to sell their business, they post content that resonates with their audience - the struggles that they face regarding health insurance costs and how to get ahead.

Regardless of what industry you're in, you can build brand recognition using social media by making your content about your audience.

In this chapter, chapter 6 of the Practical Digital Marketing Guide for B2B Companies, we're going to get right into some social media best practices specifically designed for B2B companies. Then, we're going to give you some practical advice for getting started - what you should know and how you can measure the ROI of this marketing tactic.

Social media best practices for B2B companies

As a B2B company, you're not interested in getting shares and likes for the sake of it. If you were, you might have tried participating in the Tide pod challenge.

You're also not trying to initiate a craving for a delicious dessert:

reeses b2c twitter post

No, you're a B2B company which means the customer journey of your audience (you can learn more about the B2B digital customer journey in chapter 1) is much longer than swinging by the store on the way home.

Because of that, you need to focus on your potential customer, where they are in the customer journey, and how you can nurture them as a lead and, ultimately, a customer.

social media customer journey

Social media is a marketing tacticMarketing tactics are the strategic actions that direct the promotion of a product or service to influence specific marketing goals. (CoSchedule) that can be helpful at every point in the customer journey, but it's especially useful in the beginning, Awareness, stage.

Why? Because as a B2B company we want to use social media to build our brand image. By building our brand image and awareness about our brand, we'll be front of mind when our customers come looking for us.

Below we're going to talk about a few ways that you can do that.

Discover an interesting angle

You need to find a way to connect with an audience on social media and, you know, not be boring. There, I said it.

Yeah, I get it. What your company produces might not be as sexy as peanut butter cups that melt in your mouth, but with a little thinking you can definitely find an interesting angle on your business.

Let's say that your company develops and manufactures antenna alignment tools and monitoring systems for telecommunications companies.

When you think about the day-to-day activities of your company, it might not come across as too exciting. Sure, there might be some interesting production facilities or capabilities, and maybe even some research & development innovations, but there's only so much interest that the broader public will have in those topics.

You know what people are interested in, however? Their cell phones, the strength of their cell reception and how fast YouTube is loading on their iPhone.

To develop an angle for your company, sometimes it just requires taking a step back and looking at how what your company does impacts the general public.

Most of what IBM does as a company is not very interesting to the average person. There are a lot of cables, fans and programming. But they've done a masterful job at relating their work to the general public. Remember when the IBM Watson machine was on Jeopardy?

Feature a real person

Or people.

This one is tough for business to business companies in general, let alone on social media.

Here are some additional thoughts on the matter:Organizations shy away from "I", "we", and "us" due to being overly cautious or old-fashioned, reluctant to step away from formal business communication practices

Guidelines that limit the use of personal pronouns should be reconsidered in digital marketing. Content needs to speak to users clearly and directly - it needs to compete for attention

Personal pronouns reflext the way real people write and speak

By not having the backing of a genuine human, a B2B company can come across as distant and unreal - like talking to a robot.

Here's how you can do this:

  • Use first person voiceWhen we talk about ourselves, our opinions, and the things that happen to us, we generally speak in the first person. The biggest clue that a sentence is written in the first person is the use of first-person pronouns. (Grammarly) when posting updates, articles, etc.
  • Feature a designated person's perspective
  • Use real people with their names in customer service and replies
  • Initiate engagement and outreach from a real person

Choose the right administrator

Or the right person to manage your social media.

If you can afford it, hire someone with a social media background and then teach them about your company. Don't try it the other way around.

If the social media accounts are to be managed by someone already on your staff who also has other responsibilities, make sure to provide them with plenty of training materials and classes so that they are able to succeed with these new social media responsibilities.

Don't just have Janet the office manager handle the social media because she knows how to set up a Facebook account.

And don't turn your nose up at the possibility of hiring an outside agency to help. They have the experience and resources already at their disposal which will help you to engage better with your audience through interesting graphics and clever content.

Support it with content marketing

Successful social media can't really exist without the company also having a consistent content marketing strategy (learn more about content marketing for B2B in chapter 2).

Fortunately, in 2017, B2B companies started picking up on this and made content marketing their top tactic to implement according to MarketingCharts.com:

b2b digital marketing priorities

There are two main reasons why content marketing is so important to social media:

  1. Content drives social media: what you're sharing on social media (whether an image, video, or just text) is content. But the content on social media should be part of a larger story - one that is further explained, perhaps, on your website.
  2. Content receives social media traffic: to turn your social media audience into leads and customers, you need to get them from primarily the awareness stage of their customer journey on social to the consideration and conversion stages. The best way to do that is by drawing them to your website. The best way to draw them to your website is by having interesting content for them to consume.

The best channels to leverage

Let's face it, we can't do everything. There aren't enough hours in the day. We need to focus our social media marketing activities on the most important, most relevant channels.

To determine this, it's helpful to understand why people use the channel to begin with and what we, as a B2B company, can use the channel to accomplish for our business.

Most importantly when choosing social media channels is to consider which audience will best respond to your chosen angle.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the most obvious place to start as it's a platform geared toward building your professional network. Because LinkedIn is viewed as a more productive, less frivolouscarefree, not serious social network, it's easy to see why marketers in the B2B sector favor it for sharing their content marketing:

b2b content marketing social media channels

Because of this, companies can use LinkedIn for product promotion and targeting upper management with purchasing power.

Twitter

Twitter is where people go to "see what's happening". This breaking news aspect might not benefit your business, but what might is the ability that you have on Twitter to reach a large audience whether the users already follow your business account or not.

For example, I could go on Twitter and search for "#manufacturing":

search twitter hashtags

And see every post that has been made recently that contains that very hashtag, regardless of whether or not I follow the accounts.

search twitter hashtag results

This is how a lot of people use Twitter. In fact, in 2010, Twitter reported that over 19 billion searches occurred on its platform per month.

We talked earlier about using social media to build your brand awareness. Twitter is great at helping companies get noticed as well as humanizing brands and engagement.

Facebook

Facebook, by far the most popular platform in terms of overall users (2.27 billion) also deserves mention as a worthy platform for B2B companies.

Although LinkedIn and Twitter receive more attention from B2B marketers, 42% of them have said that Facebook is actually the most effective social networking platform for their company.

A lot of users treat Facebook like their home page of the internet and spend quite a bit of time scrolling through their news feeds.

As a B2B company, Facebook is good for sending traffic to your website and customer support.

During recent years, however, Facebook has made a push for increasing it's advertising revenue. Because of this, they've made it extremely difficult (basically impossible) for a company page on Facebook to reach all of their followers organicallyOrganic reach is the number of people who had an unpaid post from your Page enter their screen. (Facebook) without paying.

declining organic reach facebook

This is something to keep in mind - just because your page has 1,000 followers it doesn't mean that your posts will reach all 1,000 followers.

Facebook is still a great tool for paid digital advertising. To learn more about B2B digital advertising, check out chapter 3.

Develop a strategy

Once you've determined your edge - the type of content you're going to focus on that will be interesting to a broad audience - and which platform(s) to use, you need to put together a social media strategy for your business.

Even though it's more work, take the time to put together (and maybe even write down) your strategy. It's been proven that writing things down helps you to remember things better.

Determine your goals

The first step in our strategy is to determine what our goals are. Now, we want to keep in mind that, ultimately, our main goal is to increase our sales. But what role will social media play in that?

As a B2B company, we want social media to provide us with leads, so metrics that we want to keep an eye on and improve over time are clicks and conversions.

  • Clicks: "clicks" would refer to people clicking on our posts and being sent to our website. We talked about this earlier, but this will likely include a blog post or some other type of interesting content on our website. Once the user is on our website, we'll focus on a few web analytics (learn more about web analytics for B2B companies in chapter 7) to learn and improve how our content is doing in turning its traffic into leads and customers.
  • Conversions: "conversions" vaguely refers to users doing what we want. This could be clicking on an article and going back to our website, downloading a file, signing up for an event, or other action. Similar to clicks, conversions indicate that the user is leveraging our social media content to advance in their customer journey.

Create a content calendar

Next, you'll want to create a content calendar that identifies when you'll post to social media. This will help you to not only remember to post, but will actually encourage you to do so.

A good idea is also to write down what each post is to be about. Are you sharing a blog post? If so, which one? And what are you going to share next week? This will help you to post better content because you've actually taken the time to plan it rather than just trying to throw something together at the last minute.

Here are a few different content ideas that you could add to your calendar:

  • Answer a question
  • A case study highlighting the success of one of your customers
  • Share one of your blog posts
  • Share an article from someone else that supports your perspective
  • Attention grabbing statistics
  • Behind-the-scenes video
  • Recycle previously-shared content
  • Correct a common misconception about your industry
  • Helpful tips
  • Ask people to join your mailing list

Executing the plan

Great - you have your set goals and know what you're planning on posting. Now you need to do it.

You could do this directly by logging right in to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and creating the posts, or you could sign up for a social media management platform.

These platforms help you to post content to multiple accounts all at once AND allow you to schedule posts in advance - just like email marketing.

A solid platform that I'll recommend is Buffer. Check it out!

Think - Do - Measure

To be sure we have a practical understanding of what social media marketing is and how we can apply it as a useful tactic for our business and marketing, let's summarize what we've learned in this chapter by applying the Think, Do, MeasureThe Think, Do, Measure method is a practical tool that I use with clients to develop a simple strategy, decide exactly what we're going to do to accomplish the strategy, and identify how we're going to measure our success. method of learning to this important marketing concept.

Think

While big brands present the gold standard for social marketing success, there is still plenty of room and opportunity for any B2B company to succeed.

Given that you are a B2B company, you'll need to think outside-the-box to find an interesting angle to feature your company and connect with a broader audience. It's also important to combine social media with a consistent content marketing plan.

Do

Instead of being concerned with "going viral", you should take the time to determine where your target market is (and when), and how you can use social media to increase your brand recognition.

Once you've determined which channel(s) to focus on, you should develop a content calendar which will help with consistency and the following-through of the marketing tactic and get set up with a helpful social media management platform like Buffer.

Measure

Measuring your social media activities will help you to truly know whether or not social media is worth it.

For B2B, it's important to know how many clicks and conversions are generated.

Summing up

Social media is both exciting and daunting. The amount of potential audience reach is enormous and the success achieved by companies like Coca-Cola are inspiring, but you likely don't have the same resource capabilities that Coca-Cola does.

However, there is plenty of success to be had for your B2B company without the need for hundreds of thousands of followers or extravagant social media campaigns. It just requires a shift in focus, consistency, and knowing which metrics to focus on in measuring success.

Now that you understand how to leverage social media to grow your brand recognition and send traffic to your website, you'll need to be ready to measure how well your website performs in turning that traffic into customers. Let's talk about website analytics.

Hey, I'm Tyler

I help businesses use digital marketing to generate leads & sales.

Former Operations Manager at Pepsico, I understand the difficulty and hard work that goes into changing the culture of management teams and business systems that are content with the status quo. Why is that important? Because I'm passionate about empowering individuals and companies to build and consistently manage marketing systems unique to their brands even if it means making radical changes.

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