Even B2B Companies Benefit from Interacting Like Humans
Many business-to-business companies still think social media marketing is not terribly important for them. After all, they reason, their customers are corporate decision makers who don’t have much time or desire to hang out on Facebook.
So Why Should B2B Do Social Media Marketing?
The short answer is: because if you don’t, you’ll be left behind. For the past several years there’s been a strong trend towards utilizing social media marketing to build brand, connect with sales leads and recruit employees. The numbers don’t lie:
- 93% of B2B content marketing plans include social media
- 76% of B2B marketers say they’ll produce more content in 2016 than 2015
- 51% of B2B marketers will increase their content budget in the next 12 months
Source: Content Marketing Institute
How Should B2B Do Social Media?
The two most common mistakes B2B organizations make in their social media posts are: (1) being too promotional and (2) being too corporate. In the first, self-serving sales messaging turns off readers. In the second, a dehumanized corporate voice fails to make a connection with readers.
The current buzzword for social media marketing is H2H: human to human. Even in the arena of fact — not emotion — based purchase decisions, personal relationships can still make the difference in closing the deal. Social media is today’s golden opportunity to initiate and maintain those relationships, on a wider scale than was ever before possible.
Be an Educator
We’re not saying you should completely abandon your brand voice and engage in tactics that would only work on a consumer audience, such as cute pictures of the CEO’s pet. (Unless your company distributes pet products and is named after said pet; then it would be an engaging, humanizing, yet relevant post.)
One of the most effective ways to generate quality leads is to provide quality content that educates the reader and positions you as a thought leader in your industry. According to an International Data Group study, 89% of IT buyers prefer to receive educational (rather than promotional) content from their social media.
Use already existing resources or create new ones, such as product demonstration videos and white papers, to demonstrate your value as a business partner. An extreme example of educational B2B marketing content is American Express, which has created its own social media forum, OPEN, where small businesses can tap a huge knowledge bank and connect with the community.
Put On a Human Face
It’s all to easy for a corporate entity to be perceived as a heartless, soulless robot. A great way to counteract that is with photos of employees, either on the job or pursuing their own interests. Oracle did a memorable job of showcasing the company’s philanthropy through images of its caring, committed employees.B2B marketing-Intel capitalized on a trend that had already gone viral, the #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement, to demonstrate the gender diversity of its corporate culture.
Make It a Two-Way Conversation
Thanks to the Internet, buyers have more opportunity to learn about you and your company before the first contact, through both your own content and reviews of you from other buyers. So responding quickly and consistently to both new business requests and comments from current/former customers is now critical.
Even General Electric, which receives tens of thousands of comments, makes an effort to develop engaging and informative discussions. The result has been a sizeable community of participants who see GE as a human brand.
Equally important to starting the conversation on social media is enabling prospects to take the next step. Make sure all your social media pages display a clear, functional path to your contact information.
Use Partner Amplification
If coming up with so much new content seems daunting, you can always share what your partners are posting. These partners could be your internal staff or businesses you work with on a regular basis. As an added bonus, they’ll return the favor on their own social media pages, thus expanding your reach into new pools of prospective customers.
Steps to Success
Now that we’ve given you a few reasons why you should be using social media marketing, and a few ways to develop effective content for B2B readers, let’s quickly go over the steps you’ll take to get your social media program up and running.
- Determine your goals. Your B2B marketing priorities might be lead generation, sales conversions, brand awareness, website traffic or customer retention. These priorities will then guide your decisions on how, when and where to establish your social media presence.
- Define your content strategy. The type(s) of content you choose to post on social media should be based on your goals. If you’re mission is brand building, your content will most often be thought leadership blogs. If you’re looking to develop a community of regular customers and visitors, you’ll feature more interactive discussions or problem solving posts.
- Plan your tactics. Select the platforms that make sense for your business. The “big 8” are (in order of usage by B2B marketing): LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, SlideShare, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+. Plan which types of content will go on each platform (i.e. videos go on YouTube). And make a definite schedule for adding new content: every day, once a week, etc.
- Commit the resources. Assuming that someone already on staff can implement your social media schedule whenever they have a few minutes to spare is a guaranteed fail. We bet it takes less than a month for that person to not have a few minutes; and once your consistency breaks down, you’ve lost serious ground.
Also, don’t assume that any junior employee who happens to have social media experience will know your brand’s voice and protect your company’s reputation online. That’s another reason why your social media strategy should be planned and written down for everyone involved to see.