How B2B Companies Can Hack Social Media Marketing in 2023
Would you like your social media strategy to help increase website traffic, leads and sales? These five things can help make that happen.
Despite social media’s ubiquity and adoption by people, there are a lot of B2B companies that have not done much to leverage its power. Most of those companies want to do more, but haven’t had the time or are uncertain of how best to get started to use social media to increase traffic, convert leads, nurture those leads toward a sale and delight their customers.
Why Should B2B Companies Bother with Social Media?
A pervasive belief that social media marketing is only for B2C companies (that simply refuses to go away even in 2023) keeps B2B companies from getting the most from this effective channel for communication and collaboration.
When we talk about B2C companies, we’re talking about those selling directly to consumers, while B2B companies sell to other businesses. Despite the advantages of social media marketing, B2B companies lag behind their B2C colleagues. Maybe that’s because companies see Facebook, Twitter, etc. as a social tool where users share everything about their lives, including the products they trust (or don’t trust). Since B2B companies only sell to other businesses, who primarily use social platforms as a channel of communication to customers, they feel there’s no benefit to marketing on these platforms.
That’s not true.
Let’s explore the 5 reasons B2B companies should use social media marketing, using the example of GE.
1. Customers are on social media
Granted a company like GE might not sell products directly to customers. Instead, they sell their appliances, light bulbs, and TVs to Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, etc, where customers purchase the products. But, regardless of where customers ultimately buy the product, they’re faced with a plethora of other brand options. And Lowes could care less which brand the customer chooses since they make money from any choice. Retailers have little or no incentive to learn about the benefits of the GE brand, let alone know which positioning will work best with an individual consumer. If GE left their marketing in the hands of these retailers, sales would be much lower.
Instead, GE recognizes they’re responsible for their own marketing efforts. They pay for traditional advertising on TV, radio, and print, but they also have a strong presence on social media, with over 2.2 million followers on Facebook, alone.
Just like any B2C company, GE uses their profiles to support their brand by promoting their social responsibility, such as solar power, the unique attributes of their products, and they engage with users. For instance, since they manufacture stoves, they posted recipes for cakes for Valentine’s Day.
2. Customers need support
Like many B2C companies, GE offers support where customers are. Since customers increasingly use Twitter to complain about a brand, GE is there with solutions for whatever failure caused the complaint, even if it really was user error. GE also offers customer support on a scheduled basis through messaging accessed on its Facebook page for individual product lines, like appliances.
According to Richard Branson
Social platforms are no longer add-ons to a business’s communication budget; they should be central to its marketing strategy, and used in coordination with other marketing efforts
Hence, companies should use social platforms just as they use more traditional platforms to support their business.
3. Business partners are on social media
Social media marketing also helps B2B companies reach and collaborate with their business partners. Facebook found that business executives were 74% more likely to be on their platform, were 2 times more active on Facebook than other types of users.
Business users use social platforms as a way to coordinate activities, to build social connections, engender trust, and other activities in support of strong, collaborative relationships.
According to this research into B2B Social media marketing by Omobono:
In a survey of 115 marketing specialists in B2B roles, Omobono found that 79% rated social media as the most effective marketing channel, with 38% noting that if they had extra budget for next year, they would spend it on social media.
4. Social media brings customers to your website
Notice in the following graphic that social media promotes the brand in several ways.
- First, it helps the brand image as a thought leader. That’s certainly true on the GE profiles on Facebook, where they tout new technologies they’re bringing to market.
- Next, social media helps raise brand awareness, which brings more customers to your website where customers can learn more about your products and raise their hand to indicate a willingness to buy (generally conversion in a B2B market doesn’t take place online, but through a sales force).
- Finally, social media is an important part of positioning the brand within the market space.
5. Social media assists sales
Ultimately, the benefit of social media marketing is that it promotes sales.
Granted, most B2B sales don’t occur online. Rather, social media help by identifying potential customers (prospects), positioning the product to appeal to these prospects, developing relationships with prospects, and lead nurturing. Next, let’s unpack these.
As business has become more global, the list of potential customers has become larger and more diverse. Identifying prospective customers (those with a need, desire, ability, and authority to make a purchase of your products) is a daunting task. In some industries, this is manageable because prospects are few, centralized, or large. In other industries where thousands of diverse, small prospects exist, identifying them is a costly, time-consuming problem.
Instead of identifying prospects, social media marketing attempts to get them to hold up their hands; to identify themselves as prospects.
Now, instead of using the sales force to pour over hundreds or thousands of entries in a company database (such as Dun and Bradstreet) looking for likely candidates, a company can reach to social media users who’ve shown some interest in the types of products the company sells or who work in certain industries, this works especially well on LinkedIn where conversations are more business-oriented and groups exist that focus on specific topics.
Positioning involves not only stressing particular elements from among a benefits list but segmenting consumers (in this case businesses) who share certain priorities, then changing the message to conform to their priorities.
Because social media marketing can selectively reach certain groups of users, a capability that is often muted in traditional media, it’s perfect for developing a positioning that resonates with a specific target audience.
Ultimately, customers don’t buy from companies, they buy from people.
Using social interactions is a way to build trust between buyers and sellers, which is critical for making the sale. Communication across social platforms also helps erase misunderstandings, provides support, and acts to bind the buyer and seller more closely.
Social media is such a powerful tool for lead nurturing that CRM (customer relationship marketing) software, such as Salesforce, embed social media into their programs. Hence, as part of other information available about a prospect, the software contains live links to the prospect’s social platforms. A salesperson can view the prospect’s profile to learn more about them, to build a relationship through shared interests, and learn about important elements in the prospects life, such as marriage or the birth of a child.
How B2B Companies Can Build an Organic Social Media Presence
If you’re a B2B social media manager, you’ve probably noticed that organic social media reach has been on the decline in recent years. With increases in paid ad content and algorithms constantly in flux, it’s easy to see why it’s becoming increasingly challenging to reach followers with organic campaigns.
While there’s no doubt that this is dispiriting, here’s the good news: there are ways you can counteract these changes. Here are some hacks you can use to boost your company’s organic social media reach.
Avoid “Ready, Fire, Aim”
That hesitation is not a bad thing, actually. A lot of companies want to avoid the “ready, fire, aim” approach to social media. What’s worse, actually, is companies who take the “ready, fire, aim” approach, get lousy results (if any) and then sour on social media and its potential to help grow their business.
So what’s the best way to avoid a “spray and pray” approach to social media that irritates people, makes your company appear clueless and unprofessional and, worst of all, doesn’t generate results?
Study Best Practices
There are different best practices for every social media platform. And content that’s designed for a specific platform will perform better than content that’s generic. Knowing this, it’s important not to take a universal approach to social media marketing. Facebook’s features are different from LinkedIn’s, which are different from features on Twitter. Study best practices and learn how to make the most of the unique features on each platform to craft distinct content.
Have a Content Strategy in Place
First things first. Before building a social media strategy, you need to have great content on your website. Content that is helpful and of interest to your ideal customers just when they want it during their increasingly non-linear buyer’s journey. Content examples include a blog, videos, ebooks, webinars, etc.
Without your own content as the foundation of your social media strategy, you’ll being throwing bait to the fish without it being connected to your fishing line. The fish will appreciate it, but there won’t be much return for your company.
With content, however, your social media strategy will be much more likely to succeed. Social media can vastly extend the reach of your site’s content, get it shared and draw more traffic back to your site. As marketing expert and author Jay Baer famously says, “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.”
Develop a Social Media Strategy
For your content to perform, it needs to be backed up by a solid social media strategy. Without a plan behind each post, how can you expect your content to cut through all the noise and make a meaningful impression on your audience? Knowing your audience’s interests and demographics is key for developing a content strategy that appeals to them. You’ll also need to know how to choose the right social media platforms for your buyer personas.
You can access these insights through the native analytics features on each of your social media platforms. It’s also worth checking out your competitors and seeing what they’re doing. How are their audiences engaging with their content? How often do they post on each platform? What do their marketing campaigns entail?
It’s important to establish goals within your strategy but be realistic about what you can achieve. You won’t drive sales by relentlessly pushing your products or services and delivering no other value. Think about how you can enhance your brand awareness, increase engagement with your audience, and build a real community.
Research Your Buyer Persona
In Adele Revella’s “The Buyer Persona Manifesto,” she offers this definition of a buyer persona:
“It’s an archetype, a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you sell.”
Think about your ideal customers who don’t know your company. What information would they find helpful that you can provide? Keep in mind that they are much more interested in themselves and their problems or aspirations than your company and its products.
Which social media platforms do they tend to use? Think about fishing. Don’t chase the fish; fish where the fish are. Gain a presence on those social media networks where your ideal customers already gather.
Does your buyer persona use one of the big social media networks or perhaps a niche site targeted at people in the same industry or with a similar interest? You may not need to be on as many social media platforms as you think.
Why do they use the social media platforms that they do use – business or pleasure? What sort of content do they tend to consume and share?
Optimize Your Profiles
Each social media site that you use is a brand embassy, and should represent your home country (i.e. website) to the fullest extent available. Include your company’s logo and get all the related graphics and dimensions correct for each platform.
Just like with your main website, use keywords to get your social media profile found via search. Search engines crawl most social media networks. And always include a link back to your site to make it easier for visitors to find out more about you.
Reach is a measure of potential audience size. So, it’s not just how many follower you have, but how many followers your followers have.
That’s why you’ll want to start following and connecting with prospects, customers and thought leaders. Keep in mind, however, that your social media presence is only as good as your engagement and your content.
Let’s talk about “engagement.” Have you ever been to a cocktail party and met a guy who only talked about himself and never showed any interest in you? Don’t be that guy on social media.
Instead, follow the 80/20 rule: share helpful, interesting content at least 80% of the time. Post pictures, videos, ebooks, blog posts, contests, and questions. The other 20% of your social media posts can direct people to offers and other more promotional content.
Customize Your Content for Each Social Media Platform
No matter how great your content is, when it’s distributed on social media it’s only meaningful within the context of where it appears.
Have you ever seen a Twitter post with hashtags that has been posted to LinkedIn? Or perhaps a tweet that was cut off because it was autoposted from Facebook? It demonstrates laziness, a deaf ear for social media (and customers?) and resembles a foreign movie with really bad voiceover dubbing.
For each social media platform, present your message in the context of the platform on which you’re communicating. Here are examples of the types of customization you should do for some of the major social media networks.
Twitter – Think of Twitter as a living, breathing conversation. Keep your tweets short, engaging and easily shareable. While you get 140 characters, your posts should be less than 115-120 characters. Use hashtags to connect with an audience or tap in to relevant trends. Also, don’t start a tweet with an @ symbol because it will only be seen by mutual followers of the sender and receiver, thus diminishing your reach. And as with so much of social media, make it visual. Tweets with pictures have 50% higher click through rates.
Facebook – This is where you can show more personality than just about any other social media network. From a frame of mind, visitors to Facebook generally want to have fun and be entertained. This is not the place for serious content. And while there’s no limit on the number of characters, keep your posts under 250 characters. Use as many visuals as possible (but make sure they are properly sized for Facebook).
LinkedIn – Looking to find and share serious content? Here’s your network. If you think about the body language of someone on Facebook, envision someone leaning back in their chair. For LinkedIn, they are leaning forward, searching and ready to learn. It’s OK to provide more in-depth content here. You can post content to your company page and to relevant LinkedIn groups. But when posting to groups, it’s best to listen first to the questions and conversations before offering up your content. Again, keep the context (and the cocktail party rule) in mind.
Focus on Delivering Value
When you use social media, what are you looking for? If you’re like most people, you’re probably looking for something of value. Whether you log on for entertainment, fresh industry insights, or the latest hot take, there are reasons you follow your favorite brands and influencers.
The same is true for your audience. Think about your unique value proposition and key differentiators. How can you leverage them to offer something your audience will truly value?
Use the Right Hashtags
It’s easy to get overloaded with information on social media. Even worse, it’s easy for your posts to be buried in a flurry of updates, announcements, and news—unless they go viral. Metrics for success change frequently, and this can make achieving organic reach seem virtually impossible. This is where keyword research and hashtags come in.
You already know that hashtags help brands increase their organic reach by giving audiences power to search for and find posts that interest them. But do you know how to use them to actually grow your reach?
When used correctly, hashtags can help solidify a brand image and encourage momentum and sharing. For example, leading up to an industry conference or tradeshow, identify relevant hashtags the organizers are using and create a promotional campaign around them. This will help increase attendees’ awareness of your brand.
But just like content marketing, effective social media marketing requires research. If you don’t already, consider utilizing keyword research and planning tools to identify the most widely used hashtags to increase the traction of your posts, such as best-hashtags.com. Social media analytics tools can help with this. Keep up and remain relevant by regularly researching hashtag trends within your and your customers’ industries.
Maintaining consistency by posting regularly and at the right time can help you establish an audience and maintain engagement. But how do you know when that is? The answer is simple: it’s when your audience is active online. The best time to post varies depending on the social platform and your industry.
But as a B2B social media marketer, posting in the morning or evenings when your audience is likely checking their social media is a great starting point. Just remember to always refer back to your analytics to determine when your audience is the most active. And don’t forget to adjust your social calendar accordingly.
Being consistent is important, but it’s also beneficial to remember that there’s a distinction between quality content and quantity. Just because your competitor might post every day doesn’t mean their content is resonating. This is another reason why developing a content marketing and social media strategy is so important.
Analyze to Refine
That which can be measured can be improved! That’s how you will know if your content and social media strategy is on the right track in support of your business goals.
Some basic metrics to monitor include:
- How many visits are you getting from social media?
- How many leads are you generating from social media?
- Which of those leads became customers?
More important than the number of social media followers you are gaining is their level of engagement:
- How shareable is your content? Think of shares as votes.
- Which posts are getting the most clicks?
- Which posts are generating the most interactions? Look particularly at shares and comments.
Make Organic Growth Your Reality
Don’t let the prospect of constantly conversing or trying to grow your social media following scare you. Your social media presence should be authentic and true to your brand. When you pair a solid strategy with helpful hacks like those shared here, you can consistently grow your social media following organically.