Many B2B marketers agree that social media is an important tool to connect with customers. But when it comes down to it, many B2B companies are still skeptical of the value social media provides. According to this survey completed by Eloqua, 36 percent of B2B companies have yet to use social media marketing. Of the 64 percent that are utilizing social media, nearly 40 percent admit to not tapping into social media’s full marketing potential.
But social media can be a key component of your marketing plan, despite the unknowns. Once your B2B company is ready to wade into the social media waters, here are a few tips to get your strategy off to a good start:
1. Invest in the right channels
The first step in developing an effective social media plan is determining which channels your target market are engaging with and what they’re talking about while they’re there. This graphic, provided by Forrester Research, provides a good overview of top social channels and how the B2B audience is participating. Then, consider your internal resources — if you don’t have the time, staff or budget to manage multiple channels, pick the ones you feel are most relevant to your business and product/service offering and focus your efforts there.
2. Think outside the traditional B2C approach
If you have strong brand loyalty and recognition, fun content about your product or service is appropriate and welcome (think Nike or BMW). However, most B2B companies are challenged to give their social media audience the “why” and “what’s in it for me” motivation for engaging with their brand in the social media space. What value will they receive from liking your page or following you on Twitter or LinkedIn? Discovering your company’s unique points of differentiation in the market should drive your social media strategy, as well as your content.
3. Invest in content
In the B2B world, fun brand messages and strictly promotional content are largely ignored by your target audience — unless they are mixed in (sparingly) with content that is relevant to the consumer and meets a demand. According to the Custom Content Council, “61 percent of consumers say they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from, a company that delivers custom content.”
However, many companies find developing that content is difficult: “55% of B2B Marketers say their biggest challenge is having the time or bandwidth to create content” (Source: B2B Technology). But incorporating your public relations efforts is one of the most effective ways to identify, create and repurpose content into a robust and valuable content strategy. Materials like e-newsletters, magazines, trade show materials and product tutorial videos can all be repurposed based on the audience on your social channels.
In addition, your customer service or sales department can be a great source to find your customer pain points. Graphics or videos that educate your audience provide the “What’s in it for me?” aspect that is valuable to your customers and gives them a reason to keep coming back.
4. Get employee buy-in
Social media is becoming an extension of a company’s customer service department, like it or not. This article on Business2community.com lists a multitude of research findings to support this fact, indicating that social customer service is here to stay. Among them: “Customers end up spending 20% to 40% more with companies who engage and respond to social media customer service requests.” (Source: Bain & Company)
If you’re out there, people will use your channels as a way to contact you with questions about your products or services. If the products or services you sell are highly technical, you should be ready with a list of resources to contact for assistance. Without key employee participation in customer service requests and content support, your social media efforts will not be authentic to your audience.
5. Go all in with social integration
Just because your product is geared toward heavy equipment operators doesn’t mean they’re not on social media. It just means they may be a little harder to find. Interest-based targeting has come a long way, but channels like Instagram simply don’t offer comprehensive demographic information.
Using your tried and true resources such as trade show leads, dealer or distributor lists, and customer information to inform customers of your social media presence and give them a reason to find you there is the best way for a B2B company to get their messages to the right audience. Simply having a Facebook page and spending some money on advertising won’t get you the desired level of results you want to see.
By integrating social media into your overall business, PR and marketing goals — and utilizing your marketing and PR tactics to support your social media — B2B companies can develop a substantial social media presence that provides a rewarding way for customers to engage with their brand.