Debunking the B2B Social Media Myth – how social can be used in B2B online marketing strategies

It is a common misconception for marketers to believe that social media for B2B companies is a fruitless venture with little to no reward. However, when used effectively, social media can be your tool to not only managing your brand, but can also facilitate brand development, thought leadership, social trust, customer retention and lead generation. 

Research by Eloqua, a marketing automation software company, suggests that over 40% of B2B communicators are under-utilising social networks and another 25% are unsure of how they plan to incorporate social media into their B2B marketing strategy.

So, how can B2B social media marketing campaigns best be used effectively?

Objectives

Social media efforts should compliment and support your greater business goals. The first step in B2B marketing relies on correctly setting the right objectives – failure to do so could see limited gains.  You need to ask yourself whether B2B marketing, in general, exists to support and expand sales efforts. If yes, then social media is now automatically a part of the equation and setting objectives that align with your other goals is the next step.

For example, social media marketing can be used to get a specific company message across to your target audience demonstrating your green credentials or your recent achievements to project a favourable brand image to clients and prospects. Objectives can focus on social referrals to boost web traffic by a certain percentage, assisted by metrics that gauge engagement and sentiment across the digital landscape.

Metrics

Choosing Metrics is a key part of outlining goals and objectives. By analysing your social media efforts tracked and measured via specific metrics, you can qualify how the activity has benefited your business, as is the ability to gauge quality referrals and prospective sign ups from key networks where your considered activity is taking place e.g. Quora.

Choosing the right channels

The primary issue with a B2B marketing strategy is an “all guns blazing” approach where primary responsibility for managing the channel is handed down to a public relations team or even a web team. Consequently, social media profiles are set up and content is distributed sporadically across all social media channels, without a clear directive. The lack of strategy can alter one’s view of social media, and create a misunderstanding of its value. 

Not every channel will work. A social media audit of the digital landscape will help you understand and segment your audience to see where prospects reside; allowing you to best see what they’re talking about and how you can join in the conversation.

Content

To connect with customers, prospects and industry influencers and establish the deeper relationship required by buyers and vendors within the B2B industry, the right content needs to be published. In-depth content distributed through a suitable tone of voice that is designed to educate and inform B2B buyers, increases the likelihood of a positive purchase decision.

Social Resource

Social channels like YouTube can become a highly considered resource for B2B companies – where quality support and material is easily accessible to users. Developing quality content for your customer base that is useful and more likely to be shared aligns itself with a number of marketing objectives: brand awareness, trust and driving prospects.

Traditional Marketing/Media Strengthening

Social media can act as an aggregator for traditional marketing strategies and assist traditional media plans in the digital space by broadening reach and establishing a share of voice. Do you want to focus on producing quality blog content to compliment marketing thought leadership strategies? Or does a LinkedIn page, group and ad approach align better with your objectives to generate leads?

Thought Leadership through Social Influence

With the right approach and social strategy in place, B2B firms can boost their efforts to influence those affected by their industry and the industry itself. Webinars and blogs can act as a social resource distributed across social channels strategically, which would compliment and support thought leadership goals.

You may already be working towards a thought leadership goal; blogs, e-books or speaking at industry events could all be a part of the process. Rather than blindly distributing content you’ve taken time to produce across social media, understanding where your audience resides and how to reach them effectively are two considerations that can boost your efforts.

Put the social into social – include employees from start to finish of your social campaign, by “championing” their work through social media and content distribution – this will typify what your company is about.

Social means Searchability – SEO

Social strategies aid SEO efforts through optimised social media profiles and quality content, producing sought after search engine rankings around brand terms relating to your business. If a B2B firm has received bad press online and returns unenviable search results that could damage its image, a uniform social and SEO approach can work to restore and boost brand reputation.

Patience

Finally, patience is required when measuring the effectiveness of B2B social media marketing. BtoB research found the majority of B2B marketers took 13 months before realising the gains from individual social channels, with LinkedIn reaping most of the rewards short term. Their most important finding however is that every one of the B2B marketers interviewed saw a return on investment from their spend in social media.

Chris Mead works in social media at creative search marketing and social agency, Tug.