How to Do Smarter B2B Social Marketing

By Kenzi Lindamood, Marketing Manager at Stirista.

We asked Kenzi to be our guest blogger. Kenzi joined Stirista in 2014 after working in the oil and gas industry. She specializes in email marketing, social media, and content development. In her previous professional experience, Kenzi also has been involved in public relations and search engine optimization.

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Social marketing is everywhere. Businesses and consumers alike are swarmed with an ever-growing amount of social networks The draw for luring in B2C leads via social is enticing: marketers can reach consumers on the platforms they use to provide the products they want. And it works.

But what about B2B marketing on social media? B2B is a different animal from B2C marketing, although the line between the two is becoming increasingly blurred. Even if you’re at a company that reaches out to both B2B and B2C audiences, the channels you use for each group and the message you convey will be completely different. It’s time for B2B marketers to lead the pack ahead of B2C marketers.

Here are a few ways that businesses can market to other businesses more effectively through social media.

  1. Have a plan

Quiz time! Is your social media plan:

A. In your head.

B. Written down and shared with relevant company figures for regular review.

C. Nonexistent.

If you answered B, you’re on the right track. If you answered A or C, you’re not alone. According to the Content Marketing Institute, only 44 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy. So a majority of B2B marketers aren’t even making a plan for their social media marketing. And if you aren’t making a plan, there’s no way to measure your success. It’s not enough to “just post something” on your social media accounts for the sake of having something there. Effective social marketing is strategic and planned.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Creating a marketing plan is easy. In fact, there are even some free tools you can use to get started. Get rid of the excuses—come on, you have enough time to fill out a template.

When designing your marketing plan, it’s important to keep your business goals in mind. The more specific, the better. For example, you might want to increase brand awareness for your computer repair business. That’s great, but that’s not as actionable a goal as “I want to have 1,000 Twitter followers and 500 LinkedIn connections by the end of 2015 for my computer repair business.” It’s easier to measure and achieve a quantified goal than a nebulous one.

Outline your goals first in your social marketing plan. Then go over the specific steps needed to achieve that goal, as well as milestones.

For example, the computer repair company would first set up Twitter and a LinkedIn profiles, populating them with content. Before the end of the first month, the business wants 100 followers on Twitter, so it sets up promoted tweets to gain more followers. In month two, it wants 300 total followers, so the business creates a unique hashtag that invites Twitter users to humorously complain about their computer woes.

Setting up very detailed campaigns on a dated timeline puts businesses on the right track for planning and measuring their social presence. B2B contacts usually aren’t ready to immediately buy, so your online presence is a very important icebreaker in any potential business relationship.

  1. Know who you’re talking to

Just like realtors say “Location, location, location,” marketers say “Audience, audience, audience.” This should be a no-brainer, but we still see examples of businesses making unfortunate faux pas with their targeting.

When it comes to B2B, marketers have to think about both the individual buyer and the organization as a whole. If you reach a business owner via Twitter, she still will need to consult her team before using your services. The B2B sales cycle is much longer here because several people influence the decision to buy.

Once you have a social following, it’s important to understand your existing followers to attract future followers. There are a lot of free audience analysis tools, many of which are already built into social platforms, like Facebook Insights. If you’ve been writing content for middle-aged sales executives and then find that your audience is young sales associates, your targeting needs a facelift.

You can always use social networks’ in-house targeting capabilities to send your content to the right people through ads. But the better option is always to write content that people actually want to read and will organically share.

Not sure what to say to your audience? Here are some tips:

  • Use content that caters to emotion.
  • Measure previous content to gauge response. Your audience is telling you that they want, so give it to them.
  • Have a call to action. It’s so great what you’re sharing a new blog post on Facebook. Do you want your audience to read it? Tell them to read it! Great phrases to use include “Check it out now,” “Get the latest scoop,” or “Learn why now.”
  • Photos and videos are king. B2B prospects are busy, and don’t always have time to fully read that LinkedIn post about your new printing services. Put your content into digestible bits, like pictures and video, that are interesting and easy to share.
  1. Be on the right channel

This goes hand-in-hand with knowing your audience. Know how they want to communicate with your business. Don’t put too many resources into Facebook posts if your audience prefers to communicate on Twitter. It’s great to be on several social media sites, but not if you don’t have an audience there.

It’s also important to note your audience’s viewing preferences. I used to schedule social media posts at 9 am every day, until I discovered that our users look at content at night. This is a useful point for B2B marketers—are your followers on social media during the workday, or are they online after they get home? This should influence what content you send them. If you’re not sure when your followers are online, there are free tools you can use to find out.

B2B marketers should also be going for an omnichannel approach. This means they’re reaching the same users across multiple websites, ad networks, social platforms, and even email. For example, GE creates campaigns specific to the social media channel as part of its omnichannel strategy. It requires more resources and planning, but a successful omnichannel approach captures more potential sales and improves your overall user experience.

  1. Measure it

I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s a large portion of doubt as to the effectiveness of B2B social media marketing. In fact, most B2B marketers are confident that only LinkedIn marketing is effective. But this is largely due to the fact that 49 percent of B2B marketers don’t have a documented strategy for social marketing. How do you know it’s working if you aren’t measuring it? Coupled with using the incorrect channels for B2B marketing (I’m looking at you, Facebook), it’s no wonder that businesses question the value of social marketing.

The best way to demonstrate the value of your social marketing is to measure it. Measurement is also important because it tells you what’s working and what needs to be fixed. There are no excuses here, because there are lots of free tools you can use to analyze all of your social channels in one place.

The online marketing world is going to get more complicated as more users and more channels join the fray. It’s important to stay organized for the best possible management of your B2B social media marketing strategy. Keep it social and engage with potential B2B prospects in the digital space to improve brand performance and sales.

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