In Part 2 of our marketing guides for B2B startups, we focus on social media. The opportunities, planning and tactics involved in optimising success across all available channels.
For many in B2B, social media activation is not a first thought. Paid advertising on business media channels such as Linkedin supported by business events, trade shows, talks and professional white papers have traditionally been the elixir of B2B marketing.
Social media marketing has more often been the ‘go to’ strategy for B2C - particularly brands focused on engaging millennials and GenZ.
But during and even before the pandemic, things began to change. B2B marketing leaders had to learn to adapt to unconventional channels and test new ways to engage customers. And guess what? It turns out that social media marketing for B2B is one of the best (and most cost effective!) ways to build a brand and find an audience.
Research shows that 83% of B2B content marketers now use B2B social media ads and/or promoted posts. This has increased from just 60% in 2021. And McKinsey confirms that two thirds of B2B customer engagement will happen digitally by 2024, which of course includes social media engagement.
Whether its sales meetings, conferences, webinars or customer engagement, B2B activity is happening extensively online. And post event connections and conversations often take place through social media channels. There is plenty of evidence that social media for B2B can help build awareness, relevance and connections, bringing in lucrative opportunities. So whether it’s organic or paid, if you don’t have a social media plan for your B2B business, you’re definitely missing an opportunity.
In a conversation with our Senior Digital Strategist, Stephanie Walters, we discuss all the ways to strengthen social media strategies for B2B startups and scaleups. Although we’ve written this blog with early stage businesses in mind, this is a useful social media guide for any B2B organisation.
What is social marketing for B2B?
In simple terms, B2B social media marketing uses open social channels like Linkedin or Facebook to market products or services to business clients and prospects. And according to social media planning platform, SproutSocial, B2B social media strategy is ‘apples and oranges’ compared to B2C strategy. Rather than focusing on selling, most B2B companies use social strategies as a top-of-the-funnel marketing channel, specifically for content promotion and business awareness.
Does social media marketing work for B2B?
There are many compelling reasons that encourage investment in B2B social media marketing. Being present on social media platforms allows B2B buyers to interact with a brand in a more personal and interactive manner than other channels. Research shows that customers will purchase from B2B companies they are familiar with, so having more channels (other than your website) to interact with prospective customers will pay off.
Hootsuite offers some interesting statistics and predictions about the trend for B2B social media marketing. By 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions will occur on digital channels. And 44% of millennial B2B customers apparently prefer not to interact with a sales rep at all any more! This really supports the insight that whether B2B or B2C, customers want to buy from brands they like and trust.
According to a SmartInsights survey, 'Social media now comes out as the most powerfully effective channel serving a wide range of objectives’. 79% of the 115 senior level B2B marketers who responded, claim that social media is effective in meeting their objectives - from building thought leadership to deepening customer relationships.
How to start a social media strategy for B2B?
The social media landscape is a broad church and a social media strategy is as much about pinpointing what you are not going to do and where you won’t need to spend time or money. This is particularly important for B2B startups where time and money is critical!
A key consideration before embarking on any approach is aligning social media marketing to business objectives. This could be a singular ‘north star’ - one firm, clear objective or a multi layered strategy with multiple objectives. Remember that social media marketing won’t be the answer to all the business objectives. And equally, not all business objectives need to or should be addressed simultaneously.
But like any good strategy, every B2B social media plan should answer the following questions;
What are the business objectives?
How can social media help support the business objectives?
What are the the core messages we want to convey?
How to implement a social media strategy for B2B
With any B2B at startup stage, driving awareness is an ‘always on’ objective. But before investing time or money in awareness driving, be clear about the business story. What sets your business apart? What is unique about your products or services and what does the business brand stand for?
We recommend spending time crafting a business profile with the entire leadership team. Be aligned and comfortable with core descriptions so you build the most effective toolbox to drive awareness and help fuel growth. And before committing to any marketing plans for social media, think about the customer!
The playbook for all marketing decision makers starts with crystal clarity on customers. Who is your audience, what influences them and where will you find them? In marketing lingo, audiences are often referred to as ‘personas’ but however you choose to label your customers, spend time exploring who they are.
Commence with a compilation of audience data using some of these firmographic indicators; size & sector of business, profile of business decision makers, age, location, language and influences. Firmographics are a collection of descriptions used by B2B organisations to segment their target market and discover ideal customers. More information on these categorical sets can be found here . Facebook and Google analytics are both free and also useful signposts for helping to develop audience personas that fit with their advertising criteria.
By way of example, a proptech firm might serve commercial, public and private customers. It likely has specialised services that offer something for each category. And its B2B social media marketing should do the same. Focus on building fully formed descriptions of your ideal customers. This will subsequently allow you to create personalised social content that speaks to real people.
Channels and influences
So let’s imagine you’ve aligned a strategy with business objectives. And you’ve got a firm understanding of your audience, you now need to plan where you build engagement and what tools you need to use. This is where specialist agency expertise can really increase ROI - particularly with a paid strategy that involves continual modifications.
Businesses may find that activating boosted posts or Linkedin advertising is a test and repeat exercise. But for startups, there is often a limited budget so hyper focus is key and working with one platform such as Linkedin is a smart way to test the water and gather valuable data.
What are competitors up to?
Keeping an eye on competitors is critical - whatever stage of business size or growth. Seek to answer these questions in your analysis. What are common trends in your industry? What are the preferences of your business’ target audience? What online buzz is generated about your business, your competitors or your specific industry? Analyzing what your competitor’s offer, in addition to the online buzz they are generating on social media, can provide your business a better understanding of current industry trends. After all, knowing the ins and outs of your industry will help your business find its unique identity.
It’s important to recognise that each social media platform comes with its own nuances and rulebook. Here we outline our top 4 here:
How to create compelling content for B2B social media marketing
Linkedin is a valuable resource for B2B companies. It has the power to connect businesses with highly targeted customers based on criteria including geographic location, job titles, influences, network and interests. According to the Social Media Marketing Industry report, 81% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn and 73% of them plan on increasing organic activities on the platform.
And according to Linkedin, tactics that work best for its 800m+ users include video and animated content as well as educative content that helps potential Linkedin customers make better decisions in their jobs. Ebooks are an ideal tool for Linkedin as they enable data capture and reinforce a sense of authority and credibility for the creator - particularly useful for startups in their early stage of growth.
Twitter is a different game entirely. Where video works best on Linkedin, images work best for Twitter engagement. And words work even better than images! Twitter encourages conversations and engagement with other users. List based content works well for Twitter’s 190m users and as conversational engagement is a top tactic, Twitter is a relatively cost effective platform to utilise organically. Remember that 75% of businesses are on Twitter and 67% of users are more likely to purchase from businesses they follow.
Facebook Ads for B2B marketing offer hyper targeting opportunities. Facebook advertising will help build awareness, boost traffic, generate leads and help drive conversions. The general marketing rulebook is that although LinkedIn offers more specific company or title targeting opportunities, Facebook has a better algorithm for optimization. Utilising image graphics, business advertisers can customise audiences and fit into B2B work categories. Incentives and promotions are also well tested ways to enhance engagement on Facebook.
Youtube is the number two search engine in the world after Google with 2.6 billion users. So for an effective digital marketing strategy for any B2B business, it should definitely include this video channel. And B2B marketers can do more than just boost social engagement. Youtube enables video creators and content to build a community. It enables businesses to put a human face (or other visually engaging content) to better illustrate their offer, creating brand fans and reaching new audiences.
What is B2B influencer marketing?
And finally, don’t forget that just like B2C, B2B companies can harness and amplify endorsement and awareness by working with relevant social influencers and industry thought leaders. These may even be founders within your own startup business!
Start with researching who already influences your customers internally within your organisation and why. As a startup, recognise that working with free or cost effective micro thought leaders can be just as effective as one significant paid influencer. And there are many ways to work with B2B influencers for free - such as inviting them as guests on a webinar or podcast - helping to enhance their profile at the same time.
There isn’t a one size fits all for B2B social media marketing and strategies need to be customised. However by not implementing a social media plan, B2B companies will be missing a powerful growth and engagement tactic.
For more advice on effective B2B marketing on social media - don’t hesitate to get in touch! Email us at Somebody@somebodydigital.com.