Social media and B2B have a stigma of going together like salt and water, it doesn’t exactly look dirty but it’s not really clean either, you’re not scared to do it – drink it that is, but it doesn’t taste any good and you drink it anyways to fix your sore throat because that’s what you heard you need to do, which in this case is your business.
So how is it that so many B2B businesses are crushing it at their social media marketing? GE, Cisco and John Deere are just some examples of B2B companies who are rocking their social media marketing.
Here are some tactics that you can use to improve your social media marketing.
Don’t look at the numbers
The first mistake B2B marketers make is they think that numbers mean something, “we only have 90 followers on twitter so, it’s not that great” ok, yes we want to increase your follower count but if your engagement to those 90 followers are amazing, then that 90 is actually a great number to start, don’t be fooled by profiles that have 5,000, 10,000, 50,000 or 150,000 – hell, let’s even make it 1,000,000 followers, first let’s excuse the fact that it’s more common for B2C to have numbers like 1,000,000 followers rather than B2B, but believe it or not, a large majority of these profiles have very low engagement, and engagement is exactly what you want, if you’re twitter profile is a personal one and your goal is to look good with a big following, then go for it, hire a company that will do a “follower & favourite” campaign, you’ll get the numbers and hit the goal of looking popular, but as a business, that’s not what you’re looking for, how do those big numbers translate in to commerce? The answer is engagement.
Although I’ve been referencing “followers”, this goes for all platforms. Time and time again you’ll hear people say that it’s hard or impossible to measure the ROI of social media. For most people (or most B2B’s), this is not actually true, because social media is digital, and with the right tools you can measure almost anything digital, The challenge of calculating ROI on social media mostly comes into play with influencer marketing and brick and mortar stores though, although, with beacon technology growing in popularity this is changing. For B2B, if your goal is to have as many followers as possible then ROI is very hard to measure, and a lot of the time it’s because although business owners or CMO’s know the importance of social media, they might not know where to start. I’ll tell you right now, start with engagement! That’s the only metric you need, building real relationships with your brand. I want to be clear though, social should be part of a strategy and managed regularly, without a conversion path to a customer then social will not succeed into a positive ROI for your business. For most B2B’s, LinkedIn is the only thing that matters, this is a very strong platform for B2B but not the only one.
We’ll get to Facebook in a second but for now, I want to talk about somewhere where you might find even better conversions and customers. I want to address niche forums and niche social networks.
Remember the key is engagement, not numbers, and niche sites have tons of engagement, do you live in a major city? In Toronto, we have roughly 2.8 million people who live in and around the GTA (Greater-Toronto-Area) and if you’ve never experienced living in a big city, you’d think that with 2.8 million people, everyone’s phone would be filled with a few thousand peoples names and phone numbers, makes sense right? 2.8 million people? basic math! But that’s not how human nature works when we’re confronted with huge groups, we find smaller groups and create tribes of like-minded people, the bigger the group, the smaller the engagement. Compare that to a small town of 1500 people, where everyone knows everyone, and if you’ve ever been to a house party in a town like this you’d see that the average amount of people that attend greatly surpass that of a major city.
According to the Dunbar number, human beings have a cognitive limit to the number of people that they can realistically maintain stable social relationships with. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. Dunbar proposed that humans can only comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships, is your brand that important to someone to fill one of these precious relationships? The trick is to associate yourself with something bigger, but not so big that you get buried. Let a niche site be the relationship, and let your brand be the authority on the site. That’s why niche sites are jam-packed with engagement, they’re small but powerful, and everyone attends.
To find a niche social network, type into google your industry and then “social network” or “forum”, there is a forum or social network on almost anything.
Twitter for B2B is great, it gives you a chance to be human, and have real conversations with your customers or potential customers, at least that’s what you should be doing as a B2B because the shelf life of a tweet is almost non-existent, Twitter is less about broadcasting and more about engagement. The real power behind Twitter is the conversation, as a B2B business you can listen to the pain point of your prospects, reach out and be a helpful resource, and provide helpful articles to them when you see they’ve asked a question that you address. Of course you should broadcast on Twitter, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t, but where Twitter shines is in it’s REAL-TIME conversation, next time there is a major event, like the Superbowl, UFC or the finale of a great show, pop open your Twitter and see how much more fun watching that event is while you engage with other people watching the event in real-time.
Twitter Search Operators
To find relevant conversations where you can add value, use the search bar at the top of the Twitter page and start searching for questions that relate to your industry that you can answer, even if the question doesn’t relate to your industry but the person who’s asking does, see if you can still answer it to build that relationship and open up a conversation that could eventually turn into a follow, those are the followers you want, targeted and engaging. To find questions that you can answer or engage with on Twitter, you need to do a search, you can do this in the search bar of Twitter and by itself, it’s ok, but the magic really happens when you start using operators in your search, here’s one of my favourites – “keyword”? -filter:links lang:en – let’s break down what this is doing.
“keyword” – first we type in the keyword we would like to search for, if your industry is marketing then this would be “marketing”
? – What the question mark does is find any tweets with a question mark, which will most likely result in questions about marketing.
-filter:links – What this is doing is filtering out any tweets that contain links, if someone is asking a question with a link, the tweet is most likely a promotion, if you would like to include all the links then you would have to remove the minus sign before “filter”, this would then give you only questions about marketing with links. Filtering out the links should result in most of the tweets being more authentic questions.
lang:en – This shows only tweets in English.
Here is a complete list of Twitter operators and what they do:
- Frozen Lemon
containing both “Frozen” and “Lemon”. This is the default operator.
- “happy hour”
containing the exact phrase “happy hour”.
- love OR hate
containing either “love” or “hate” (or both).
- beer -root
containing “beer” but not “root”.
containing the hashtag “haiku”.
sent from person “frozenlemon1”.
sent to person “techcrunch”.
referencing person “mashable”.
- “happy hour” near:”san francisco”
containing the exact phrase “happy hour” and sent near “san francisco”.
- near:NYC within:15mi
sent within 15 miles of “NYC”.
- superhero since:2010-12-27
containing “superhero” and sent since date “2010-12-27” (year-month-day).
- ftw until:2010-12-27
containing “ftw” and sent up to date “2010-12-27”.
- movie -scary 🙂
containing “movie”, but not “scary”, and with a positive attitude.
- flight 🙁
containing “flight” and with a negative attitude.
- traffic ?
containing “traffic” and asking a question.
- hilarious filter:links
containing “hilarious” and linking to URLs.
- news source:twitterfeed
containing “news” and entered via TwitterFeed
Twitter Advanced Search
An alternative to twitter search operators in the search bar is Twitter’s advanced search page. The downside to Twitter’s advanced search page is the mobile capabilities – there is none! If you’re planning on searching on a desktop then head over to Twitter Advanced Search which you can find here – https://twitter.com/search-advanced and start typing your search terms in.
Start by following people that you think would be interested in what you sell, wait a few days, remember you want engagement not numbers, a lot of the times the person will follow back, if this person doesn’t engage with you after a few days or follow back then simply unfollow them, you don’t want an unengaged follower to lay dormant as a follower, would you rather have 100 people following you where only 2 people regularly engage with your content, or 25 people who mostly engage with your content. A high following to follower ratio will send a message to the other people who you’re following, that you’re just trying to get more followers and might unfollow them later, or it’s just spam, either way, it doesn’t look good, so stay aware of your follower count and be selective of who you follow.
A great way to use Twitter as a B2B is to do a Twitter chat, a Twitter chat is a real-time conversation based on a selected keyword/ hashtag, this works because you’re creating an event that your tribe can congregate and talk to each other about. Before you say that your industry is not one for congregating, I’ll say two words, “Trade” and“shows”. Most people attend industry trade shows for updates and networking opportunities, find out why people in your industry show up to trade shows and then think of ways that you can provide that in your Twitter chat. A great tool to use if your running a Twitter chat is http://tweetchat.com head over there, type in your keyword hashtag, or start your own, sign in and get engaged.
Reddit describes itself as the front page of the internet, to give you an indication of how powerful Reddit is, most things that go viral, usually start on Reddit first. The way Reddit works is when something is posted, it’s placed at the top of its category with a weight that will eventually sink it to the bottom of the category (or subreddit) if no one votes the post up. Unlike Google or Facebook, Reddit has a very simple algorithm that determines its SERP (search engine result position) – “community votes”, if a piece of content is good, then the Reddit community will vote it up, and in turn will get more views and more votes, hence the virality.
What AMA stands for is “Ask Me Anything” This is similar to a Twitter chat but the great thing about AMA’s are that the community
votes up the best questions to the top. Everyone from Obama to Robert Downey Junior has done an AMA. Typically an AMA runs for about an hour and people ask these figures anything. Reddit is also anonymous and that can be good and bad, but what makes anonymity bad is also what makes it good on the site – the fact that people are brutally honest. If you’re a brand that’s very secretive, and deceptive about its intentions then #1. Don’t do online marketing in the first place and #2. I strongly suggest you consider pulling back the curtains, millennials will find the answers to their questions somewhere, and if it’s not from you then you’re not in control of the answers. This is why so many politicians do AMA’s on Reddit because it shows transparency and they control the answers.
So how does a B2B use Reddit? Through subreddits, subreddits are pretty much topics, groups or hashtag, anything that is used to categorize a conversation, but they act like separate websites altogether, the strategy B2B can use is to find a subreddit and start engaging and adding value to the community, because Reddit is anonymous you must truly add value, answer people’s questions with links to relevant articles on your website, add a great shareable post with a link that could potentially get voted up. Unlike groups, subreddits can be fully managed as there own with no need to ever go to the Reddit homepage.
Instagram is continuing to grow at an amazing rate, and just because you’re a B2B doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the action. Instagram is a platform that you can use to show your brand’s personality, understand your buyer’s persona and speak to them on a personal level, collect great quotes from leaders in your industry and put them on a picture, there are tons of apps that can do this, do a quick search for anything where you can add text to images, use it to announce company anniversaries or events.
Like Twitter, hashtags on Instagram are topics or categories that you choose to include your image into, a strategy you can use as a B2B is to create your own unique hashtag for events or trade shows, this will create sub-galleries for easy sorting of company checkpoints, also look at relevant hashtags in your industry and choose a few that you can add to your images so that your images are included in more popular galleries.
Pro tip 1: don’t pick hashtags that are too popular, you’ll get buried too fast.
The way hashtag galleries work are first come first serve so it’s important that you chose a few hashtags that not only make sense to your image and brand but are not too popular, for instance, don’t use hashtags like #love, #music, or #happy, try longer tail hashtags like #LoveCoffeeInTheMorning, or #MusicAtWorkIsAwesome, these are common enough that they might exist but long enough that you might stay at the top of the gallery for longer, which will get you more visibility and possibly more engagement.
Pro tip 2: Don’t add your hashtags to the photo status, instead, add them to your comments, this way to can erase them and add new ones.
Make sure to add your hashtags to a comment rather than the status, this way If you find that the longtail hashtags you chose aren’t working too well, then you can erase them and chose some new ones. The other reason you want to add your hashtags to a comment and not a status is this, let’s say you got some great engagement from a hashtag when you first posted but after time you got buried and is no longer doing anything for you, in this case, you know that you have the right hashtag but are just too far down the gallery to be seen, what you can do is erase the comment with the hashtag, and re-add them, this would be read as a brand new hashtag and put you at the top of that hashtag gallery. Instagram does have a limit to how many times you can re-add a specific hashtag.
Facebook’s organic reach has dropped so much that it’s less strategy than it is a paid advertisement platform. Having said that though, there is no platform with the reach and the vast amount of information than Facebook, and yes, B2B can use it. With roughly 1.23 billion monthly active users, it’s rare that your buyer persona does not have a profile, now, given the fact the Facebook does have fake and duplicate accounts, even if we cut this number in half to account for them (which is highly unlikely), Facebook would still have roughly 600 million monthly active users.
The biggest mistake B2B companies make is that they think that Facebook “likes” are what it’s all about, if more people like the page, then more people will see the post, “free advertising!”
Let’s start with organic reach, the free advertising used to be the case when Facebook pages launched, many companies invested big $ into the growth of their Facebook page as a way to reach their buyers where they hangout – Facebook. Since 2012 Facebook started tightening the lid on organic reach which got page owners worried about their investment into their Facebook pages – both money and time. Today, organic reach is almost non-existent, Facebook themselves have announced that companies should assume that Facebook is going to be a purely paid service in terms of organic reach, for the time being, though this hasn’t happened and there is still a bit of organic reach left.
Why Page Likes Don’t Matter
So that’s one of the reasons page likes don’t matter, the other reason is that contrary to popular belief, page likes or lake thereof are not actually a deciding factor on whether or not visitor likes a page or not. There are speculations that social proof does play a part in conversion rate on website landing pages by to for Facebook, the studies speak for themselves.
Here are the top 12 reasons studies have shown why people will like a Facebook page in order.
- To receive discounts and promotions
- To show their support for the company to others
- To get a “freebie” (e.g. free sample, coupon)
- To stay informed about the activities of the company
- To get updates on future products
- To get updates on future sales
- For fun or entertainment
- To get access to exclusive content
- Recommendation from a trusted source
- To learn more about the company
- For education on company topics
- To interact (e.g., share ideas, provide feedback)
Nowhere on this list does it say “Because so many other people liked the page” so again, don’t obsess over how many likes you have on the page.
I’m not going to dive into Facebook advertising in this post right now as that’s is a whole nother post in itself, Facebook ads such as dark posts, lookalike audiences on so on are powerful, to say the least but for now, let’s concentrate on organic strategies.
For your posts to have the best possible chance at appearing in new feeds you need to prove to Facebook that your post is worth showing. You do this by engagement, comments, shares, and likes are what Facebook wants to see from your posts, for some ideas on creating shareable content for boring industries check out this article.
How To Maximize Organic Reach
For Facebook, aim to create content in these five different categories and try to mix them up in your editorial calendar, the categories are:
- Informational such as lists, infographics, and how to’s
- Storytelling such as human connection, employee/customer spotlights or Throwback Thursdays
- Emotional such as self-fulfillment, inspirational or entertainment
- Interactive such as Quizzes, what would you do? influencers
- Snackable images such as Human connection, text on images (like Instagram) and user-generated content
Social media marketing for B2B can be a powerful marketing and sales asset for your business, but in order to succeed in it, like anything, you must put in the time and effort it takes to make it work, use these strategies as a starting point, experiment and try different things, don’t concentrate on the number of followers or likes you have, rather, concentrate on the only metric that matters in social media and that’s being social! If you can make that work, then you can start to pull more people towards your brand leading to a conversation about your product or service and ultimately leading to a sales, but it all starts with good content and good “engagement”