As a relationship-building tool, social media remains one of the most effective ways for businesses to market, not only to consumers, but to other businesses. Forging a successful B2B social media presence requires a company to create an entire online identity that is unique to them and built around their needs as well as the needs of their customers. To achieve success in this realm, brands need to consider the vital trifecta of social media: where, what, and how often.
When considering which social media platforms to leverage, there are multiple factors to take into consideration. You must factor in how much traffic the channel has, who uses it, and how relevant the content will be to your business. For example, Instagram has more than 400 million users, many of whom skew younger. This makes it effective for B2C companies gunning for the 18-25 audience, but an incredibly tough channel for B2B companies. Of all social media platforms adopted by B2B businesses in 2013, Instagram was near the bottom with 13.4 percent. If your company targets business professionals or an older demographic, Instagram may not be the right fit. LinkedIn is the most utilized platform for B2B companies, because it allows for content-dense postings with the ability to target very specific audiences. That being said, a brand should never rely on only one social media platform to engage their audience. Most B2B companies are active on an average of 6 social media channels. In addition to LinkedIn, consider Twitter and Google+ when building out your B2B social strategy.
Deciding what to post varies based on the brand, their voice, and their target audience, but in general experts recommend a blend of videos, images, links, and short commentary. That addresses the type of content, regardless of the medium, but there’s more to it than that. Brands need to ensure their content is credible and aligned across all channels, consistently establishing themselves as thought leaders within their industry.
On average, B2B customers are engaging suppliers when the purchase is nearly 60 percent complete. With this in mind, you need to consider your customer personas and where they are on their customer journey when they interact with your brand on social. Your content should be designed to engage and educate these audiences as they move into and through the funnel. Individuals follow brands, in part, because they are both seeking and vetting the brand’s industry expertise. Your brand can leverage social to prove this expertise through expert interviews hosted on social channels, posts driving to case studies, or even Q&A sessions where you encourage customers to tap into specific industry topics with questions of their own.
You can also use education to turn your social followers into leads. There are a variety of ways to drive leads via your social channels. Contests and promotions work well, but using social to push gated, educational content (e.g., ebooks, infographics, reports) is one of the most effective ways to not only capture leads, but also demonstrate your brand’s value as a thought leader.
It’s also important to note that experts believe B2B companies should shift focus from marketing toward the business to marketing toward the people of the business. This means you shouldn’t shy away from showing customers the human side of your company. It can be difficult for more traditional B2B organizations, but stretching this muscle and giving potential customers an inside look at the brand they choose to do business with builds stronger relationships, customer loyalty, and brand advocacy.
Part of maintaining this connection and building authenticity means avoiding over automation. The majority of social media posts should be written and shared by a human. Companies may designate someone (or a group of people) to write content, but rely heavily on automated systems to post that content. This can make your social efforts more efficient, but someone on your team should stay on top of your posting schedule to prevent well-intentioned posts from publishing out of context or at inopportune times.
As with every other part of navigating social media, the answer to how frequently a company should post is: it depends. Posting frequently and consistently is necessary in order to stay in front of prospects. However, posting too much will result in information overload with the potential to lose a buyer’s consideration. Knowing how and when to post depends on the audience, number of followers, and which network you’re using.
Searching for exact numbers on when and how often to post may offer some guidance, but every company is different and needs to find the frequency that is most successful for them. However, there are a few general guidelines B2B companies should take into consideration when determining when to post. Weekdays provide 14 percent more engagement than weekends for B2B companies. LinkedIn consists primarily of a B2B audience, which explains why this particular platform’s highest engagement rates are during weekday business hours. Analytics tools can also help you determine when your unique customers are most active on social media. Use this insight to determine the most effective time to post. Bonus: these tools can also help you determine which types of content and which platforms are performing well for your brand.
Understanding the where, what, and how often is not easy. It’s different for every company and there are a lot of gray areas. When starting out, it’s important to remember that, in the world of social media, trial and error is not only acceptable, it’s practically required. Studying social media best practices can help you get started, but crafting a robust, thoughtful social media presence for your brand will require time and experience.