Consistent social media (SM) strategies allow marketers to fashion trusting, loyal relationships with potential and existing clients, especially since SM platforms have become overriding swayers of business buyer behaviour.
In a nutshell, social media strategies are multi-channel communication playbooks. Although somewhat simplistic, the analogy between SM strategies and playbooks points out the main reason behind the need for strategic planning: competition. We compete against other companies and for market share and market growth. We strive to capture the attention and imagination of the public. Feel free to cite me on this one:
In the digital age, the SM strategy is a multi-channel communication playbook that creates opportunities for capitalising on visibility.
However, unsound SM strategies bring disappointing results, and can even damage the image of a brand and the company behind it. This is distinctly true of B2B companies since their target audience is already acquainted with the market and knows, to some extent, what value for money looks like. However, keep in mind that all companies are also consumers, and, in some respect, you are offering something they cannot or shall not provide for themselves.
Do You Mean Business? Oh, Behave...
Every decision that a business makes regarding what to invest in is carefully examined. Products and services, especially those that involve complex implementations that do not deliver on their promised value and do not make the buyer’s business operate more efficiently, can make or break reputations.
Understanding your potential buyer's behaviour is crucial, to grow within any business market. Before the arrival of the World Wide Web, buyers were mostly influenced by magazines, newspaper ads and word of mouth recommendations. So, in order to market and sell to businesses, marcom pros relied on print media, trade shows, and phone calls to generate sales.
Nowadays, B2B marketing and sales departments depend heavily on their websites to generate direct sales and refer potential buyers to channel partners. In turn, this entails putting serious resources into search engine marketing (SEM), pay per click (PPC) campaigns, email marketing, and social media campaigns.
There are plenty of studies online that offer revealing intelligence on B2B buyer behavior, but my recommendation is to start with reading this evergreen by Shelly Kramer. The article provides a thorough review of the 2013 Software Advice study on B2B buyer behaviour. Software Advice collected data from more than 6,000,000 unique visitors and revealed key intelligence such as why B2B buyers perform research on the web, how they convert on a website, and when you can get them on the phone.
5 Key Insights into B2B Social Media Strategies
It is essential to grasp that, while I am presenting proven practices, not every solution will suit every project. It is wise to seek professional advice before making any major decisions. Depending on the specific business market and the source of your intelligence, SM strategies will vary a lot. There is no definitive recipe to how a B2B social media strategy should look like. However, there is some advice which will suit most B2B social media campaigns.
1. Treat Your Target Audience as Persons
As B2B marketers, we tend to forget the fact that content should always be held forth to actual people, not their companies. Stuffing your posts with numbers, charts, highly technical infographics, and jargon will drive traffic away from your content, because, no matter how well intended and documented, this robot-like communication will bore the hell out of community members. Use numbers, but do not overwhelm your audience. If your content raises interest, you can provide detailed info further down the line.
These are real communities with real problems and interests. SM platforms are not to be regarded as mere intakes for your marketing funnel. Spiceworks refers to this sort of robotic content as marketing to the Borg. If you are not a Star Trek fan, this might not ring a bell. Imagine a civilisation that has fused with technology and entirely gave into its cold, efficiency-driven nature. Factor in an unyielding thirst for conquest and what you get is the Borg.
Being human and talking to human beings might just be the prime directive of B2B marketers. Here are a few pointers I know will help you tailor relevant and human-friendly content for social media:
- Monitor SM platforms and always look to find win-win situations. Engage!
- Look at the metrics and ask questions to find out what members of a particular community usually measure, what their objectives are, what their pains are.
- Do your best to understand what makes them tick.
- Whenever you can, show them that you have the skills to help. Be natural about it.
- Show them you know their markets and trends.
2. Create a Content-Centric Social Media Strategy
Indiscriminately posting content on social media is pretty much like shooting in the dark. A well-planned social media marketing strategy is essential in order to succeed. Stating that there is a definitive recipe to how this playbook should always look like is dishonest. Nevertheless, here are some pointers and aspects that you should still take into consideration when formulating a sound, content-centric B2B social media strategy:
- First of all, know your audience! What topics and interests are they most social about? What do they value in a brand?
- Use the same social networks as your audience! Create awareness, engagement, and find elegant ways to reward your brand ambassadors. Most of those who like and share your content will not spend a dime on your services and products. Some of their friends and connections definitely will.
- Identify your key performance indicators (KPIs). What does success look like, in measurable terms?
- Write a social media communication plan. Detail audience profiles, brand personas, campaign concepts, promotional events, contests, content themes and a crisis management plan.
- Get everyone on board with your strategy, adequately divide the workload and set aside some time at the beginning of each week to prepare and review posting schedules.
- Post in accordance with newsworthy topics and events.
- Be responsive to user-generated content, comments, and feedback. Do not avoid offering answers to negative reactions. These are valuable opportunities to show professionalism and maturity.
- Regularly reanalyse your strategy. If something does not work, do not think twice about changing it. Use A/B testing to determine what your audience responds to better. Also, regularly use metric reports, to understand the status quo and make decisions according to well-informed predictions.
Take a close look at this comprehensive infographic. It will enable you to square this circle.
3. Use Different Content on Different Channels
All social channels should be treated differently. Do not post the same content everywhere. Always remember that every medium brings different expectations from your audience, various sorts of interactions and attitudes. What works on LinkedIn might perform poorly on Twitter or Facebook.
Tailor concepts to fit various media. Once you have your refined idea, adapting it to different media, through multiple formats – video to graphic – becomes much easier, since the overall concept stays the same. Keeping content in only one form is undoubtedly a monumental no-no!
4. Create Relevant and Original Content
Attractive, accessible, original and relevant content is eternally in demand both on- and offline. Always keep in mind that you are writing for people, not for companies. Thoroughly proofread your posts and use relevant keywords. I want to know exactly what I will find one click away, and your SM post should be assisting me with this.
Before defining your SM strategies, scrupulously evaluate the content on your website, to determine valuable assets and useful, accurate information, tailored to the needs of your connections and to the characteristics of the social media platforms you are going to use.
To further learn about this, access this helpful link which answers WHY you need well-tailored and original content.
5. Post Consistently and Never Spam People
The frequency of your posts on different platforms should, first of all, depend on the characteristics of each platform. Twitter, for example, allows you to make a bit more daily posts without inducing the sensation that you are spamming your followers. However, try posting ten times a day on LinkedIn, and you will surely annoy your connections.
Also, not posting anything for a couple of days, or even more than that, and then posting a lot in a short time span, will never do wonders for your followers’ engagement rate. Try hitting that golden standard, that benchmark, the balanced posting habits that keep your audience coming back for more. You can do this through trial and error, patiently tweaking your posting calendar, but here is a useful article by Jarene Ang that will certainly give you an idea of where to start from.
Let's Wrap Up!
B2B buyers will continue to research their purchases online, so it is quite important for your company to understand their online behaviour. Studies like the one conducted by Software Advice in 2013 offer key insights into online B2B buyer behaviour, but these key pieces of information should be properly correlated with effective practices such as those presented to you in this article.
There are certain times of the year, week and day when you need to correlate your digital marketing efforts with your sales efforts to maximise your ability to turn website conversions into paying customers.