LinkedIn and other social channels provide ideal opportunities to engage with customers, but you need to plan your approach carefully.
The pressure is on B2B marketers to listen and engage with their customers more proactively than ever before. But when it comes to social media, experts warn marketers to take a more strategic approach to interacting with customers.
“For years, we’ve been told ‘be the voice and not the brand’, and in this age of exponential digital change and innovation, this is even more relevant than ever,” says Marketing Consulting Company’s founder and director Fleur Filmer. “While social media started as the prodigal life-force for B2C, its pivotal role in B2B marketing is only now being understood, explored and utilised.”
According to Filmer, who consults technology businesses, high-profile companies and startups, B2B marketing has been slow to embrace social – a potentially powerful customer engagement ecosystem.
[caption id="attachment_1532" align="alignleft" width="300"] Clockwise from top left: Marketing Consulting Company’s Fleur Filmer, Hypetap’s Detch Singh, The Right Fit’s Taryn Williams and Hancock Creative's Alecia Hancock.[/caption]
“B2B marketing, in general, is very late to the social media party,” she says. “Even the widely accepted and arguably most powerful B2B social media channel of LinkedIn is under-utilised as a B2B engagement tool. Sure, we’re using social media as an outbound communication tool, but it's in the role of engagement – that is, actual connection – that we will see the greatest evolution.”
To connect better with customers on social media, B2B marketers need to engage and interact differently to their B2C colleagues, Filmer says.
“Everyone is telling us how great they are, how they can do that one thing for our business better than anyone else,” she says. “While this may be true in some isolated cases, it certainly isn’t true in every case. Businesses are becoming wiser to the cowboys, the fly-by-nighters, the flash in the pans – those I call the ‘empty experts’.
“Businesses aren’t looking to be told. Businesses are looking for relationships, for partnerships, for substance. They’re looking for conversation, to be understood and to be heard. This means communication alone via social media is no longer enough to convince B2B clients of your expertise or prowess. B2B customers and clients require connection via social media.”
Filmer says the biggest mistake B2B marketers make with social media is not treating it as “social” but as a “two-dimensional entity”.
“The most powerful way to utilise social media is to see it as the tool that it is and to respect the communication behind it exactly as you would if you were talking directly to a single person or a group of people,” she says. “Just because the tool is behind a screen doesn’t mean you should talk to or communicate with your market differently.”
Avoid the scattergun approach
Experts agree a robust B2B social marketing plan should not be viewed in isolation. It needs to be highly strategic and support the wider marketing matrix and business objectives.
“So many businesses concentrate on the scattergun approach to marketing,” Filmer says. “They try to cover as many ‘popular’ bases as possible with no plan, no goal and no campaign objectives.
“They do a DIY course here, listen to a guru on a podcast here, and maybe create some pretty but ineffective Instagram posts. This form of marketing is purely reactive and will waste huge time and financial resources and cause more stress and frustration for the business owner than they had before commencing any form of marketing.
“There is no point having a great website if no one knows about it, or having 100,000 followers if none of them subscribes or purchases from you."
Alecia Hancock is founder and director of Hancock Creative, which specialises in social media education. She agrees B2B marketers should approach social media with a more strategic eye.
“Social media is a dialogue not a lecture – you need to be inclusive and engaging with the community."
“Gone are the days when the volume of posting was the secret to success,” Hancock says. “Content needs to be strategic, thought out and really targeted to your customers’ needs. This means social media needs to focus more heavily on 'meaningful engagement'.
“I'd also advise integration. Social media should be part of every strategy, and every strategy part of your social media. Today's audience no longer sees the difference between offline and online activity. It needs to integrate seamlessly into one story.”
Digital marketplace The Right Fit’s CEO and founder Taryn Williams says B2B social marketers should take a cohesive, blended approach and convey brand messages that pay respect to each channel.
“Understand your audience and the channels they engage with,” she says. “Build a unique strategy for each channel, and remember social media is a dialogue not a lecture – you need to be inclusive and engaging with the community. Find key opinion leaders in your space who will resonate with your audience to engage as influencers or ambassadors. Focus on adding value.
“Bear in mind the data and analytics you can collect from social media marketing is so powerful, as is your ability to be incredibly targeted to your particular audience. It also gives you real-time feedback and ability to engage with your audience in a way other marketing channels can’t.”
Think value, not follower numbers
Influencer marketing platform Hypetap’s co-founder and co-CEO Detch Singh says B2B marketers need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each social media channel, with value in mind.
“B2B marketers must examine their business and pinpoint which channels their customers spend the most time on,” he says. “While Twitter and LinkedIn might seem like natural channels for B2B marketing, they may not always be appropriate.
“For example, when running an influencer campaign targeting architects on Hypetap, contrary to our initial expectations, our pre-campaign research revealed a large portion of the target audience used Instagram, perhaps because of the highly visual nature of the platform. It’s important not to create a social media account just for the sake of it. Understand what your audience wants, and tailor your content to both the platform and your customers to maximise the impact of your efforts.
When engaging on a platform such as LinkedIn, Singh says B2B marketers should focus on interacting with key industry leaders across relevant verticals to connect with the right target audiences.
“The relevance and quality of a social media audience are far more important than the quantity.”
“LinkedIn is quickly becoming one of the most popular platforms for B2B marketers, and the addition of paid amplification can maximise the audience reach,” Singh says. “B2B marketers must also make sure they don't get sidetracked by accumulating social media followers. The relevance and quality of a social media audience are far more important than the quantity. Make sure you're setting KPIs around creating awareness, building relationships and driving sales.”
Hancock says effective social media won’t be considered a support for B2B marketing but a cost-effective pillar. “We work with major Western Australian bank Bankwest,” Hancock says. “They have tipped the point where they spend more on digital than they do on offline marketing. That's an indicator of how important social media should be to your campaigns. It's no longer the add-on or support – it's the big kahuna.”
How to be a great B2B social marketer
- Create a serious video strategy: It should align with business goals and engage your target market.
- Don’t treat followers and likes as holy grails: Use engagement metrics to tell you whether your message is resonating with your target market and achieving your social media marketing goals.
- Create a plan: Every successful business requires good strategy around each social media campaign. Social media can be one of the most powerful, efficient and inexpensive tools in your B2B marketing arsenal.
Tips provided by Marketing Consulting Company’s Fleur Filmer
Key social media uses
- Communication tool: where customers and clients can learn about innovation, new products and services, as well as new releases.
- Connectivity tool: where customers and clients can connect for customer service, after-sales service, product education or product training.
- Market-research tool: where innovations can be quickly and inexpensively tested on small markets before being released to the broader market.
- Lead-generation tool: to connect with prospects and new markets.
- Branding tool: where customers who wouldn’t ordinarily interact with you or your business face to face can assess the personality of your brand, the values of your people and the calibre of your business.
Tips provided by Marketing Consulting Company’s Fleur Filmer
Further reading: B2B content must loosen its tie and have more fun
Photo: Daniele Riggi on Unsplash