Posted 03.20.2021 by Josh Krakauer
Social media is a game-changer for B2B marketers, and we’re going to prove it.
The question is: are you motivated by fear or desire?
Let’s start with desire: Imagine having a ninja-like ability to reach, understand, educate, attract, and influence your exact buyer—before they’re talking to you, while they’re researching you, and after they’ve purchased.
Thanks to social media, your brand lives closer to your customers than ever before.
Now for the scary part: If you’re not building those bonds with your customers, who is?
With longer sales cycles and less obvious roadmaps for success, determining which B2B social media strategy will lead to the best results is a different beast. In fact, according to a survey done by The Manifest, 24% of respondents said the biggest challenge their business faced with social media was not having a formal strategy.
As a reminder, set it and forget it is not a strategy.
To win in 2021, you need to play by different rules.
In the modern B2B social media world, brands are winning by:
And that’s exactly what we’re going to cover.
This guide focuses on social media marketing, though we’ll also touch on social media’s role in customer care and recruitment.
So without further ado, let’s get into how to set ambitious but achievable goals for your B2B social media marketing program in 2021 (and beyond).
Use our Social Media Swipe File Template to build a gallery of good ideas and social media examples. To get you started, we’ve filled it with some of our favorite examples of great social posts — both paid and organic.
“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” – Zig Ziglar
(What would a B2B marketing post be without a Ziglar quote?)
Before laying down your social media strategy, take time to define — what are you trying to achieve?
Pro tip: All business goals relate to making and saving money. Don’t complicate it 😊
Your social media program impacts marketing metrics across the customer lifecycle. Break down the steps you track before, during, and after becoming a customer.
Should you have one goal or many?
In reality, most brands have multiple social media goals. Having specific goals is what drives purpose behind your social media campaigns.
Here’s a rundown on the common types of B2B social media goals and how they can be measured:
You can’t build a business if your customers don’t know who you are, what you do, and how you help. Agree?
Done effectively, brand awareness creates excitement around your people and products, which will help you grow a loyal community and funnel in new leads. It’s an essential, if not obvious, part of your social media strategy.
Brand awareness can be broken down into:
There are also more advanced brand awareness measurements, like unaided recall and brand lift (favorability, preference, intent). These require third-party verification and high ad spends. We recommend crawling before you run.
Algorithms on social media reward engagement and interactions, which as a result boosts the visibility of your content towards a larger audience. Solid engagement is one of the keys to a successful digital marketing strategy.
In content marketing terms, engagement is often associated with the consideration and interest building stage of the funnel.
This has become a priority for B2B companies over the years, as 71% of B2B companies say that high engagement is the main goal of their content marketing efforts (2017).
Engagement does not precisely translate into business growth. It does, however, signal if your content resonates with your audience. That’s why measuring engagement is key.
Advanced: All of these metrics can be broken down and compared by the social media channel, month, content format or theme for deeper analysis.
Demand & lead generation is arguably the most important aspect of a successful digital marketing program. It defines the first stage of intent in a prospect’s path to becoming a customer.
There’s a good chance your B2B marketing team is measured internally on demand and lead generation metrics, so social media needs to be held accountable.
B2B social media adds value to other departments in an organization. After all, social is a customer-facing channel. It is best practice to break out those goals, budgets, and resources separate from marketing/sales.
Commonly those include:
For even more tactics to succeed, visit our post on social media lead generation.
Now that you’ve defined your goals for your campaign, it’s time to choose a platform that best corresponds to your objectives. However, with all the social media channels out there, how do we decide which ones are right for our business?
Here we have underlined the top 4 social media platforms for B2B success, and how each can be used to drive results:
Being a professional networking platform, it’s no surprise to anyone that LinkedIn is the most popular social media channel among B2B marketers. Not only do 93% of B2B marketers agree that it’s the most productive platform when it comes to generating leads, but about 64% of all visits to company websites also come from LinkedIn.
There are over 600 million members on LinkedIn, and they’re not just on the platform looking for new jobs. They’re reading articles, checking status updates, and most importantly, looking to network with potential collaborators. This presents a huge opportunity for B2B businesses.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of using LinkedIn as a B2B social network:
Publish Updates with Native Formats like Documents
Who knew the most effective content format would be…PDFs?
A smart marketer once advised us, when a platform releases new features, use them. LinkedIn provides marketers with the ability to upload documents, videos, and photos.
So why settle for posting links and calling it a day? 🤔
Mix up your content with document uploads and videos and watch your engagement climb.
Example: Arm is the world’s leading provider of silicon IP. They leverage LinkedIn to break news, celebrate employees, tell customer stories, and show the real-world impact of their products.
Drive Engagement with LinkedIn Polls
Polling is a great way to generate engagement, do market research, and get client feedback. And now you can do it on LinkedIn.
That’s right — LinkedIn has finally given us a native poll feature. 🎉
A few things to keep in mind while you’re celebrating, aka making lots of great polls:
For more information on the do’s and don’ts of LinkedIn polls, you can read their FAQ page.
For inspiration on how to write great polls, watch how the pros do it and take notes.
Start & Join Groups Related To Your Industry
Facebook Groups have grown so fast you might have forgotten that LinkedIn has the same feature. Not for long. Don’t be surprised if group posts start showing up more prominently in 2021 within your notifications and feeds.
There are more than 2 million groups on LinkedIn for every possible industry and niche, from e-commerce dropshippers to nutrition experts. A great way to generate leads is to join active groups and regularly provide value by answering questions from other members.
Consider joining Groups with the following three features: they are relevant to your industry or niche, highly active already (daily posts), and medium in size (not too big that you will get lost, and not too small that you can’t reach anyone).
Should you start a LinkedIn Group?
Don’t see a LinkedIn group your customers would find valuable? Consider starting one. The return-on-investment from the audience and industry recognition can be huge. Just be aware of the weekly posts, ongoing moderation, and personal invitations needed to make it successful over the course of one year (minimum).
Optimize Your Company Page
LinkedIn company pages are musts for B2B marketers looking to promote their business on social media.
In 2018, LinkedIn made important changes to company pages by adding new features such as the ability to share documents (slides and PDFs), built-in content suggestions, and employee advocacy tools.
This expanded the possibilities of connecting with your target audience.
Here are some recommended steps to follow when optimizing your company page on LinkedIn:
For more ways to boost your LinkedIn audience and engagement, visit our post on how to grow your company page.
Publish and Repost Content With LinkedIn Articles
If you’re looking to boost your credibility in the eyes of your audience and build a good reputation, then publishing on LinkedIn is the way to go.
LinkedIn has its own publishing platform that gives business leaders the opportunity to attract attention for their brand and build thought leadership.
Best of all, published posts are indexed on your profile, and get great distribution in the feed.
The Benefits Of LinkedIn Articles
Best Practices For LinkedIn Articles
In 2019, LinkedIn released new information about its algorithm. Explained in brief: “People you know, talking about things you care about.”
See a snapshot of their best practices below:
Facebook has had quite the transformation. The Facebook of 2021 looks entirely different than that of 2015. User preferences are shifting, their products are splitting up, available ad inventory is declining, and all the while, ad sales are growing. That begs the question…
Is B2B Marketing on Facebook dead?
Is Facebook changing? Yes. But with the right strategy, B2B businesses can still reap massive results from the platform. Before you start to panic, check out these facts:
Join relevant Facebook Groups (as a person)
Facebook offers the ability to its users to join groups based on their passions, interests or industry. 1.4 billion people are using Facebook groups to discuss their passions, chat with friends or colleagues and plan events. It’s very likely that in the past 12 months you received an invitation to join a group yourself.
B2B marketers can easily find Facebook groups related to their industry or niche. In these communities, they’ll be able to find professionals in their industry providing support for one another and discussing topics that are of interest to them.
Just like with LinkedIn, your goal should be to provide value to the community. The way to do this is to either post timely information about what’s happening in your industry or respond to questions someone asks that you can answer.
For example, let’s say someone posts in the group:
Hey everyone, I’m trying to drive traffic with Instagram ads but nothing seems to be working… What do I do?
This is where you can respond with:
@OriginalPoster — I’ve struggled with traffic and conversion rates from Instagram, too. What I’ve learned is the right tactic depends on what type of audience you’re targeting (B2B/B2C, Lifestyle) and the offer you’re presenting. A few things you can do is (Tip 1), (Tip 2),(Tip 3), and (Tip 4).
If you’d like more ideas, I wrote a list of 30 things you can try on my blog – come check it out at [link] if you’re interested or DM if you have questions.
Create Engaging Video Content
Video marketing is big business on social media. 54% of consumers want to see more video content from a business they support, and 88% of video marketers are satisfied with the ROI they get from their efforts. Facebook gives the ability to B2B brands to use video in different ways:
HubSpot regularly posts instructional videos about marketing on its Facebook page. In the example below, users can learn how to create a good email title.
Forget traffic, this one is all about the relationships.
With 300+ million monthly active users and 500+ million tweets being sent out every day, Twitter has become a place to “see what’s going on” around the world. It’s no wonder that 87% of B2B marketers use Twitter as a content marketing tool.
(Unfortunately, a smaller percentage actually get it right.)
The beauty of Twitter is the connection it creates between brands and their audience in real time.
1. Develop a distinct brand voice and personality
Brands are a collection of unconscious associations in your consumer’s mind. One of the most powerful associations you can build is the personality of your presence on Twitter.
Struggling to define your brand’s voice?
An example of a B2B company with a noteworthy Twitter account? Square. Their content is focused on the small business owners they serve and the overall tone is informative, casual, and encouraging.
2. Play to trends
Twitter is a great place to go viral. The good news is that you don’t even have to be the one going viral to get a piece of the pie. Hop into the conversation on an already trending topic or respond to a tweet that’s getting tons of replies. The funniest or most helpful responses tend to get high numbers of likes, retweets, and replies, too. So invest some time into crafting a winning comment. If it helps, shift your mindset to consider the comment as the content.
3. Share videos
According to Twitter, 82% of users watch video content on the platform, and would like to watch more video content from brands and celebrities. So why not maximize video content to drive more engagement to your brand?
Use snackable video snippets from that pillar content we talked about earlier to economize the process.
4. Tweet at the right times
Twitter is all about immediacy.
In fact, a tweet’s half-life is only about 18 minutes. It reaches 75% of its maximum reach within 3 hours and then starts to decline rapidly. This means if you’re looking to reach the most amount of potential leads and maximize engagement, the timing of when you tweet is crucial.
Use a combination of Google and Twitter analytics and good, old-fashioned trial and error to track traffic and engagement.
Test, rinse, repeat…
And then remember that getting the timing right sometimes has nothing to do with the clock. Sometimes it’s about responding to cultural phenomena or viral Internet news in real-time. Your clever observation about the Oscars isn’t funny if you tweet it out at 2 pm the Wednesday after.
R/GA does a great job of reacting to trending topics quickly and with their signature biting wit.
OK I admit, I want to eat the moldy burger. You win, advertising!
— R/GA (@RGA) February 20, 2020
Just landed. No one punched the seats. Great flight.
— R/GA (@RGA) February 18, 2020
Instagram’s visual-based platform is great for B2B businesses to promote their brand. Don’t believe us?
1. Set up an Instagram Business account
You do have a Business Profile, right?
Instagram introduced business profiles in 2016, giving businesses access to a variety of tools and functionality, including analytics on your posts and stories, third-party integrations and call-to-action buttons.
If you want to advertise natively and get data on your audience, you need a Business profile. To make the switch, all you have to do is to click on the settings icon on your profile page, and tap on the Switch To Business Profile link.
2. Create and curate content tailored for Instagram
To excel in Instagram, you have to understand what works there and what audiences want. In general the formula of entertaining and informative works well here.
Keep in mind in 2021, it’s best practice to use square photos and videos (1080 x 1080).
3. Share client success stories
Not only is featuring testimonials from clients a great way to establish trust with your audience and leverage social proof, combined with appealing visuals they can make for a great piece of content.
Make your customer the hero by highlighting their big wins.
4. Take a peek into your corporate culture
My favorite definition of organizational culture is that it’s a succinct answer to “the way we do things around here.” Prospective customers and employees alike want to know more about your company’s people and place.
From day-in-the-life takeovers to office snapshots, human-focused stories tend to perform well.
Hoosuite uses the hashtag #hootsuitelife on Instagram to give followers a glimpse into their company life.
(Dog-friendly offices? Enough said. 👇)
5. Leverage Native Features
Posting to your feed is all well and good, but it’s not the only — or even the best — way to get noticed on the Gram.
There are two other native features that we recommend using for expanded organic reach, the first of which is Stories.
With Instagram Stories, users can upload videos and photos that disappear after 24 hours. Stories will show up at the top of your audiences feed. You can also choose to save stories to a highlight reel on your page.
Stories are a great place for more casual, less polished content. This opens up the opportunity for B2B companies to humanize their brand and have more personal interactions with their customers.
CoSchedule has an entire highlight reel called “Culture,” which is dedicated to fun behind-the-scenes content.
The algorithm attempts to serve users content that they already enjoy, so followers who already interact frequently account will be more likely to see your Stories at the front of their queue. The same is true of the reverse: the more they interact with your stories, the more likely they are to come across your feed content while scrolling.
Another, newer native Instagram feature that we recommend getting comfortable with is Reels.
Using Reels could mean better organic reach for your content. It’s a not-so-unspoken secret that Instagram boosts content created with new features (like Reels) during roll out to help drive wide-spread adoption..
And Reels doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at the new Reels tab on your Instagram home screen.
So, it’s worth your time to develop a strategy for the short-form video format.
It’s best practice to cross-share your Reels to your main feed for maximum visibility. Bonus — one piece of content, two channels of distribution. Work smart, not hard.
View this post on Instagram
Hint: Speaking of working smart, not hard, you can and should reshare TikTok content (if you have any) to your Reels feed.
There’s no one budget formula for social media marketing. Naturally large marketing organizations have more buckets to consider than teams of one.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind to set a B2B social media marketing budget:
To determine their ceiling for marketing spend, most companies start with a percentage of their expected revenue. To follow this formula, start by taking a ~5-30% of your desired gross revenue goal and set it aside for marketing.
According to the 2019 CMO Survey, the average B2B firm allocates just under ~9% of their revenue on marketing budgets. Meanwhile, Gartner’s 2019 CMO survey notes 67% of B2B firms expected their budgets to rise in 2020.
Now, how much should you budget for social?
Take 10-25% of your total marketing budget and allocate it to social media marketing.
For example, if you forecasted sales of $10,000,000 in 2021 and assigned 10% to marketing you would have a budget pool of $1,000,000 for marketing / advertising expenses. That would leave $100,000 – $250,000 for social media, or ~$8,000 – $20,000/mo.
2. B2B Social Media Expense Breakdown
Consider how your marketing budget will break down between the core social media expense categories:
Gartner’s 2019 survey found the average marketing resource allocation to be:
Social media marketing budgets are often easier to understand on a project or initiative basis.
In that case, group related activities together and assign a budget as needed. For instance, an event activation.
Within short and long-term campaigns you can allocate the budget further into individual channels and programs.
Some strategists recommend a 60/40 split of campaign budgets with 60% towards brand building activities like community management, content creation and publishing, and paid amplification. Then 40% to sales activation activities like influencer marketing, retargeting ads, and direct-response ads.
4. Social Media Recruitment & Other Activities
Using social media to attract talent? Consider a top-down approach with a percentage of your total recruitment budget allocated towards social media programs. From there, decide how to divvy up that spend allowance. There are several areas to look at:
Plannuh’s budget template is a helpful planning tool for piecing complex budgets together.
Let’s get something straight: True ‘ROI’ is a measurement of dollars gained or lost.
You may consider marketing-specific measurements as a gain, but you’ll have a hard time selling it to the C-suite.
That’s why ROI is easiest to measure in the form of an individual channel or campaign (versus the totality of your efforts).
Thanks to tracking pixels and powerful CRM software, success can be attributed to leads that originated on social media, or conversions assisted by social media. Analytics software can be used to analyze which social media channels your visitors came from, what they did once they landed on your webpage, and the actions they took after completing a form.
Let’s say you invested $10,000 total on a paid media campaign leveraging LinkedIn and Facebook ads for a new product launch. You reached 100,000 professionals, drove 2,000 people to your landing pages, and collected 50 emails (MQLs).
So what was the ROI?
There are several possible answers.
Measuring the total reach, the size of the engaged (retargeting) audience built, or the attributed brand lift will only give you a proxy for success, but still extremely valuable to measure and report.
Running a B2B brand is hard enough, let alone mastering social media. This is where hiring a B2B social media specialist comes in, to lessen your workload, focus on other aspects of your business you want to manage, and create powerful strategies that generate results.
This isn’t a role you can just pass off to the intern. A qualified social media manager or agency can provide immediate value and launch campaigns that will drive B2B marketing results.
But how do we find the perfect candidate? Competent social media specialists are hard to come by. On top of that, they need to correspond perfectly to a brand’s current needs, budgets, and goals.
One dilemma that many B2B teams experience is the balance between internal and external resources. While both options have their benefits, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to managing social for your brand.
To help you in your choice, we’ve highlighted both possible options, their pros and cons, and what to look for when hiring either of these.
If you know exactly what success looks like and you’re trying to conserve internal resources, then hiring a social media agency is the way to go. Having the budget to hire a quality social media management firm that gets your brand voice and goals is well worth it, considering the time it will buy you.
Keep in mind: You don’t need to outsource all of your social media marketing program.
Pros of Outsourcing Social Media Marketing:
Potential Cons of Outsourcing Social Media Marketing:
What To Look For In A B2B Social Media Agency
Here at Sculpt, we focus on building social media marketing programs that help B2B businesses grow their audience and revenue. That means prioritizing the right channels and mapping content opportunities across your buyer’s journey. We connect 1-to-4 times per month on your performance and progress to make sure you exceed your goals. You can schedule a strategy call right from our chat bot if you’d like to learn more. 😊
An alternative to hiring an agency is to hire a social media manager directly in your company. The main advantage of having an in-house social media manager is that he or she will have closer access to the rest of your organization. That can mean more responsive content and better connectivity with key people and updates.
Pros of Hiring a Social Media Manager
Cons of Hiring a Social Media Manager
What To Look For In A B2B Social Media Manager
Realistically, one social media manager can’t do all five social media roles without tactical support. And ideally, your agency isn’t operating in a silo. The best case scenario would be to leverage the flexibility of an external resource and the customer connectivity of the internal team.
In practice, that means the agency is lifting up the in-house social media manager with audience research, content strategy frameworks, process improvements, and timely opportunities. Or if the in-house team is comfortable with strategy, the agency is creating batches of scheduled content and paid support for growth goals.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Let’s break down the basics.
B2B social media marketing refers to the marketing of products, services, and career opportunities to the employees of other companies on social media. B2B companies can come in a variety of forms: professional service providers like marketing agencies, medical equipment sales, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) to name a few.
B2C (business-to-consumer) social media marketing deals with the process of promoting products and services to consumers. Often we’re describing social for business like food service, bricks-and-mortar / online retail, and consumer packaged goods. More frequently today we’re talking about DTC e-commerce, subscription services, and mobile apps.
Fundamentally, social media has the same utility between the two business models—connecting brands with customers. But we’ve found a couple noticeable differences between B2C and B2B social media marketing.
1. Relationships vs. Direct Sales.
Where does the relationship begin?
With B2C marketing, the relationship with a brand often starts with a purchase. You might see an ad on Snapchat or a deal in a Facebook Group and become a customer. It might take months of targeted social media advertising to reach purchase consideration, but the value begins when we receive a discount, or start using the product. After purchase, the brand’s social media channels might become a place for new deals, lifestyle inspiration, and product information to encourage repeat purchasing.
With B2B marketing we’re selling high-ticket goods, so our goal is to foster long-term relationships with employees and decision makers of customer companies by positioning our brands as approachable experts. The value journey on social media often progresses in sequential stages — from awareness and consideration, to purchase and ascension — with the top-of-the-funnel possibly taking months or years.
2. Employees as key audiences and influencers.
In B2B organizations, your human resources are one of the most effective marketing tools for brand advocacy. When distributing information like articles, announcements, or offers, programs often start with employees sharing to their networks before expanding out to new audiences.
In modern B2B marketing organizations, personal brand building is encouraged, not stifled. An employee with a large, professional social network can be used as an asset to reach new customers.
Many B2B firms believe that social media won’t work for them because they’re in a “boring” niche and it’s better to focus exclusively on client referrals, offline sales channels like tradeshows, or online channels like Google ads to generate clients. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
For example, CBRE is a global real estate firm that dominates when it comes to brand awareness on social media. What could be a boring corporate feed on Instagram is instead a showcase of some of the world’s most beautiful architecture.
Whether you’re targeting a B2C or B2B audience, at the end of the day, you are still communicating with individuals. All humans, regardless of the niche, have wants and needs to fulfill. Social media tactics known for B2C such as giveaway contests that offer an incentive for action, or developing content optimized for commenting (to instill a feeling of belonging), can also be used by B2B businesses to increase their reach.
From our experience, social media strategies used for B2C can be even more lucrative for B2B. Take inspiration from brands with similar values, even if their business model is different.
According to IDG, 84% of C-level and VP-level buyers are influenced by social media interactions in their buying decision. In total, they found 75% of B2B buyers consulted information on social media before purchasing a product or service. By not having a presence on social media, you are missing out on opportunities to network with important clients.
As a low-cost experiment, develop a research project of your own. Assemble a list of 50 of your customers, and 50 of your prospects. Create a separate column for their social media profiles on as many channels you consider relevant. After taking stock, note if they’re following your brand or employees back. What did you learn?
LinkedIn is often cited as the channel for B2B social media, but that’s somewhat misleading. While it’s true that 78% of B2B marketers agree that LinkedIn is the best platform for achieving their specific objectives, that doesn’t mean you should put all of your eggs into one basket and not leverage other platforms.
Above, we discuss how to optimize for success using the other top 3 channels for B2B: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Of course, you don’t have to be a juggernaut on every platform (and probably won’t be). But it’s worth testing out each channel and finding which is best suited to your brand’s niche and needs.
Are you still here? Thanks for sticking with us all the way to the end! 😅
Still have a burning question about B2B social media that we didn’t answer? Leave it in the comments below and we’ll add it to the post. 👍
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