If you’re a B2B marketer, you’re probably focused on leads, conversions and moving buyers through the decision-making process. B2B sales cycles are long, and leads are valuable. Because of this, social media doesn’t seem like the most obvious path to achieve those goals — it’s fuzzy, it changes all the time and Snapchat filters don’t feel like the fastest way to earning a new lead.
Also, a lot of the activity we do see on social from B2B companies is pretty generic. Corporate stock images. Mass-blasting of new blog posts. It’s boring, and if your social strategy doesn’t have any personality, I’d agree that social isn’t the best medium for you.
But lately I’ve had my eye on a different kind of social media use by B2B brands. It’s funny. It’s interesting. It’s … human.
Here are five ways to make social media work for B2B brands, with examples from companies that are getting it right on social.
You’re not a corporate automaton, so don’t feel like you have to “go corporate” or whitewash every interaction. Use photos of real people who work at your company. Create brand guidelines for the voice and tone you’ll use on Twitter, and give yourself flexibility to be human.
— Kaitlin Meek (@kaitlinmeek) February 17, 2017
Focus on your individual people, not just the brand.
Along the same lines … we connect with people, and people’s faces, not with logos. While a good branded profile is great, it’s just as important for your company’s leaders and other company voices to have an active presence on social media.
Empower your people to be active on social, representing your company’s brand and their personal brand as a thinker in the industry. Then, loop real, live, human people into your online conversations. When you share a blog post on Twitter, tag the person who wrote the article.
— PeopleStrong (@peoplestrong) February 19, 2017
Be transparent about the humans who are running the ship, and identify yourself in the company bio or sign your tweets so people know who they’re talking to.
Make sure your strategy includes B2B events.
B2B conferences and trade shows are a social media goldmine that most B2B companies don’t take advantage of. Since there’s not a ton of competition, standing out during an event doesn’t require a major effort.
Here’s the standard B2B social media playbook I see over and over at conferences:
- B2B software company tweets a photo of its booth in the expo hall: “Come visit us in Booth 476 and enter to win an iPad!” with the conference hashtag.
- B2B software company keeps. Tweeting. About. Coming. To. The. Booth.
- The end.
That’s boring. You’re not providing any value for your audience, and readers still have no idea what you do. They probably also didn’t come by your booth.
Here’s a better playbook:
- Attend sessions at the conference. If you’re manning the booth and can only get away for the main keynotes, that’s fine! Live-tweet interesting moments from the sessions you attend. Tag the speakers and others who contributed. Take photos of what’s actually going on at the conference.
- Read what other people are saying, with the goal of learning something new about your industry. Reply to others who are tweeting on the conference hashtag.
At conferences, your target buyers are sitting in sessions talking about their challenges and goals. It’s an obvious opportunity to listen and learn. Participating in the conversation (on social and in person) is a much more valuable way to “show ROI from a trade show” than sitting in your booth, scrolling your phone and waiting for the bar to open (been there, done that).
— Atomic Design (@atomicDC) December 9, 2016
Share your best stuff.
B2B marketers are busy, trying to keep up with a ton of different channels and tactics. So it can be easy to look at social media as an afterthought where we just auto-publish our latest blog posts. But setting it and forgetting it won’t bring many returns, and it’s not a good way to look human on social.
Instead of using social as a way to push out links to blog posts, get strategic. Pick the social channels that matter the most for your audience and focus your energy there. Every time you publish a new piece of content (a blog post, an e-book, a report), plan a unique distribution strategy for each social channel. Instead of pasting links, get specific and think about what you’d find interesting if you were scrolling through Twitter.
Maybe that means you create custom images that each focus on ONE big idea for Twitter, and a short video for Facebook. Plan the images and copy you’ll use to catch people’s attention and share the best part of each piece of content.
— HubSpot (@HubSpot) February 16, 2017
Take advantage of targeted social ads.
It took me a while to understand the power of social ads, but now that I’ve used social ads for a few years to reach super-targeted audiences, I’m convinced: If you care about connecting with the right people on social media, ads are a huge opportunity.
That said, it’s also very easy to throw away big budgets on sloppily executed social ads. My tips for getting the most bang for your buck:
- Get extremely specific about your target audience. LinkedIn is an especially good place to reach a niche group of buyers.
- Try promoting your best content that has already resonated with your core audience. Use ads to, again, share your best stuff — not to blast out promotions.
- Test, test, test! Test different ad versions, images, copy, ad placements and target audiences. Social ads give you helpful real-time data on what’s working and what’s not, so use the opportunity to tweak and improve.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.