B2B Marketing: A Crystal Ball into the future of Social Media for Businesses
Only a few years ago many B2B businesses looked at social with suspicion, but it’s now an accepted part of a company’s digital marketing strategy.
The very nature of social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn means that they’re constantly in flux. Even so, we’d like to take out our crystal ball and predict what B2B marketers will need to pay particular attention to in social media.
Facebook gets noisier – B2B content engagement gets tougher
The free nature of social media means that brands are jostling for position for space on your newsfeeds – particularly on Facebook. At the end of 2014, it announced that overly promotional posts would be punished in the newsfeed.
This is a problem for B2B companies in particular – posts traditionally business related such as report promotion, campaign links and product placements are getting less reach. And this shouldn’t be surprising, as the competition for eyeballs is huge.
In practice, this means that community management can only do so much – even if you optimise the effectiveness of posts, it can be difficult to get the engagement needed to make the effort and time in creating that content worthwhile.
If a B2B is posting on Facebook, the content should be valuable – every post should add legitimate value to the conversation they are trying to have with an audience. But they have to be honest with themselves – what might be valuable to a B2B is not the same as what’s valuable to a Facebook audience, and it’s very tricky to find content that fits in these two areas.
B2B firms will need excellent paid social advertising expertise
For promotional posts in particular, paid social content is an increasingly significant part of B2B social media strategy. With their algorithms unknown externally, social networks are and will inevitably downgrade company posts published organically and upgrade posts which have been paid for. We’ve seen it happening on every platform.
With paid social media, B2B businesses are provided with valuable targeting options, allowing them to reach the right audience with their content. Paid social can complement paid search very well as a staple of a digital marketing strategy.
But it’s not enough just to pick out a bit of content and hope for the best – B2B companies need to employ the right people or right agencies that know what they’re doing, for the best outcomes and ROI.
Paid social media expertise will become more of a specific specialised skill, similar to what happened with paid search. Like in SEO and social media though, it may become difficult to distinguish true paid social expertise with snake-oil salespeople offering the moon.
Want some basics to start with? Here are a few tips that could be helpful.
LinkedIn will grow its existing B2B marketing services
According to a report by the Content Marketing Institute, almost all B2B marketers use LinkedIn – it’s the industry’s most popular social network. And 62 per cent of those marketers think it’s the most effective social media platform, with LinkedIn responsible for more than 80 per cent of B2B social media leads.
We’ve already examined why this is last year, and since then reports have been published which claim LinkedIn is looking to break into the $450 billion B2B marketing space, turning its products into a $1 billion business by 2017. These are big plans – and LinkedIn has invested $175m into the B2B marketing platform Bizo to reach this goal. Recently it has added some analytic capabilities.
This should see LinkedIn offering new products and services in the future which will make it possible for marketers to ‘reach professional audiences, nurture prospects and acquire customers across a network of business and professional publishers’.
So B2B marketers need to keep up-to-date with what’s happening with the LinkedIn platform, and make sure they have enough knowledge and expertise to understand the effectiveness and value of the myriad services that will and already are on offer.
Twitter will be increasingly valuable for insights as well as conversations
B2B companies find that in order for social media to work at its best, marketing needs to be agile, less planned and more reactive. And customers generally respond well to a business that answers queries quickly, with all the relevant information that they need.
With a great customer experience on social, there's also a better chance of a sale coming down the line. This is where a good community manager can be very valuable, looking after the brand, nurturing a community and making sure a customer is helped along on their customer journey.
Twitter is already great for this type of real-time marketing, and in addition we’ll see more tools that will help understand the audiences which are engaging. It has now introduced Audience Insights, which is designed uncover information on followers and those engaging with organic tweets. It can also uncover valuable data for future paid social campaigns.
Last year Twitter announced a new partnership with IBM, which lets enterprises incorporate Twitter data into their decision making through IBM tools. The long-term aim is get social data into the hands of decision makers, making sure that their businesses make the best use of it.
Analytics, mobile and paid social complicates B2B storytelling
B2B companies will continue to find they need to invest in different types of content to get the social media engagement and ROI they're looking for. But to really know what an audience engages with, it might require a bit of experimentation, with analytics and data providing the answers.
Well-written blog posts and case studies can be a reliable form of content to share through social media, but well-designed infographics and videos often encourage better engagement, especially backed up with some paid social media spend.
Cheaper devices and more affordable/better Internet connections mean that we're spending much more time using social media on our mobiles and tablets. B2B social media campaigns will often be pointing mobile users to website landing pages – brands that haven’t mobile-optimised content will suffer for it.
So B2B companies engaging socially should be constantly looking at its website presence – is it mobile optimised? Does the content work on small screens? Does social sharing work properly?
Getting one aspect wrong in a digital marketing strategy can mean the difference between picking up a long-term customer for a fruitful long-term relationship, or them going elsewhere for a B2B that has catered for all stages in the customer journey. It’s that important to the bottom line.