There’s no question that building an online presence is more important than ever before for businesses. So it comes as little surprise that social media, and making the most of these types of communication channels, is now firmly on the agenda for most B2Bs.
And with good reason. People do business with people, particularly when it comes to B2Bs, so the most successful marketing strategies will always be ones that are focused on building relationships and maintaining contact. Social selling is no longer seen as simply ‘something we could try at some stage’, instead, it is increasingly being seen as a vital part of any sales-driven organization.
However, when it comes to putting a formal social media plan in place many B2Bs can struggle, ending up just doing bits and pieces here and there, with no real strategy. The problem with this approach is that it serves little purpose and is unlikely to generate any tangible results. Overall, becoming a big waste of time and resources.
So how do you go about putting an effective plan in place and what do you need to think about? The best place to start is by giving some consideration to the ‘big five’ – why, who, what, where and how. Define these key questions, and take the time to analyze and improve as you go along, and you’ll soon start to generate some positive results.
Here we take a look at each of these questions in more detail.
The first step in developing a killer B2B social media game plan is to figure out why you want to include it in your marketing and sales mix. Once you have determined which goals you want social media to help you achieve, try and quantify the outcomes. This will help you measure your results and better judge whether you have been successful or not. Some examples of typical goals would be:
To build an audience
The larger your audience the bigger your chance of landing sales and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. For some, this may mean working towards increasing brand awareness in the market, and for others, it will be about generating solid leads. Whatever your end goal may be, it starts with building an audience.
To help increase sales
When your focus is more directly on sales then your goals may be around increasing your reach, adding scale to your existing campaigns, engaging with potential leads, deepening relationships and facilitating recommendations.
To test ideas
Once you’ve built an audience not only can you engage with them in order to increase your brand awareness, you can also use social channels to test your ideas. Ask your audience what they think, what works for them and what doesn’t. Also try to find out what their problems are, as this information could help with future product development.
To aid recruitment
Social media is a great tool to help you get in front of potential future employees. It is also a tool that can be used to help communicate and engage with your existing employees.
When setting goals for social media remember it can’t help you make direct sales (unless you have a product you can directly sell like a B2C shop can). Your goals need to revolve around relationship building. This doesn’t mean talking about yourself and how good you are, or simply being present with no real substance (i.e. not engaging with people in meaningful ways). Neither of these scenarios will help you achieve anything.
Time is another consideration you need to make when planning and setting goals for your social media activity. Make sure you are giving yourself enough time to do it properly. Social media, like any content marketing, is never going to give you a quick win. It takes time to build an audience and drive engagement.
The second question to consider when it comes to social media is who is going to manage it – will it be done inhouse, or outsourced to a specialist agency? Check out our blog ‘Should you outsource social media management’ for more advice on this. Whichever way you choose to do it, make sure you have the resources needed to build and maintain your social profiles moving forward and for the long term.
Next, it’s important to give some thought to which channels you should be on. To find the answer to this question you need to step into the shoes of the people you want to reach. Where are they? What channels do they use? If they’re on a site, then you should be too.
For B2Bs, a more business-focused site like LinkedIn will usually be a good choice, so make sure your company page is complete and well presented, as well as active and kept up-to-date with content.
When it comes to sites like Facebook it may not feel like such an easy decision. But consider this, are your prospects likely to be on there? Since there are around 1.5 billion people using Facebook now, the chances are pretty high that they are. It may just take a different approach to engage with them.
Niche social media sites could also work extremely well for you. Just be careful not to go too crazy. Select the best fit sites and focus on doing them really well, rather than going for loads of different sites and failing to be effective on any of them.
Now it’s time to think what content you’re going to distribute across your social media channels. This should be your own content but also other people’s. By sharing what others are saying on specific subjects you will be showing that you are a) knowledgeable and b) nice enough to share, both desirable traits.
A key to success here is to avoid falling into the trap of taking one piece of content and posting the same thing across all channels. That will only work if you have such a lively and engaging presence on your social channels that these pieces of content will simply become a small part of your overall chatter.
Remember, social media is just that – social. Make sure your content is a reflection of what works (and is expected) on each platform. For example, long videos won’t work as well on Twitter as they do on Facebook. Anything you post should fall into at least one of these categories: informing, educating, inspiring, or entertaining. That is true for any channel you are using, as no one will engage with boring content.
Plan, plan, plan
Social media is a tool for communication, not for broadcast, so use content that will help you further that communication. The best way to do this is to have a written content plan in place. Know what you are going to create, deliver and promote, and how. Then adjust it according to the platform you’re going to use and what each audience will be most interested in.
Also, aim to get team buy-in by having a way for employees to easily contribute to the content you share on the main channels. One idea for this would be to create an internal group on one of the platforms.
Another way B2B organizations have had success here is to create a particular social persona – a kind of personal representation of their company. While the profiles are actually manned by several people in the background, to the outside world it appears as one particular person.
Once you know your why, who, where and what it’s time to look at the ‘how’. Here’s a list of key considerations:
- Start by listening and keep listening. Use specific tools to help you monitor what others are saying about you, your products, your industry and your competitors
- ENGAGE! We cannot emphasize this enough. Social media is all about engagement. It doesn’t matter how many likes you have, what is important is how engaged your audience is.
- Have a plan in place for how to deal with negative comments. In most cases, it will be straightforward to acknowledge a complaint and take it offline. What’s important is that the rest of the world sees you dealing with it professionally. Don’t ever reply sarcastically, nastily, or be tempted to delete any negative comments. Deal with them appropriately and that will send a powerful message out.
- Be helpful, be friendly, be engaging, be humorous and have fun. This is especially important if you’re in a not so funny industry! Try to show a lighter side and everyone involved will thank you.
- If you plan to automate your posts then make sure that’s not the only thing you do. It should only ever be an aid. Also have someone check posts as they go out to make sure nothing has happened in the world that may make them inappropriate, and to delete any scheduled posts as needed.
- Don’t aim for viral. Of course getting a viral hit is desirable, but this is impossible to aim for. Instead, aim for engaging content and with luck some of your pieces will go viral and extend your reach.
- Always think quality over quantity.
- Make sure you have the appropriate tools in place to help you save time and maximise your impact.
- Analyze, analyze…. and analyze again
- Experiment with social ads. They can be quite successful but in B2B they generally only work if you advertise really good content. They will rarely work when offering things like free demos.
As with any marketing activity, the most effective way to move forward is to have an idea, try it out, analyze the outcome and adjust the process if you need to. Then try it again, test it again and keep going, so you are continually improving your results. Social media presents a huge opportunity if you get it right and do it well, so get posting.