When Facebook first launched in 2004, its sole purpose was to connect college students socially. When Twitter started a few years later in 2006, it was designed to serve as a 'headline-only' version of a personal blog. The beginnings of social media were largely focused around connecting individuals with other individuals. And now, it's predicted that the number of worldwide social media users will grow from 2.1 billion in 2015 to 2.6 billion by 2018.
While many B2C businesses have tapped into the huge potential and reach of social media by incorporating the medium into their overarching marketing strategies, many B2B companies are still hesitant to jump on board, convinced it's too hard to successfully measure B2B online marketing ROI.
According to this article, via Business 2 Community, measuring social media ROI still poses a challenge to many:
"46% of B2B marketers say they're not sure whether any social channels have generated revenue for their businesses. Only 13% believe they've proved the impact quantitatively - though that may be because just 14% tie social media marketing activities to sales levels. And for all the bashing of 'vanity metrics' in social marketing, those likes and shares (i.e. 'engagement') remain the most commonly used measures for evaluating social media success. 80% of marketers use these as primary success metrics; 56% base social success on website traffic."
Regardless of whether your business needs to reach B2B or B2C audiences, the point of social is interaction. We need to remember that - at the core of all social media marketing, it's simply people talking to people. People have jobs. These are the people you want to reach and influence with a targeted B2B social marketing strategy.
For B2B engagement, social media often works best as a tool to raise brand awareness, rather than act as a channel to direct sales conversions. Using social, businesses can make a genuine contribution to online conversations and add value to them. The end-goal is making sure each of your future clients is aware of your brand presence before they make that first contact to purchase something.
Here are some tips on how to effectively 'do' B2B social media marketing:
1. Have a plan
Before diving headfirst into B2B social, it's important to take time out to think strategically about your business's key messages, goals, and objectives, and some tactics for how to communicate these via social. What tone of voice should your business use to start or join conversations? What times of day and how often should your business post? What platforms should you use? Prepare a risk management strategy that covers what to do in the event of negative activity on your profile, do your research to find answers to these questions, and write it down.
Defining this thinking will help you form a more solidified social media strategy and ensure that you hit the ground running, confident that your social activity will reflect your business values and messaging.
2. Pick your social media team
Put the right people behind the levers. Your nephew might have a huge following on Instagram or Snapchat, but that doesn't mean he's the right person to implement your business's social media strategy.
There are many examples of underling employees or interns who lack the ability and maturity to build and protect the business reputation online. The person posting on your behalf should know the business, employ the right voice, and be well versed in how to effectively respond to issues that might otherwise get out of hand.
3. Content marketing all the way
Content marketing should form an integral part of your overall social media strategy, so include governance on how to produce on-brand blog articles, photos, videos, GIFs and all other content that will help communicate what you do.
Whether you're using social to create short videos that show people how to use products, or you're hosting a live Twitter chat with a dedicated hashtag, the objective should always be to increase brand awareness among your B2B audience.
Your core audience may not be highly active social media users, but if your business's content is good and consistent across all communication channels, your audiences will find you, remember you, and seek to work with you.
4. Cultivate content partnerships
All businesses have partners. They might be the very people who work for you, or for organizations outside your own, and these people have trusted networks of their own. Find these partners online and work to build them into your social media marketing plan. Engage with them to build a relationship of reciprocal content sharing. Follow their online business profiles and be present by sharing their posts, liking their photos and leaving comments. Your partners will help you influence and reach new audiences within your own sector and should be considered an ongoing priority.
Don't get left behind. If you don't have the resources to put together a solid social media team, there are agencies out there that offer social media strategy and ongoing community management services.