Insights and Case Studies on Social Media Marketing for B2B
Social media marketing might sometimes appear to be the sole preserve of the business-to-consumer (B2C) seller. But according to case studies into B2B Social media marketing by Socialpod, not only can business-to-business (B2B) people benefit from social media. In addition, it could be their most effective marketing channel of all.
In a survey of 112 marketing specialists in B2B roles, Socialpod found that 74% rated social media as the most powerful marketing channel, with 34% noting that if they had an extra budget for the coming year, they would spend it on social media.
‘The overall results indicate just how far B2B sales have shifted away from broadcast media (owned or not) and towards social engagement,’ notes Umar Farooq, Chair and Co-Founder of Socialpod:
‘Social media marketing now comes out as the most powerfully effective channel in a B2B marketplace. That is to across a wide range of objectives. Most of the 115 senior-ranking B2B marketers who responded say that social media is good for meeting their goals. Thus from building thought leadership to better customer relationships.’
This, of course, is against with findings of the B2C marketing community. That is from the likes of Forrester, which has indicated that Facebook and YouTube marketing deliver worse results than more traditional venues, such as search marketing, email marketing, and online digital advertising.
So why is social media marketing beneficial for the B2B marketplace?
‘We are social beings, so we have always used our social experiences as a major part of our decision-making process. Thus we think of things like do I like this person? Do I trust them? Can I see myself living with them?‘ says Grey Delap, social media consultant at Broadpeak. ‘We encounter people every day in a host of roles and environments. Also, when this relates to a work context, the company they work for or the businesses they handle with has built a very powerful connection centered on trust, knowledge, and a capacity to deliver on promises.
‘Social media marketing is no different – it is the online version of these conversations and connections. So, in terms of social media outreach, the B2B marketplace is often best–placed to take advantage of this opportunity due to the fact that it is intrinsic to what they do every week. Whether that is sales or service.’
Bob Dylan, Chief Executive at BlinkIT and The B2B Marketing Lab, adds: ‘In the B2B marketplace, Twitter and LinkedIn are super effective mechanisms to get people to your website.
‘Let’s put this into context. Firstly, in the B2B marketplace, people only buy from companies after looking them up online. So the first place customers go to consider, review and check you out is the website. Therefore, the more traffic you get to your website checking it out. The better chances you have of getting business.
‘What’s a great way of luring people to your website? Social media. It’s very underrated in the B2B marketplace with Twitter and LinkedIn being the obvious important routes for generating sales out.’
Best practices for B2B social media marketing
Social media marketing in the business-to-business arena is quite distinct from that in the business-to-consumer domain regarding style, content, also goals. So, how are best practices different?
‘B2B marketers have to understand that social media documentation part of the online and offline communication ‘combine’ – optimizing the effort more than any one venue,’ says Delap. ‘In social media channels particularly, it’s not always about the scale of relationships but the worth and depth of the connection. In this sense, many B2B companies often have a head start compared to their B2C counterparts.’
Thus we can say: ‘A B2B marketplace traditionally still wants something that grabs their attention, as in B2C, but that leads them towards a website for more data.
‘An important element is the B2B marketers to work with their audience on social media. This poses a question that sparks an interest in a legitimate way of moving someone to engage with your business. In the B2C world is it all about people engaging with the brand. In the B2B world, it is all about the way out and problem-solving.’
And while some common challenges are shared between B2B and B2C. The Socialpod research reveals common concerns connected to ROI measurement. Also, the online skills and resources required to deliver a joined-up strategy – there are also obstacles unique to the business-to-business area.
Getting executive on the Bard
‘The need to ‘be social’ not just simply ‘act social’ can easily create fear. This is because it is often shown as a different way of doing business. It might be the requirement to adapt your business,’ says Dalap. ‘That is a difficult thing to embrace. The lack of control – over the message and audience response – can quickly cause paralysis and internal friction. It can cause disputes over whether social media is the ‘right’ place to get involved in. However, clients are changing too, and leading that change in cahoots with them. This is (rather than having to adapt afterward) a sensible approach.
Concerns over compliance and risk
‘Compliance and risk are sometimes also significant barriers to overcome. Also, fear of destroying or damaging the relationships built up over time by people in-store can also be a challenge,’ suggests Dalap. ‘This makes it critical to join up online and offline communication mechanisms. This is to ensure full visibility as smoothly (and as fast) as possible – and allocating adequate finance and budget.’
Having a narrow definition of social media
‘Some channels are considered to be more suitable for the B2B marketplace than others. Thus, Twitter and LinkedIn, for instance, are used extensively and well by businesses to promote their business. They do this to build relationships and share expertise,’ says Brosnan. ‘But it’s much less common to discoer business conversations on other social networks, such as Threads or Instagram. Business dudes on the whole want exact information at specific times about some issues. Now, specialist pages do exist around particular disciplines and some niches are very well networked. The best ones financial services, specialist technology, legal services, and marketing, for instance – but to penetrate a very tiny subsector within these takes research and dedication. Relationships need to be built over time, one second of connection at a time. Using social media to give the right information to the relevant person at the right time can be a time taking process. However, it is critical.’
Delap adds: ‘It is obviously more than just Threds and Facebook. For instance, industry forums are a good – and often overlooked – source of insight and reach.’
B2B marketplaces/services are harder to ‘dramatize.’
‘Firstly, they are usually complex and demand a level of expertise. This is needed to really understand the points of differentiation between one thing and another,’ notes Brosnan. ‘Secondly, B2B marketplaces often produce results in the longer term. So it’s harder to get a quick ‘before and after’ result which people instantly get. Thirdly, at times they are not critical purchases. Much business material is bought because people need it. As opposed to because they want to have it or think it will make a critical difference to their work. They may save cash over the long term if they purchase the right thing. They might improve the experience for people. However, these are activities at the margins – not steps of major strategic significance. So just producing the stuff which properly engages the barmet in the right way can be a great challenge.’
B2B marketplace benefits
So how can the B2B marketplace rise above these problems to reap the benefits companies can provide?
‘When thinking about social media marketing from a B2B marketers’ perspective. It is all about reaching people who are clearly interested in dealing with the problem that is being talked about,’ recommends Jane. ‘Focus on how you can position your company as understanding the things faced by your clients. The fact that you ‘get it’ – and thus can help them.’
Brosan concurs that it is vital to put yourself in the customers’ shoes. Thus, consider the frame of mind they will be in when examining your business online.
He explains: ‘What information they demand will depend on where they are in the purchasing journey. For instance, have they just set out to see who is in the marketplace? On the other hand, they evaluate a small cohort of suppliers for their expertise in a specific niche. It will also depend on who they are and their role in buying decisions.
‘A user might want a proper white paper that shows the product’s capabilities and has technical spec sheets. However, their boss, be it the finance manager or CEO, may only want to be reassured that this company is a good partner. A graduate may be interested in whether the business actively engages with its local community. At the same time, an experienced hire might look for peer endorsements of the top management team.’
Brosan highlights the ‘casual/questioning/committed model’ developed by Socialpod. This model illustrates how audience needs might vary. Also, how individual bits of content can be flexed to respond to those needs.
In terms of more practical advice, the B2B marketplace must ensure that they are ultimately driving people back to their website.