Mmany believe B2B brands can’t be as effective on social media as B2C brands. But we’ve moved from work-life balance to a work-life blend, where people’s time, phones, communications channels and applications are dual-purpose (personal and professional). And you even though B2B brands’ focus is businesses, they still market and sell to people. And guess what? Those people are on social media too.
It is true that social media presents a different challenge to B2B businesses than consumer-focused companies who can easily bring fun to the table. But that doesn’t mean it can’t work or be successful. If you’re a B2B brand looking to dive deeper into the socialsphere, here are a few best practices to follow.
Find your audience
One of the biggest keys to social media success is knowing your audience. This means knowing who they are, where they live, what they read, etc. If you exist as a business, you should already know who your core audiences are – at least from a marketing and PR perspective. This will inform your social strategy and the influencers who you will want to be engaging with on social media. Not only should you follow current and potential customers, but find those who are influencers in your industry and engage with them as well. Tools like Followerwonk, SocMetrics and WeFollow can help pinpoint influencers around particular subjects. Whether you’re in the marketing technology space or selling enterprise security, there will be always influencers in that niche to follow. These people can be fundamental in helping spread awareness of your brand. It’s important to create a true partnerships and provide value to make building those partnerships successful.
Another way to discover people to follow is by checking out hashtags related to your company’s industry, including those tied to events. In most cases, the people who are using these hashtags feel passionate about the subject and are involved in conversation around the problems your business is looking to solve.
Be helpful and relevant
Social media has often times been used as a broadcast outlet for brands to push their products and announcements. Don’t be that guy. Yes, social media is a great place to share news, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you share. A one-way, push relationship provides little value to your followers. Instead, try the 80/20 rule. 20% of your daily content should be related to your business while the other 80% should be broader industry news and engagement. If you know your audience, you should also know what they want to read on a daily basis. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you would like to see from a social account in that industry. By doing this and sharing content other than your own, your followers will know they can rely on you to be a resource for the latest in the industry.
Tools like Twitter Analytics and Facebook Insights can help point out what interests your followers have, what times they’re engaging and what channels they favor and more. This will help build out your social media schedule each day so that you’re reaching the right people at the right times with the right content.
This step is big. It might feel strange at first to be a brand interacting with others, but it’s totally normal and doable. Remember, though you’re representing a brand, you’re still a person. In fact, people actually like interacting with brands on social – as long as you don’t constantly interrupt and insert yourself in conversations.
The most obvious way to engage on social is to respond to questions and comments directed toward you — @ replies, comments, etc. Again, social is a two-way street; talk to people! Hashtags are another great way to be a part of the conversation; they enable you to track topic-specific discussions. Whether it’s #marketing or #infosec, they’ll give you a sense of what people are talking about and reveal questions you may be able to answer. Hashtags are used across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+, so there is plenty of opportunity to find relevant conversations. Twitter chats are an additional way to get involved. These chats often occur on a weekly or monthly basis and use hashtags to guide the conversation. They can be a great way to get in front of potential customers.
Social media can also be – and should be – a customer service tool. Don’t be surprised when a customer voices a concern on Twitter or Facebook. Take advantage of the opportunity to connect with them directly and address their concerns. They’ll know they can count on you to help resolve their issue. Ignoring a customer complaint or question on social media will only land you in hot water.
Analyze and audit
It’s important to regularly analyze your social media efforts to figure out what’s working and what’s not. While initial research will help serve as an early guideline, analyzing your activity will help you continuously refresh your program and stay relevant. Tools like Buffer and Followerwonk will let you know what content is doing particular well or how engaging you’ve been. From there, you can tweak your program as needed. Social media is always changing; don’t risk becoming stale.
More importantly, you should analyze how social is contributing to your bottom line. Make sure you have your Google Analytics set up to evaluate the effect of social on your website traffic – and even sales. When sharing links that direct followers to your website content, tag them; this will enable you to see what channels and social campaigns are getting people to click. So, for example, when an executive steps in and questions the ROI of social media, you can give him the proof he’s looking for by pointing out where social media helped lead to a conversion. Not to mention you’ll also start to see what social channels are most important for your business.
Those are four fundamental best practices you can implement to your social media program. If you’re looking for a bonus practice: consider adding paid promotion. Things like Promoted Tweets and Sponsored Posts can help extend the reach of your content and catch more eyeballs.