When you think of brands who are slaying on social media, you’re probably thinking of B2C companies. Business to consumer brands have no choice but to stand out in a sea of competitors. So it makes sense that they have license to be creative, innovative and even controversial to capture their target audience.
B2B (business to business) companies, by contrast, tend to be more corporate and serious – both in their brand personas and marketing strategies. A corporate tone should be reflected in B2B social media strategies, right? Well yes and no.
It’s true that you probably won’t find a corporate accounting firm smashing it with viral TikToks, but that’s not to say that B2B brands can’t adopt a savvy social media persona. The truth is that every single business can and should be using social media in creative ways. By broadening what we understand by social media marketing, we can discover new ways in which businesses can boost their brand identity. B2B companies will only limit themselves by believing otherwise. According to Sprout Social, social advertising is practiced by 83% of B2B marketers and is second only to search engines in terms of success. So what’s the magic behind making a dry B2B account work on social? Let’s have a look.
B2C vs B2B Social Media
With business to customer sales, a marketer typically targets an audience of one. However, with business to business sales, marketers often have to convince a buying committee. There may even be a host of strict regulations that limit the ways in which B2B companies can talk about their products (depending on the industry). What’s more is that B2B purchases often cost more than customer purchases. No one customer has paid millions for an article of clothing as advertised on social media. However, organisations will pay a hefty premium for new technologies and software. Understandably, there’s a greater deal of scrutiny when the stakeholders review a potential B2B transaction. In fact, studies estimate that often at least 6.8 people have to sign off on a B2B purchase.
With this in mind, no single user is going to complete a B2B purchase on the back of a single social media campaign. While any given B2C purchase may take mere minutes, it may take months, or even years to nurture a B2B lead into a conversion. A Marketing Charts study showed that 74.6% of B2B sales take 4 months or more to close, with nearly half taking 7 months or more to do so. That being said, it’s pretty unrealistic for B2B companies to expect to complete a sale from the various social media platforms to hand. So what’s the point of B2B businesses investing in their social media accounts? Well first, it’s important to clarify your goals. \
B2B Social Media Planning – Set Clear Goals
True, B2B businesses may not always have the same scope to adopt creative marketing strategies as their B2C counterparts. That said, mindlessly pushing out social media content without clear intent is no way to boost an online presence.
Beginning with big-picture, realistic and appropriate objectives makes the goal-setting process more more achievable. For example, small businesses may wish to engage with local followers and grow a presence in the community. Enterprise companies may wish to use social media to improve their relationships with customers and boost brand loyalty. A B2B company isn’t necessarily going to focus on generating sales. But what they can do is focus on content that demonstrates their industry expertise.
88% of B2B marketers are using a content-marketing strategy. And according to Dragon Search Marketing, 61% of consumers are influenced by content.
It follows that content represents an important tool for B2B companies to leverage a position as industry expert and thought leader. Social media can be used to improve overall credibility and trust. This should be reflected in the goals set.
The SMART goal-setting framework is immensely popular across various industries – luckily for us, it matches up perfectly with social media marketing. In case you aren’t familiar, SMART is an acronym for:
- Specific: describing goals that are clear, simple and defined.
- Measurable: goals that have one or more metrics (to be examined using analytics tools).
- Achievable: Is it attainable and possible to achieve within your resources?
- Realistic: Is it within reach and relevant to your overall purpose?
- Timely: With a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes should focus on setting goals, but doing so is especially important for B2B companies. Competition is fierce – you shouldn’t be on social media just because it’s the thing to do.
A Fun, Educational Tone of Voice
Notice that despite the talk of goals and metrics, you don’t hear me talking about the need for B2Bs to use corporate jargon. Terms like ‘finance,’ software,’ and ‘accounting’ are hardly going to get anyone pacing in anticipation. No one logs onto social media to hear about a ‘deliverable, cross-functional, bottle-neck disruptor.’
Here’s when I go back on myself a bit – the person following a B2B social media account may not be solely responsible for making a £million corporate purchase. However, that’s not to say their input isn’t valuable and important. True, prospects tend to have an inherent interest in the service they follow – even if it’s not part of a sexy, thrilling industry. That said B2B are still operating within a crowded market, and it pays to adopt a personable tone of voice to stand out.
According to SEMRush, 65% of customers say that they’re emotionally connected to a brand that makes them feel that the company cares about them.
A brand voice can represent the personality a company takes on with its communications. Imagine you were at a networking event and one person speaks in a stilted, formal, robotic way. Another person stands out due to their warm, evocative and friendly manner. The way their anecdotes are told, the words used, the energy and patterns of their speaking – it all adds up. Think of B2B social media as if it’s a digital networking event. Clearly, you’d want to be the second person in this analogy (I hope).
A conversational brand voice can highlight the people behind your social accounts, making a corporate organisation feel more approachable. A professional voice does not have to be rigid and formal.
The Eye Has to Travel
There’s a documentary called ‘The Eye Has to Travel.’ It’s about the life and career of Diana Vreeland, famed editor of Harper’s Bazaar and American Vogue. The title is a reference to Vreeland’s iconic quote – a quote that’s clever due to its double meaning. The eye has to travel so that people can see things beyond the contents of their own home. The eye also has to travel because compositions with various focal points cause our gaze to move about – this is more visually appealing. Fittingly, this also applies to social media.
Whether a company is B2C or B2B, it should be using social media to create compelling visual content. Similar to email marketing, what we see matters more than what we hear. That’s because human beings are better at processing images than text. In fact, according to Thermopylae Sciences, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. It follows that strong imagery is vitally important to even a B2B brand’s social media game. But I work for a company that sells payment solution technology to other businesses, I hear you cry! Fear not – you don’t have to post social media stories of your source code. Again, see this as an opportunity to peel back the curtain – highlighting the human side of your organisation.
When thinking visuals, it pays to double down on your brand identity. Is your vibe ‘cool and modern’? Or are you ‘soothing and quirky’? Questions such as these can help you refine everything from your key branding colours to the subjects of the picture you share.
Social media is important for every B2B business. B2B social media campaigns don’t have to be drab, dull and dreary. Granted, there’s still a professional edge to be upheld, but the best B2B campaigns stand out in their ability to balance expertise and entertainment. Unlike B2C campaigns, you won’t be selling directly on the platform. This by no means is to suggest that B2B social media efforts are wasted. In fact, consider the fact that you get to focus on building a connection with your customers and increasing brand awareness an opportunity.