Social media is a way for your B2B company to tell market compatriots what’s worked for your brand, what media sources you’re paying attention to and what products you use as you continually adjust the cogs on your social strategy. At the same time, your social media presence has to show that you’re adding to the space. Whether it’s a blog post, white paper, a tweet or a pin, as a B2B marketer your content has to be useful and high quality, but it also has to be packaged appropriately for the subsegments of the audience you’re reaching in each channel.
That’s why B2B companies like Hubspot, Marketo and Outbrain are heavily invested in social media – thought leadership can’t exist in a vacuum. Though ROI is a moving target, social media is a means of broadcasting your participation in your market, which as Vivaldi Partners identified, is how social currency is established: “social currency matters because every business is social. Big data, social, and mobile will form the basis of competitive advantage for all companies.”
Below are three pillars of social media that any B2B marketing strategy should have at its core. Use them to help create a strategy, conduct a strategy audit or as a little inspiration to up your game.
- First know why content is shared on social: triggers and social currency
In his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On (2013), professor of marketing at the Wharton school of Business, Jonah Berger explores what it is, exactly, that makes us share what we do. Berger lays down a simple personal anecdote early in his book to illustrate the nature of sharing. Berger received a copy of an unsolicited book from a publisher, sent presumably in the hope that he’d use it in his classes. Instead of sending him one copy, however, the publisher sent him two. Why? Because if Berger liked it he’d have a second copy to share, and he would know better than anyone else with whom to share.
Effective social media puts content (or thought leadership) in front of the right people and enables them to share it with more of the right people. As the Vivaldi Partners study found, “90% of purchases are subjected to social influence,” and “46% of B2B professionals regularly follow industry discussion forums online.”
Word of mouth is still the driving factor of sharing. Berger states that though many would guess the percentage of word of mouth that takes place online these days is around 50%, the actual number is way lower – only 7%, according to Keller Fay Group research.
One of the most important nuggets that Berger imparts, however, is that social sharing is a “me-centric” activity. People want to talk about themselves (“research finds that 40% of what people talk about is their personal experiences or personal relationships” he writes), which is why targeting has to beyond giving an audience something it will find relevant but giving people something they want to share as a reflection of their good taste and good judgement. That’s why you hear over and over that as a B2B marketer you build brand equity and social currency by being an active member on social media – you have to earn trust as a provider of consistent, high-quality intel. You have to prove that you’re delivering information in relevant formats and in the appropriate channels.
2. Get to know your social platforms, then get to know them again
A few months ago An Xiao, in a piece for Hyperallergic, wrote that Tumblr is the most appealing social channel for teens (61% of 13-18 year-olds preferred it) because the platform enables users to gain full social sharing benefits without exposing their true identity. As Xiao notes, this harks back to the early days of the internet when chat rooms were notorious for their untrustworthy patrons. “The now famous New Yorker cartoon of a dog at a computer sums up this internet reality well. ‘On the Internet,’ the dog says, ‘nobody knows you’re a dog.’”
The lesson here is what Xiao describes as a divide that’s surfaced in online communities. There are now “unbounded” and “bounded” social media experiences. As B2B marketers engaging in social media, it’s crucial to understand that there is more than a little psychology going into the use of each social stream. As Hubspot wrote in the post, “30 Terrible pieces of social media advice you should ignore” – your B2B brand should not be on every social platform unless it makes sense for your brand to be there.
Take Hubspot’s assortment of social channels as an example. In addition to their blog, they are active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Each channel is filled with useful information, whether it’s images of employees (Instagram), branded quotes (Facebook) or funny memes (Pinterest), there’s crossover between platforms.
HubSpot makes no qualms about the purpose of their “attendance” in each place – they’re networking. Direct calls to action such as, “like if you…” on their Facebook page, and custom hashtags such as #salessecrets are evidence that HubSpot isn’t just throwing content on the social web and hoping it flies, but rather is abiding by the rules of each platform.
3. Create a plan to populate your chosen social streams
Vivaldi Partners found that the utility of a brand’s social content accounts for 38% of a customer’s move from awareness to consideration of a product. For example, this post on what kind of content to create and which social channel will match your content, HubSpot demonstrates utility in both practice and offering.
The problem for many brands is that, even though they know a social media strategy would be valuable, they don’t have the content to back it up. Very often, maybe too often, social media is a practice of recycling the fluff available to anyone with an account. The result, as PaidContent recently noted, is redistribution of nothing-in-particular. This is not a social media strategy.
The key is offering a mix of curated content floating around the platform you’re on, while adding your original content to match. LinkedIn is probably the best example:
“Even before LinkedIn’s $90 million acquisition of popular news-reader Pulse, the professional network was making all the right moves in terms of content creation and curation with a leadership board in the form of LinkedIn Influencers and a daily news feed that distributes third-party content selected by users. Where the company has invested in original content, it’s done so by popular demand, tapping proven influencers like Virgin CEO Richard Branson and ex-FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski for exclusive articles that cater specifically to the network’s business-savvy audience. As Jennifer Van Grove noted for CNET, ‘content is quickly becoming the new connection on LinkedIn.’”
Of course not all brands have this kind of ready-made content production to tap. That’s why several brands are creating in-house newsrooms, hiring journalists to write for them, and licensing full-text articles and images.
In short, one goal of B2B social media is feeding your audience rich content, sourced on your company website. This is one way you can glean the wealth of traffic your great social streams are generating.
Originally published on May 1, 2015 11:48 AM