If we spend time analysing successful brand campaigns on social media, it can be easily observed that the flagbearers are the B2C companies. Their industries might be different- ranging from the conventional FMCG, consumer technology, to the new age food delivery, online commerce. But, all of them are very active on social media platforms and have millions of followers across platforms.
It is not easy to find a B2B company like an IT company or a company in the conventional sectors like retail, cement etc. really focusing on social media. However, times are changing and the shift is quite visible as more and more B2B brands are understanding the importance of a robust social media strategy. As per business reports, more than 75% of B2B customers use social media to make their purchasing decisions. Hence, it is important for B2B brands to revisit and rehash their marketing strategy and increase their focus on social media.
The challenge that exists
While B2B brands do have a presence in social media, the same is seen as more of a vanity exercise. The B2B companies struggle with numerous challenges when defining their social media strategy. Most of the times, the companies face an issue with regards to their products being unexciting and non-engaging for the end customers. Hence, they believe that a product upgrade, a new innovation or a new product launch in a B2B company may not resonate with the end customers. A question that generally pops up is- How many of the users of Facebook or Instagram would be interested in the latest blockchain technology, or the latest development in an IT infrastructure management company? Only a handful- who could be in some way related to the community or maybe enjoy reading about it.
Another challenge is the fact that the conventional leadership may not understand the importance of having a well-rounded social media strategy in place. Investing time, resources or budgets to create awareness for the brand on social media may not sound convincing to a large set of conventional leaders in the B2B business.
B2B brands are fast realising that they need to think beyond the concept of selling their product if they really want their social media strategy to work. Social media can be leveraged not only for lead generation, but also for lead nurturing, brand awareness and engagement, as well as to drive traffic to the company’s website. Also, social media campaigns can go a long way in humanising B2B companies.
Some B2B brands are disruptors
There are some big B2B brands who have done phenomenally well on social media. They might be in the most unexciting business (from an end customer’s standpoint), but have been able to build that connect and created a niche for themselves in the social world. Brands like IBM, HubSpot, Shopify, Cisco, Dropbox, have been able to craft a differentiated social media strategy that has helped drive brand awareness as well as engagement.
Novartis, a renowned name in the pharmaceutical industry, has a huge follower base on Instagram. The messaging is not around its products but primarily around its CSR initiatives around health.
Another example is that of Shopify, the renowned e-commerce and point of sale platform for brands. It has a successful social media strategy, riding heavily on video marketing. It runs a series of videos providing informative and substantive content to help inform its audience. Shopify has done extremely well across markets, all thanks to an aggressive social media campaign.
Dropbox, the cloud storage platform, has also done a great job of connecting with customers using social media. It created Marketing Dynamix, a personality assessment tool that helped marketers understand their team and how they can improve processes with the knowledge. The company promoted this product extensively across YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. It used creatives, GIFs, graphics and videos to connect with the marketing professionals across businesses and age groups. The campaign was a huge success with 12 million impressions and 29:1 return on investment.
Tips for a high impact B2B social media strategy
Any brand can create a social media profile and post a few tweets/ posts. There are also many brands who follow a standard calendar and post the same boring set of posts, week after week. As a result, the engagement on their social page is minimal.
If you are a B2B brand, some of these strategies can do wonders!
Create a personality
B2B brands should avoid the boring, run-of-the-mill stuff and think differently. Sadly, a lot of social media pages in case of B2B brands lack a personality or connect. There is a need for the brands to think differently and craft content that has a human connect and builds a personality for the brand, in the eyes of the customer.
Use a conversational tone
A conversational tone works better for social media. Terms like ‘we’ and ‘us’ help to build a great connect. It is also important to rehash the post in line with the expected audience on a specific platform. For example, a post on LinkedIn needs to be in a formal business form, while a post on Instagram/ Twitter need to be more informal in its tonality.
Share good content and drive conversations
It is not a bad idea to share interesting reports or engage in a conversation with other users (like influencers) on an interesting trend or innovation, that may be directly or indirectly linked to the business that the company represents. This works well to add the human connect to the B2B brand.
Move beyond Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
Most of the B2B brands only focus on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for their social media brand awareness and outreach campaigns. Mediums like Instagram and YouTube can also be a great contributor to the social media strategy for B2B brands and help them connect with a new set of audience. Companies, irrespective of their industry, should leverage Instagram to share details about their recent launches/developments (in visual format), share media stories about the brand, show case studies and employee stories, share customer stories and do a lot more. Likewise, YouTube can be a good platform to share various forms of videos around the brand, its products, its customer success stories, or its latest CSR initiative.
A brand cannot be successful on social media if it is not responsive. It is important to acknowledge and close every customer query. Also, a negative story in the media can blow up on social media and hence, brands need to be quick in responding. If a brand takes days to respond to a negative story, it is assumed by a number of viewers that the story was factually correct.
Use an assortment of content
The content to be used by B2B brands on their social media channels need to be a mix of text, blogs, static creatives, GIFs, infographics, and videos. While some of the visitors might be avid readers, videos could work well with another set of audience. Companies should indulge in impactful storytelling, that connect on an emotional level and sparks conversations. Gamified content can also work well as it would help drive engagement.
Do not blindly copy competitors
It is a good idea to pick what is working well in the market but it is advisable to not blindly copy, especially when the idea is a force fit in the company’s overall external positioning and strategy. For example, I see a lot of brands suddenly hosting webinars by inviting other CEOs. If a brand already had an existing strategy/brand purpose around a similar initiative, or was an avid supporter of entrepreneurship, it is okay. However, a sudden ‘Hey! We are now doing a webinar with Mr.XX’ may not make any logical sense and make the brand look more like a ‘wannabe’, desperately trying to be a part of the crowd.
Build a community
B2B brands can explore the option of building a community or a platform of like-minded individuals. The advantage is a high number of engaged audience at all times, who can act as brand advocates and share updates about the company across their social channels, as well as encourage more of their type to join the community. Before deciding on building one, it is recommended that the marketing team does a thorough check to understand the efficacy of the idea amongst its target audience. Also, it is important to understand and communicate that communities are not built in a day, and this will require a long term investment in terms of time and money.
Brands like SAP have successfully executed this strategy. SAP launched the SAP Developer Network (SDN) to open the company’s content, strategy and technical information to a global audience, in the year 2005. The network grew from 50,000 to 100,000 members in the first year alone.
To sum it up..
An impactful social media strategy will become increasingly important for B2B brands in the times to come. Human connect will become a key driver of brand success as it will play a critical role in creating brand awareness and drive engagement, in the digital world. The future belongs to brands that do not only focus on selling their product, but are able to connect and drive conversations on the social media platforms.
Also, brands will have to think beyond a LinkedIn , Facebook and Twitter, and devise a strategy that drive outreach in platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube etc. as it will help connect with a new and wider set of audience. The power that social media holds for B2B companies is incredible — and only expected to grow in the coming years.
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