Recently I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the social media space assessing the uptake in a number of very specific sectors. It is fascinating that whilst there is a never ending stream of data from surveys and polls indicating that social media is being used by the vast majority of B2B companies, the reality on the ground I think is very different.
Part of this undoubtedly lies in the semantics and what actually passes for B2B marketing. Working with accountants, lawyers and other professional services is quite different to fast moving technology products which is again quite different to industrial and scientific engineering. I suspect that the polls, surveys and sea of infographics fixate on the first two groups, but rarely on the third.
The problem is compounded when companies that I consider to be 100% B2B begin to ‘dip their toe’. Whether it is the established platforms, or emerging tools, if you don’t crack the following four areas, your social media marketing won’t succeed.
1. Lack of clear objective setting: If you don’t have a view on what success looks like, how can you measure success. For me, the hundreds of potential metrics can be boiled down to two categories - outputs and outcomes. I’d focus on outcomes – the actions that are encouraged through your activity, so downloads, subscriptions, forms, transactions if you are sufficiently enabled. Measuring fans, follows, tweets, blog posts etc is just lame and provides no return on investment.
2. Broadcasting not engaging: You have to find a mix, otherwise it is advertising, but even more annoying and interruptive. Initially, do nothing. Watch, listen, observe, follow. Then curate and share what you like and what positions you in the discussion. Then increase the ratio of broadcast content. But, and this is the differentiator, present your broadcast material in the form of posts like this that inform, advice, help, support even entertain.
3. Failure to build trust: Social media networks and platforms were designed for individuals not brands. The sheer volume of users – Facebook = 800m, Linkedin 130m, video accounting for 50% of search – inevitably lead big brands and then B2B to seek out opportunities to interact with users. On these platforms, trust is earned not paid for. Social media taps into the oldest human forms of word of mouth interaction. People buy from people they like and people they trust.
4. Using the wrong channels, in the wrong way: B2B companies dipping their toes do two things wrong. Firstly, they go about it wrong, like a moth to the light seduced into using all the high traffic sites without a clear strategy and an appreciation of audience relevance. Secondly, they fail to implement specific campaigns across social media sites, opting to syndicate the same messages and content to all platforms in a bid to be consistent.
Linkedin is great for impressing people with knowledge and expertise, Facebook is great for building a hub designed to engage (which supports a corporate website) and Twitter is a great overall distribution tool.
But there is so much more to social media for B2B and success really lies in ‘the link’ – the content of the tweet, the video, audio, image, news story, white paper, ebook, slide set that is forming the message. In B2B you should strive to be a great curator, a trusted authority and a provider of useful information to buyers looking to shortlist credible suppliers.