Since Facebook's founding in 2004, over a billion people have begun using social media. In addition, countless social media platforms have been created and have fundamentally changed the way we communicate and the media landscape. It seems nearly everyone is on social media. Yet because of that, there is more noise and competition than ever to getting your message to your target audience.
B2C companies have really begun to master social media (some might say begun to ruin it). For B2B companies, however, the social media approach is a little trickier. In the B2B world, information is not gathered and decisions are not made in the same way that individual consumers might make them. The education and sales process is different, so the approach to social media in your B2B marketing strategy should be tailored and targeted.
With this in mind, here are 3 tips (plus a bonus) to follow best practices in B2B social media:
- LinkedIn is for professionals only
- Twitter is timely and terse
- Save the 'fun' for Facebook
- Bonus tip: Social helps search
1. LinkedIn is for professionals only
A big mistake we see employees of client companies make too often is treating LinkedIn like every other social media account they have. It is fine to use social media management tools like Hootsuite, and schedule some of the same posts for multiple accounts at the same time. Assuming, however, that a funny picture, motivational message, or cat video is appropriate for LinkedIn is a mistake. Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn's co-founder and chairman, recently discussed secrets to building a killer profile. One of the most important was making sure your profile has a specific goal. One great goal to focus your efforts on is directing your profile (or company's profile) to your target audience. Who are your key clients? What do you want them to know about you or your company? Those are the questions your profile should be answering. In the political realm, it is called 'staying on message'. Keep your posts and updates about building your credibility as an expert in your field. You can use the platform to publish (or re-publish) more thoughtful, longer posts that don't work as well on other social platforms.
LinkedIn has 435 million members in 200 countries. To get found by the audience you are targeting you need to be focused on a goal, optimize your profile to meet that goal, and publish items that reinforce that goal. Keep it professional.
2. Twitter is timely and terse
I still talk to people that are active on social media but don't quite understand Twitter. First, start with the basics - you have to say what you want to say in 140 characters or less! That means short and sweet. Many people use Twitter as a 'news feed'. To tailor the news to what you are interested in, follow companies or individuals that you respect and trust - that could mean The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, or Houston Chronicle, or it could mean specific journalists for each of those outlets that you really like or trust. The same goes for television or radio personalities that you like and trust. In addition, and maybe more importantly, you should follow professional sources of information - trade journals and magazines, experts in your industry, brands that you trust, competitors in your field - to keep up with what your competition is doing and what is happening in your industry. Finally, through trial and error, you can follow (and unfollow) smart people and companies in any line of work that you admire. They will turn you on to information that interests you and educates you. In turn, as you publish thoughtful and educational pieces related to your expertise, tweet a brief introduction and a link to the post. You can also post personal or funny items here, but be careful - your clients are following you.
One of the best pieces of advice I learned early on with Twitter is to listen more, and talk less. Find out what is trending or is being promoted about a particular topic. You can set up alerts or track when your company or a particular brand is mentioned. You can also engage and respond directly in conversations, all in real time. Remember, though, to respond on a timely basis and keep it terse.
3. Save the 'fun' for Facebook
As of the 1st quarter of 2016, there are 1.65 BILLION users on Facebook. That is a staggering number of people, particularly considering that a dozen years ago barely anyone had heard of it. It would be shortsighted and maybe even irresponsible to suggest that B2B businesses shouldn't have a presence on Facebook. You must, however, keep in mind a few facts. Many companies block Facebook access to their employees. While nearly a third access Facebook solely on their mobile device, it is helpful to remember how professionals compartmentalize Facebook. In a recent 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry Report by Social Media Examiner, LinkedIn was actually the most used social media platform for B2B marketers (40%), followed by Facebook (37%) and Twitter (15%). For B2C marketers, there is a staggering difference - Facebook (65%) and LinkedIn (7%).
Keeping in mind that many do use Facebook regularly, but users are most likely not getting the same information from Facebook that they are getting from LinkedIn or Twitter, particularly in the B2B realm. Facebook might be the platform you use to be funny, keep things lighter, or extend your brand beyond focused messaging.
Bonus: Social helps search
One last thing - even if you aren't an expert in social media and don't have a huge interest in becoming active, it matters for another reason: Google. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical component in any inbound marketing engine. Social media is very important for brand building and communication, but Google also factors in how active a company is on social media - particularly the most popular platforms - into their search algorithm. That is why not only a presence on, but regular attention to key social media platforms is important.
Social media can no longer just be treated as an afterthought. It is a force in marketing and communication that needs to be respected, planned, managed and resourced. Knowing how different social platforms are used and for what purpose is a great place to start when you are building the social media section of your marketing plan.
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