Lack of social strategy is costing B2B companies
Alex Swann, joint founder of specialist B2B marketing and PR agency Lesniak Swann, says that not putting the effort into social media is a huge missed opportunity for B2B organisations.
It's not about pushing out sales-oriented and ineffectual content, posting for posting's sake, and struggling to make things topical - it's time review your brand's social performance and make positive change.
The stakes have never been higher when it comes to social media. Almost 85% of B2B companies are active on social platforms, which means crucially your competitors are almost definitely plugging their products and services on it.
And despite compelling evidence of its power in influencing B2B purchasing decisions, an alarming number of companies just aren’t giving it the time or energy it deserves.
For many B2B businesses, their social presence is managed on a ‘need to do’ basis rather than as an intentional move to meet commercial objectives; partly because social media is regarded as a free marketing channel, and by proxy has limited perceived value.
However, there is a real risk for companies who don’t invest their time and money in the right way. This can be costly, both in terms of alienating existing or potential customers, which will have a direct impact on commercial performance, and damaging company reputation with misaligned and mismatched messaging.
Choosing not to put the effort into a social media strategy is a missed opportunity for B2B businesses. Using it effectively can inspire, engage, and build loyalty amongst audiences; giving brands an unfair advantage over the competition so they stand out through content that their customers want, instead of an incessant stream of bland, sales-orientated, ineffectual content.
Many B2B companies spend their time producing content that’s simply not relevant or engaging for the audience. Agencies typically charge clients based on the number of social posts they create. The result? Posts created for posts' sake, tying in tenuous links to national events and awareness days in a vain attempt to make the posts topical.
But where is the commercial value to this activity? How does a handful of likes - often from those within the company - translate into a qualified marketing or sales lead? This is a challenge for all B2B companies, and for those with complex routes to markets and disparate audiences, the challenge is further amplified by having to create a myriad of messages for multiple audiences across concurrent channels.
Put simply, companies without a plan for how social media activity benefits their business goals are wasting valuable marketing resources.
Steps to an improved social strategy
So how do you bring structure and purpose to social media activity? The first step is to review business objectives. Understanding the commercial goals of your organisation and how social media can help to meet them is vital. It’s also important to have a thorough understanding of the different audiences you’re speaking to.
Having detailed buyer personas, for example, will ensure your social media activity is focussed firmly on what they’re interested in, what motivates them, and how they make decisions.
Once these core elements are in place, it’s time for a deep-dive across all relevant social channels - both those the business is currently using, and ones they are not. This will give a clear understanding of the level of engagement historically achieved across each channel, how certain types of content have performed, what’s prompting action from audiences, and what’s not working at all.
Once armed with this knowledge you can then modify your company’s social media content strategy and implement a plan that aligns clearly with commercial objectives. In some cases, this process leads to companies reducing the number of social media channels they use, or to shift focus to another channel if the evidence shows core audience groups are more active and engaged elsewhere.
This review can then feed into the development of best practice recommendations on content created and shared based on what’s likely to return the best results across the different channels, linking back to audience personas to ensure it resonates with its intended audiences and engages them in a way they appreciate. Ensuring content remains relevant and engaging - at all times - is vital for it to be effective.
The final stage involves defining KPIs to measure the outputs of your social media activity. Many agencies report on the success of social media by focussing solely on numbers reached in addition to likes, comments, or shares without tracking how these interactions ultimately contribute to commercial targets such as products sold.
Undoubtedly, reach and interactions do play a role in generating results for a business, but it’s more important to track how social content has triggered responses and actions by the audience such as traffic to website pages and direct enquiries. In doing this, you will be able to calculate the cost of a new sale or customer through social activity.
Conducting an audit like this takes time, but it will prove to be a critical step in ensuring the resource focussed on social media provides the strongest possible returns for a business. It also gives organisations an informed view of where social media sits within the broader marketing mix and customer journey, and where further opportunities could lie in areas such as customer experience.
The social media world is dynamic and evolving at a rapid pace, so doing a review of your brands’ social performance on a regular basis - every 18 months as a maximum - will ensure your channel and content strategy keeps you ahead of the competition.
Still not convinced? Look at these latest stats from Hootsuite that demonstrate how social media is now a highly competitive marketplace and therefore too costly a channel to take for granted.
- 82% of B2B marketers report finding the greatest success on LinkedIn
- 55% of decision-makers use LinkedIn to choose companies and organizations to work with
- 48.5% of B2B decisionmakers use Facebook for research
- 36.2% of B2B decisionmakers use Instagram to discover and research new products
- 90% of people on Instagram follow a business
- 83% of people use Instagram to discover new products and services and 87% said they took specific action, like making a purchase, after seeing product information