Prioritize Social Media Channels to Reach Your B2B Buyer
By Julie Geller
With Twitter in disarray, Facebook on the outs with anyone under 30, and a new social media platform popping up every week, B2B marketers have difficulty understanding how these fast-moving changes will affect their work. Practitioners today know that it’s not enough to be on the sidelines monitoring the latest social media case studies. It’s time to get in the game or risk trailing behind your peers.
Keeping up with emerging social media channels is a daunting yet necessary task. In the past, hard lines between B2B and B2C made it easier to dismiss channels and tactics. However, as new trends surface weekly and worlds collide, practitioners must consider if we need to approach the changing social media landscape with less haste.
With a whopping 84% of B2B executives sourcing information on social media before purchase, we know that most professionals aren’t running to search engines only. “Just Google it” isn’t the default action. Instead, we ask contacts in our network that hold the same standards as we do for advice and recommendations – it makes good sense and yields dependable results. It’s no wonder these behaviors are starting to impact our marketing mix.
For marketers who want some guidance on narrowing down the paradox of choice and prioritizing platforms with the most opportunity for your brand, here are three criteria you can use to help you choose the right social media channels.
1. Find your audience.
Preparation, persistence, and personality.
With performance becoming easier to measure, marketers are using social channels to connect directly with their audience. Leading marketers know that we need to be where our buyers are today – and that’s on social media.
But how do you know which channels work best for your target audience? Start by creating or reviewing your buyer personas and journeys and their ideal customer profile (ICP) data. Then, extract a tier-one client list from your CRM or marketing automation platform. Use applications like ZoomInfo, Salesloft, or 6sense to supplement your list. This first step will ensure you have a focused approach with specific target criteria to find your audience on social channels.
Uncovering your audience goes much further than creating alerts and monitoring keywords. Look to gain understanding by accessing dark social – a term used to describe website traffic from social channels, content platforms, groups, and communities that is difficult to track accurately. These sources offer the most valuable insights in the first steps to discovering where your audience congregates.
Next, explore popular platforms, referencing titles and industries. Start with more obvious channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, but go beyond the likely places you think your target might be and don’t discount properties where communities are emerging. Participating in upcoming platforms helps marketers stay on the pulse of what's relevant and identify who is driving the conversation. Use this time to connect with influencers, join in, and contribute.
Make an effort to visit communities and forums a few times a week to get a sense of participants versus those that simply like/lurk and recognize who are champion contributors. A key step in the process is making lists of social channels, titles, and topics you can share with your sales team as key learnings.
Practice good time management hygiene by blocking recurring chunks of time to dip into conversations at different times in the day. This approach will limit the time you spend going down rabbit holes and give you a better chance at identifying trends.
2. Select your platform(s).
Prioritize to reach high returns.
B2B companies are launching experimental campaigns and using industry influencers to reach audiences on TikTok, Facebook, Twitter Shops, and other non-traditional platforms – channels previously reserved for B2C and personal networks.
Companies like IBM, Mailchimp, Shopify, and Zoom are using social media to help people become more comfortable with new products and services and to encourage collaboration and creativity in the workplace. But what do brands do if they have yet to gain traction in a social space? What about those brands that switch their approach each quarter?
It takes time to amass an audience. Sticking with a platform and growing your engagement over time can pay off in spades. Plan to measure in quarters, not a month at a time – this cannot be accomplished by always jumping to the next greatest thing.
Successful marketers know what and how their ideal customer wants to consume content, but they also know how to translate buyer expectations into an experience.
Engagement is far more important than likes, but it’s the quality of engagement that is the important benchmark. Think about tracking core key performance indicators (KPIs) like:
- Profile views (brand interest)
- Video views and completion rate
- Follower count
- Click-through rates to high-converting pages
- Conversions via social referrals
To prioritize high returns, once you know which platforms work best for you, allocate time to those social channels that deliver the most value.
3. Find the right conversations.
Test and learn. Rinse and repeat.
B2B marketers have shifted budgets to include social. For example, Fast Company, reporting on a recent survey by Sagefrog Marketing Group, noted that 75% of B2B marketers said they use social media and social media advertising as part of their overall strategy, and 33% of respondents said social media marketing was a top source of leads, placing it ahead of trade shows and inbound content marketing.
Finding out where the right conversations are happening for your company can take some time and persistence.
To help you stay focused on your search it is important to look for the right topics that power your brand. Start by getting a list of keywords from your SEO resource and search for the conversations that contain key phrases that have been identified as low-hanging fruit for your brand. If you aren’t seeing topics you expected, run relational keyword research so you choose from broader topics.
Next, read the community comments and updates carefully. You want to be sure that the tone isn’t off brand. For example, some social platforms could be more or less formal than others. Also, you may not want to be where unexpected or inflammatory conversations might occur.
While reading through posts, think about winning formats for the platform. Notice those posts with high engagement and determine if this is sustainable for your marketing team resources. Be sure the format is right for your company. Some social media properties are visually oriented while others might use a simple question and answer format. Since the idea is that you’re going to be committed to the platform for the long haul, think about what’s sustainable for the next year.
Finally, make 100% sure you are targeting the right participants. Do a deep dive of the profiles of people who surface frequently in each community and compare the data with your ICP and persona to ensure they line up. You don’t want to waste effort driving conversation with the wrong audience.
Once you find a format that works, keep testing topics and create content that works hard to engage your audience. Stick to it and repeat often.
Although it’s a challenge keeping up with ongoing changes in social media, I find those who are most successful in the space embrace new opportunities and find a way to make it work for them and their brands.