Because of its popularity and relatively low cost, social media is frequently used by small businesses as a marketing tool. Many small businesses use social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, to attract new customers, engage with existing customers, build fan communities, advertise new products, send promotional information, and encourage event participation.
Nevertheless, business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies may use social media marketing in different ways. Social media marketing has been adopted and used by business-to-consumer (B2C) companies for a while. However, many B2B small businesses are still wondering what their social media marketing strategies should be.
What is B2B?
B2B stands for business to business. In contrast to B2C companies, B2B small businesses sell products or provide professional services to other businesses instead of individual customers. Examples of B2B companies include small technology companies, digital marketing firms, public relations agencies, market research consulting firms and business supply companies. The questions I frequently hear from my B2B consulting clients are:
- How do B2B and B2C social media marketing differ?
- How can my company use social media marketing as a marketing tool like B2C companies do?
- What is the step-by-step guide?
- How can we implement and customize our social media marketing strategies?
Based on my research and consulting experiences, I would like to provide the following suggestions.
5 ways to customize your company's B2B marketing strategies
1. Have a social media marketing plan with SMART goals.
As Rachel Krug mentioned in this article, the SMART framework can help small companies set clear and actionable goals. (SMART refers to specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.) The SMART framework can be applied in different aspects of business goal-setting, including setting social media marketing goals.
You need to be clear about what goals you would like to accomplish from your social media marketing campaigns.
Lead generation and increasing brand awareness could be the most important social media marketing goals. If, say, your social media marketing goal is lead generation, an example of a SMART goal can be to generate 60 inbound marketing leads per month via the company website and social media by December 31, 2020. You can measure your lead conversion ratio by calculating the percentage of website visitors that convert to leads in a specific period of time. Your SMART goal may look like this: Hit a lead conversion ratio of 2.5% by the end of the last quarter of 2020.
2. Choose the appropriate social media platforms.
LinkedIn is frequently used by B2B marketers. But you can also use other platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and your organization's blog. My survey research findings suggest that more B2B than B2C and nonprofit organizations are using LinkedIn as a social media marketing tool.
LinkedIn is the most popular professional social networking site nowadays. Thus, it's appropriate for B2B organizations to target their key audiences, demonstrate their thought leadership in the industry, and post educational content on LinkedIn. For example, some market research firms, public relations agencies, and independent business/analytics consultants use LinkedIn to share their research findings, advertise their services, and connect with prospects and existing clients on LinkedIn.
If you can demonstrate your thought leadership on LinkedIn, you can build trust with prospects and attract new clients to work with you on projects. As Eyal Katz noted in this article, 94% of B2B companies use LinkedIn for marketing. Remarkably, 80% of B2B leads that come from social media originate from just one platform, and that is LinkedIn.
For lead-generation and business-relationship-building purposes, LinekdIn is effective for B2B small businesses. However, your company can also use other social media platforms, such as a blog, Facebook, and Twitter, to connect with key audiences and build online communities.
In addition, YouTube is perfect for sharing video content. For example, some small research/analytics consulting firms post how-to videos to teach people how to use SPSS, R, and Tableau on YouTube. It's a good method for inbound marketing. Depending on your industry, you may also consider Instagram.
Different social media platforms can complement each other. You can choose the best mix for your business depending on your social media marketing goals and your target audiences.
3. Post great content in different formats on your social media sites.
You need to understand your target audiences' information needs. Relevance is the key. Options available to you include informative articles, white papers, infographics, blog content, photos, podcasts and videos on your social media sites. Provide your target audiences relevant and useful information in your post, such as an advice-based article, a new product launch announcement or a product demonstration video.
Videos are popular nowadays. Today's customers are very visual. Visual content is more likely to get the audience's attention. Even when you post an article on your social media site, insert photos in your article.
My previous research findings also suggested that more B2B than B2C and nonprofits use blog content for social media marketing. To demonstrate thought leadership in your industry, you may post white papers and case studies not only on your own company's blog but also in industry blogs and general blog outlets.
4. Engage with your online community members.
It's imperative for B2B small businesses to maintain existing customer relations and build brand loyalty online. Customer engagement can happen both online and offline. Before the pandemic, there were more offline customer engagement opportunities for B2B companies, such as trade shows. However, due to public health concerns, large face-to-face meetings can't be held. Thus, engaging with customers online becomes crucial.
You can build online communities and encourage customer participation and testimonials, cultivate connections, and maintain long-term customer relations in social media. An important element for B2B relationships is the solution. Posing a question that sparks an interest is a legitimate way of getting someone to engage with your company and know more about your products and services.
Frequently posting fresh, insightful, helpful, and relevant content and responding to your community members' questions and comments promptly can help you increase online engagement. Q&A processes in your online community can be multidirectional. It shouldn't be one-way. For example, business.com has a community. The community manager and writers frequently post questions to get community members' input and answers for emerging business issues. Community members can also ask domain experts (and other community members) questions and share experiences with each other.
Keeping conversations going, showing your online community members you understand their business needs, and demonstrating your willingness and abilities to help them can boost long-term customer relations.
5. Use appropriate analytics tools to evaluate the effectiveness of your social media campaigns.
You do not have to use very advanced social/digital analytics tools for your small business. There are a lot of free built-in tools, including LinkedIn Analytics, Facebook Audience Insights, Twitter Analytics and Instagram Insights. By monitoring the numbers obtained from these built-in tools, you know the demographics of your audience and what content is popular on your sites.
In addition, there are some free or inexpensive social/digital analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, Hootsuite and Sprout Social. You can use Google Analytics to track web traffic, evaluate your site's performance, know the conversion rates, and evaluate whether you have reached your goals. In addition to Google Analytics, you can use other social media monitoring or social listening tools to evaluate the overall sentiment of your brand mentions (positive, negative or neutral) and identify the keywords that your audiences frequently used on your social media sites.
It's imperative to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your social media strategies, and understand what works and what does not work. By tracking your site's performance and monitoring what your audiences said on your site, you can adjust your social media strategies.
Social media can become an effective marketing tool for your B2B small business. You can use social media for lead generation, branding, networking and customer engagement purposes. Because business goals, target audiences, and the nature of customer relations are different, B2B and B2C social media marketing strategies cannot be identical.
Thus, you need to customize your social media marketing strategies. Setting SMART goals, choosing the appropriate platforms, posting great content, engaging with your community members, and continuously evaluating and adjusting your social media marketing strategies are the keys to success.