Social media professionals working at B2B brands face many of the same challenges as their B2C and nonprofit counterparts: increasing engagement, building awareness and building audiences. Still, there are some roadblocks unique to the B2B space, from using social to win customers for big-ticket items (e.g., million dollar software deals) to translating complex technical language into accessible messages.
Our sister publication, The Social Shake-Up, recently hosted a webinar featuring four speakers working at B2B companies: Dan Zucker, director of paid and social media at Bentley Systems (an infrastructure design firm), Christina Warner, associate marketing manager at Walgreens, Nicole Shevlin, brand strategist at IBM and Blair Broussard, chief operations and people officer at ARPR (a PR agency with B2B tech clients).
Here are some of their top takeaways from the event.
Conduct a frequent review of the content calendar. Zucker says he meets with his team every week to discuss upcoming copy and content. At these meetings, he workshops material and performs spot checks, identifying opportunities to test new content. Constant experimentation is the name of the game. Similarly, Warner regularly reflects on what worked and didn’t work following each email marketing campaign.
Give every social channel a distinct purpose. Shevlin says IBM has different sets of goals for each social channel. “On Instagram, we’re looking at the scale of the company,” posting imagery from all corners of the business (and its offices around the world). Meanwhile, Shevlin’s team leverages Twitter for “timely news” and LinkedIn to “attract talent, offer thought leadership and for one-to-one communications.”
Look at month-over-month engagement. In terms of a priority metric, Zucker, Shevlin, Warner and Broussard all prize month-over-month engagement. This squares with Zucker’s and Warner’s reflect-and-refine approach. While Zucker and Shevlin focus on engagement rate, Broussard keeps a close tab on website referral traffic; Warner, meanwhile, stays laser-focused on email metrics month to month.
Align on cross-department goals. At B2Bs, sales and marketing teams often need to work close together, whether tracking lead generation from social channels or determining ROI from boosted posts. Broussard suggests using customer relationship management software like Salesforce to track these key goals across teams. “Sales is now using PR and marketing as collateral. So, social media marketers need to get comfy with sales concepts.” Conversely, salespeople should be armed with talking points to project the brand’s expertise without leaning too heavily on jargon, she says.
Leverage UGC from employees. A LGBTQ+ pride initiative at IBM—which includes a comprehensive diversity & inclusion program as well as resources for transitioning individuals—launched an #IBMProud campaign video, originally sourced from employee-contributed content. Asking employees to describe what pride means to them, in their own words, allowed IBMers to dive into the topic organically. This steered the company clear of “rainbow-washing”—inauthentic or surface-level campaigns around LGBTQ+ pride—says Shevlin. The brand’s heartfelt approach resonates with their talent pool as well as IBM’s global online audience.
Get specific with your paid social strategy. While Zucker feels that promotional content has no place in the organic sphere, he says Bentley puts ad dollars behind content that promotes products or services. Broussard emphasizes budgeting for prospecting and targeting on LinkedIn, although she notes that social marketers must put aside resources for both the initial targeting effort as well as retargeting interested users.
Break down technical language. In order to appeal to the broad audience that exists on social media, Zucker takes copy and tries to “decode” it for those outside of Bentley’s wheelhouse of infrastructure software. It’s crucial to ask the question: “How can we tell it like it is?” On Facebook, for example, his team focuses on “finding what resonates personally and professionally with users,” rather than pushing overly technical concepts.
Set clear posting guidelines for influencers and employees. When B2Bs engage influencers, they should “lay out restrictions and guidelines” from day one, says Broussard. Her agency educates clients (and employee advocates) on do’s and don’ts for posting to social—including what they can and can’t say—at the outset of any campaign. On the other side of the spectrum, Broussard warns against pushing an inauthentic tone of voice on an influencer. “Pick someone who is [already] on brand, and let them share the way they want to,” she advises.
Explore fringe channels. While some B2Bs doubt the relevance of social media within their business model, others have adopted existing social channels like LinkedIn and Instagram—and are looking to tap into even more. Shevlin named Quora, which many internet users turn to for technical questions, as an opportunity for IBMers to dive in and share their knowledge. She also noted the company is looking into TikTok for visual storytelling—although it is a tricky space for B2Bs to play in as they compete for eyeballs with B2Cs’ and individual users’ content.