B2B social media marketing is often left out of the spotlight in discussions of social marketing.
But digital is the way of the future for B2B. Sales meetings, conferences, and business decisions are all increasingly happening online.
Do you have a social media plan in place for your B2B brand? If not, you’re missing out on valuable relationship-building opportunities. And those are the very connections that can help bring in lucrative contracts.
Here’s how to develop a B2B social media strategy for effective digital marketing, social selling, customer service, and more.
Bonus: Get a free social media strategy template to quickly and easily plan your own strategy. Also use it to track results and present the plan to your boss, teammates, and clients.
B2B stands for business-to-business. B2B social media marketing uses social channels to market products or services to business clients and prospects.
B2C marketers use social channels to reach consumers making decisions about personal purchases. B2B marketers have to think more strategically to reach decision-makers. They then nurture relationships that can lead to large purchase agreements.
All social channels can have a place in B2B marketing. But the balance will likely look quite different in a B2B social media strategy than it would in a consumer-focused plan.
Before we dive into how to create a B2B social media plan, let’s look at some key numbers that highlight why and how B2B marketers are using social media.
- B2B companies should allocate 2-5% of revenue to marketing.
- B2B product brands will spend 14.7% of that marketing budget on social media in the next 12 months.
- B2B services businesses will spend 18.3%.
- 31.3% of global Internet users use the Internet for business-related research.
- 22.7% of internet users use social media for work-related networking and research.
- 96% of B2B content marketers use LinkedIn for content marketing.
- Twitter is next at 82%.
- 89% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for social media B2B lead generation.
- 80% of LinkedIn members drive business decisions.
- Social media is the top distribution method for B2B content marketers, with 89% using social tools for this purpose.
- B2B buyers spend 27% of their purchase consideration time researching independently online. Compare that to only 5 to 6% with any sales rep.
- In fact, 44% of millennial B2B customers would prefer not to interact with a sales rep at all.
- 83% of B2B content marketers use B2B social media ads and/or promoted posts, up from 60% last year.
- 40% of B2B content marketers increased their investment in social media and online communities in response to COVID-19.
- 76% of B2B organizations use social media analytics to measure content performance.
- By 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions will occur on digital channels.
- U.S. B2B business will spend an estimated $1.64 billion on LinkedIn ads in 2021, $1.99 billion in 2022, and $2.33 billion in 2023.
Creating a solid B2B social media strategy plan is critical for both short-term gains and long-term growth.
60% of the most successful B2B content marketers have a content marketing strategy. Compare that to only 21% of the least successful.
Let’s get you into that “most successful” category by looking at how to craft a B2B social media plan for your business.
Align goals with business objectives
Just like a good B2C strategy, every B2B social media plan should answer the following two questions:
- What are the company’s business objectives?
- How will B2B social media marketing help achieve them?
Business objectives for B2B marketers should likely focus on longer-term goals than those for B2C social media campaigns.
The top 3 overall goals for B2B content marketers are:
- To create brand awareness
- To build credibility and trust
- To educate audiences
Generating sales or revenue comes in at number 8.
All of those top three goals contribute to social media B2B lead generation. So it’s no surprise that most successful B2B marketers also focus on using content marketing to nurture subscribers, audiences, or leads (73%).
Our blog post on goal-setting can help you establish the right goals and objectives for your B2B social media plan.
Don’t forget to include internal objectives and goals within your plan. For example, recent research in the Journal of Business Logistics found social media use can increase product knowledge and competitor knowledge among supplier account managers.
A solid B2B social media plan outlines where the opportunities lie.
Try using the S.W.O.T. framework. It identifies the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats within your competitive landscape.
Social listening is an excellent way to learn what’s happening across social networks within your industry.
All marketers should know who they’re trying to reach. B2B social media marketing is no different. However, only slightly more than half (56%) of B2B content marketers use personas to guide content creation.
This gives you an easy opportunity to put yourself ahead. Incorporate B2B social media marketing best practices and create audience and buyer personas.
Your corporate structure probably already caters to various client personas. Or, at least, different client categories.
For instance, a design firm might work for commercial, public, and residential customers. It likely has team members or verticals that specialize in each category.
Your B2B social media marketing should do the same. Focus on fleshed out buyer personas that allow you to create social content that speaks to real people.
Moving forward, B2B social marketing is set to become even more personalized. Account-based marketing (ABM) will become the norm. In ABM, sales and marketing teams work together. They personalize outreach and marketing to decision-makers at target companies.
Social media is a prime tool for ABM, with social listening allowing you to keep tabs on your most important prospects.
Use the right social media platforms
As a general rule, you should be where your customers are. Not sure where that might be? Start with the overall social media demographics. Then, dive into some audience research.
Almost all B2B content marketers (96%) use LinkedIn. They also rated it as the top-performing organic platform.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
For paid social posts, the picture is similar but not identical. LinkedIn again comes out on top (80%). But Facebook outranks Twitter and Instagram outranks YouTube.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
Separate channels may also be relevant for different verticals, products, and markets. Depending on the industry and size of your business, you might want to consider:
Or any other account that speaks to a specific audience within your niche.
Find an interesting angle
Remember that social media is about building relationships that lead to sales in the long term. And no one is going to follow you for the long term if your content is dry and boring.
Sure, it can be appropriate to share technical information and new product specifications from time to time. But this should not be the primary focus of your social media accounts.
Think about ways you can make your followers’ (work) lives easier or more enjoyable. Provide content and resources that delight them in some way. Think: how-to information, trends, tips, strategy, and so on.
Thought leadership is particularly important. 75% of potential buyers say thought leadership helps them create their vendor shortlist. And 49% of business decision-makers say thought leadership has directly led them to do business with a company.
But remember that you’re not just talking to CEOs and purchasing officers. Younger people within your industry will move up the ranks and be making purchasing decisions within a few years. Nurturing relationships with industry pros at all stages of their careers can pay off in the long run.
One simple way to break out of the boardroom with your content is to get your employees involved. Tell their stories. Highlight their accomplishments. It will make your social media presence and brand voice come across as more human, and boost your recruiting efforts.
Be sure to incorporate video – it drives five times higher engagement than other content.
Plan how you will measure your efforts
Almost all (94%) of the most successful B2B content marketers measure their content performance. Compare that to only 60% of the least successful.
This makes sense. How can you know how well your social content performs if you don’t measure with clear metrics and KPIs?
What metrics and data should you monitor? It depends based on your business goals. You might focus on response time, impressions, engagement rate, conversions, sales, and more. The important thing is to set benchmarks and achievable goals.
Don’t ignore barometers such as customer satisfaction ratings, qualitative reviews, and your Net Promoter Score. Look at reductions in recruitment and customer service costs as well. All of this contributes to return on investment.
Be realistic about what efforts you’ll have hard numbers for, and the efforts that have a value that is trickier to quantify. Remember, just because you can measure something doesn’t always mean you should. And just because you can’t measure something (easily) doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.
Set your brand up for success with the best B2B social media marketing tools.
Get the full picture of your B2B social media efforts with Google Analytics. Track where your visitors come from and what they do when they visit your site. Draw from these insights and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Put code to work for you. Track the links you share by adding UTM parameters. These snippets work in tandem with analytics programs to provide deeper details on your traffic sources.
Social media publishing and analytics tools are the second-most common technology tool for B2B content marketers (81%). Web analytics tools (88%) are number one. Hootsuite is both.
Multiple team members can manage multiple accounts in one place with Hootsuite. Track customer queries and assign messages so that the right person on your team can respond to them, whether a community manager or sales rep. The Hootsuite dashboard also makes it easy to analyze social media performance and prove your ROI.
Hootsuite’s content library, a place to store pre-approved content and brand assets, is also an important feature for B2B marketers.
Provoke Insights found that 24% of U.S. B2B marketing and sales pros found it hard to integrate brand identity into marketing collateral. Why? Because of a lack of pre-approved assets.
With more than 95 million online sources, Brandwatch gives you a complete picture of the online conversation. Track mentions, competitors, customer sentiment and more.
Then, use your analysis to inform everything from product development to other business decisions.
The Salesforce integration with Hootsuite allows you to incorporate social insights into prospect and customer profiles.
Then, you can build stronger relationships with potential purchasers. You can qualify leads through a lead scoring model, and create customized contact lists based on social data.
B2B customers tend to be high-value, so it’s important to offer them customer service options that work for the way they do business.
Sparkcentral allows you to manage customer service through social accounts, live chat, WhatsApp, and SMS. So, when that important client sends a text, you’ll have the full context of their contact through all support channels.
You’ll have all the information you need to give them an up-to-date, accurate answer to their inquiry, fast. This will keep them coming back when it’s time to renew their contract or upgrade their plan.
Learn from the pros. Here are some of the top teams leading the way with great social media post ideas.
Adobe makes its social content personal and exciting by featuring stories and insights from staff, clients, and interns. There’s plenty of content highlighting the brand’s awards and accolades, but it’s the stories of real people that make Adobe an engaging follow.
A strong presence on LinkedIn meant Adobe was in a strong position when they had to pivot their Adobe Summit conference from in-person to digital relatively last-minute in the spring of 2020. They promoted the event through a LinkedIn Live, along with organic and paid posts, and beat their pre-event registration goal by 300 percent.
Don’t think of Google as a B2B brand? Remember that their revenue comes from ads, and ads are bought by other businesses.
Think With Google is a set of valuable resources for marketers, highlighting insights from Google’s vast data and knowledge banks. The Think With Google social accounts share those insights through social content and informative graphics.
You’ll find plenty of product update info and customer success stories on Slack’s social channels, all wrapped up in a tone that’s a little more casual than most B2B accounts.
(We’d bet most B2B style guides do not include the phrase “comin’ at ya” or nearly so many emojis.)
If you’re new to Slack and not sure where to begin, don’t fret! We have a whole thread of videos comin’ at ya specifically geared toward beginners. Join us, won’t you?👇
— Slack (@SlackHQ) August 26, 2021
But the tone is consistent and works with Slack’s brand.
In case you haven’t heard it lately, you’re doing great.
Now it’s your turn to share the love: Tag someone who helped make this week a little bit better. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/31ZIaqNUlw
— Slack (@SlackHQ) September 3, 2021
It’s easy to forget that Twitter dabbles in B2B marketing, too. If you follow @TwitterMktg for pointers in theory and in practice, you’ll see that B2B social communication can be playful as well as informative. And that switching things up is a great way to spark engagement.
favorite thing about being a marketer? wrong answers only
— Twitter Marketing (@TwitterMktg) August 20, 2021
IBM does a great job of tailoring content to different social media channels rather than simply cross-posting. For example, here are posts from Twitter and Instagram, both using a throwback image of a computer from 1981 to show how the company has impacted the world.
While some brands can get a little lazy and post the same content across their accounts, IBM tailored the copy in each post to the specifics of each platform.
The IBM 5150 turns 40 years old today. 🎂
Learn how our first personal computer and its 16-bit microprocessor changed the world: https://t.co/Aix5HTWKjC pic.twitter.com/dD1ELcPTQq
— IBM (@IBM) August 12, 2021
Plus, they did a great job of hopping on a current meme in a brand-appropriate way:
Did it hurt? When you figured out the missing semicolon fixed all your code errors?
— IBM (@IBM) September 2, 2021
Gartner makes effective use of LinkedIn Live video events to connect with its target audience of business pros. Using the hashtag #GartnerLive, they show highlights from events and interviews with industry experts.
They also share helpful infographics that grab attention and motivate LinkedIn connections to click through to their blog.
Easily manage all your social media profiles using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts, engage your followers, monitor relevant conversations, measure results, manage your ads, and much more.
Easily manage all your social media in one place and save time with Hootsuite.