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The right way to use social media in a B2B industry

The right way to use social media in a B2B industry Frank Gothmann

There is an inherent flaw in the way businesses approach their social media strategy today. Thanks to the glorification of what I call the "Buzzfeed-syndrome," businesses measure their social media success by the number of shares and likes they get and not by the actual conversions that such social media engagements bring.


But the trouble does not start there. Most businesses initiate their social media strategies by asking, "We have created a Facebook and a Twitter page -- now what?" And this is where the problem lies. A lot of businesses are on Facebook because their competitors are already using the platform, and there is a feeling of being left out or being too late in the game. This results in a half-baked social strategy where you are on Facebook and Twitter for the heck of it -- not because you find potential in the platform.


This problem is exacerbated in a B2B industry where sales cycles are longer and the typical consumer is not watching cat videos on Facebook. Unless you run a B2B service targeting the tech savvy younger customer, your memes and fun graphics will be lost on your customer. You need to be professional and straight-forward, even if the platform is fun.


A lot of marketers do get this, and that is why they end up making boring, redundant Facebook posts about how good their service is every second day. That is not a social media strategy. Rather, it's just wasteful expense of your resource bandwidth. Every campaign you run must either help get the word out, or help your customers get one step closer to initiating a discussion with you. It's no different for social media campaigns. The objective should always be: Have I either reached out to more prospects, or helped existing prospects arrive at a better decision through this Facebook post? If not, rethink your strategy.


Let us take an example of a B2B industry like invoice management. The typical customer is the CFO of a mid-sized firm that deals with thousands of invoices every year. At the outset, there is not much scope for targeting prospects via Facebook posts. How many CFOs regularly check their Facebook pages, let alone make purchasing decisions from them?


The trick is to create helpful content that can be distributed socially. Take the example of ADP.com, a pretty well-known resource management solutions builder that includes invoice management. Their strategy revolves around creating success stories, case studies and how-to videos for YouTube, and presentations on Slideshare. Facebook and Twitter, in this case, are mere channels that complement their outreach strategy.


Another great example to consider is CrazyEgg. This is a company that offers heat map analysis for business websites looking for enhancing conversion rates. Instead of promoting their tool in their social media posts, the company chooses to solve the other problems their prospect faces. Since their customers are typically those with an online business, the typical problems include search engine outreach, social media growth, increasing conversion rates, content marketing, etc. CrazyEgg addresses all these problems through high-quality blog posts, which are then shared over Facebook and Twitter for additional outreach. As more and more prospects are funneled in to the blog, the word about the core offering increases, which helps increase sales.


The take-away is this -- Facebook and Twitter cannot operate in a silo. By design, these channels only help users share content that exists already. The success of these platforms for your B2B business depends on the kind of compelling content you can build over other platforms like YouTube and Slideshare, which are designed to host such content. If you are a B2B business that does not have too many new things to talk about every day, choose a strategy similar to CrazyEgg, where you can target the host of problems faced by your typical customer. When you do this, you help your customer. You offer them an incentive to like and share your content. And when this reaches out to more prospects, your sales funnel fills up and ultimately leads to more customers. And this, is the ultimate criteria to measure your success.


Frank Gothmann is a marketing consultant.


On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Frank Gothmann is a marketing consultant with over a decade of digital media experience. He has advised dozens of Fortune 500 companies in North America and Canada. He is now based out of Sydney, Australia.

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Comments

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Commenter: Alan Belniak

2014, November 24

Interesting post. A few comments.

- First, I'm not sure a majority of businesses "measure their social media success by the number of shares and likes they get" (I presume you meant majority, since writing about the minority wouldn't make for much of a post). I think this might have been the case 5 or 6 years ago. Most companies that I've worked at and interacted with have moved beyond this. It might be partially included in other things, but surely not the only thing. And about those shares - hold onto that for a moment...

- "Let us take an example of a B2B industry like invoice management. The typical customer is the CFO of a mid-sized firm that deals with thousands of invoices every year." While that CFO might not be online during the day, what's to say s/he's not online at night? More over, just because said CFO might not be spending a lot of time on (say) Facebook, guess who is? The people that report into that CFO. So, influence can happen in an upward fashion.

- "The take-away is this -- Facebook and Twitter cannot operate in a silo. By design, these channels only help users share content that exists already." - I whole-heartedly agree with this. Social channels like Twitter and Facebook are often just the media or channels for the content. The content is what matters. Notice how LinkedIn and Facebook are changing their platforms a bit to be more host-like... they see the trend in content, and want people to spend time on the platform, rather than use it as a passage way. While I agree with the point, the article to me sounded as if you were conflating the two (a network and content).

- Back to "shares" to close this out... "Every campaign you run must either help get the word out, or..." - but this is *precisely* what a share does! it gets the word out. If I see a post from brand A, and I happen to like it (not Facebook-like it, but like it, as in that enjoy it), and I then click 'share', I'm now *willfully* propagating a message to my Facebook audience - many of whom may not have seen this. How is this not the intent?

I agree with the article in principle, but I think there are some mis-guided assumptions.

-Alan

Commenter: Andrea Hewett

2014, November 21

Frank,

I think it is great that you are addressing the importance of focusing on content as well as interactions with the right people. Too many people don't understand the importance of social media to a business and how to measure success based on the quality of the leads you have. I hate to see people going through the motions and getting frustrated because they feel they aren't getting results. I hope this points them in the right direction. Thank you for sharing!

~ Andrea Hewett