By Allen Narcisse published January 15, 2014

Planning Your B2B Marketing Approach to Social Media: 3 Key Angles

twitter bird with briefcaseThe popularity of B2B social media marketing is spreading like wildfire across the world of B2B commerce. A new report from CMI shows that B2B marketers have increasingly recognized social media as an essential platform for initiating relationships with new business accounts. As one would expect, LinkedIn reigns supreme over the pack, with over 90 percent of B2B marketing professionals distributing content on their site. Not far behind is Twitter, at 85 percent.

Of course, these are social media platforms, so marketing on them requires a certain finesse and premeditation. At the same time, many B2B companies have found out the hard way that simply being present on social media isn’t enough. If you want to raise awareness and increase impressions for your brand on social media, it’s absolutely crucial that you plan out a content strategy in advance. 

Here’s a breakdown of three key angles to keep in mind when plotting your B2B social media marketing push:

1. Building brand awareness

Many B2B social media marketing campaigns put their primary focus on racking up as many interactions (users clicking on ads) as possible. After all, it’s easy to set firm goals based on how many users click through to your site.

While this is the best method most of the time, an interaction-based approach may not actually be the best use of your resources for all elements of your campaign. The main drawback is that it’s dependent upon your ad budget. Every single click costs money, so once you blow through your budget, your ads will cease running, and your company’s visibility will promptly vanish into the ether. Eyes on your brand logo are worth nothing in the abstract, but making first contact can bring value down the road. Impressions are an overlooked KPI that B2B companies need to learn to embrace, at least on occasion.

Why?

Contrary to popular belief, social media is ideally suited for impression­-based strategies. That means your goal is to have your brand seen by the businesses that you will eventually be approaching for sales. Social media users are far more likely to purchase a product or service if they have some pre-awareness. This means they’ve seen the brand pop up on their social media feeds, in advertisements, and so on. It’s even better if you can attract positive attention from users by sharing helpful information and contributing valuable insights to conversations. After all, a compliment from a fellow social media user will carry far more weight than you touting your own bona fides. When potential clients see your brand pop up on social media, even in passing, it will psychologically prepare them for the moment when you actually reach out to them.

This approach takes a bit of time and sustained effort, but you have to crawl before you can walk, and aggressively positioning your B2B marketing for exposure on social media is the first step of the process.

How to do it

Your first step is to identify potential accounts, as well as the topics and content which they tend to coalesce around. On Twitter and LinkedIn, you have a few options as to how you go about targeting your advertisements.

Twitter: On Twitter, you have the option of promoting either your tweets or your general account. You can choose to target these sponsored tweets based on keywords or on interests and companies. Targeting interests and companies provides a more limited group, at the cost of more research time. When targeting keywords, you can choose to target ads in search or in the timeline. Our data actually shows that keyword ad impressions were 278 percent higher in the timeline, as opposed to in the keyword search. Since the keyword search function isn’t used as often on Twitter, your best bet would be to stick to the timeline, or use both. When starting out, make sure to split test every campaign you launch so you can see what works best for your company. Pick two campaigns that are identical in ad spending and content, but with one targeting difference, and compare the results.

To get more impressions, go as broad as possible while still remaining relevant with your keyword or interest choices. You can use hashtagify.me to quickly see related keywords (it’s also a free service). Once you get the base words, add all of the variations you can think of. With “writing” for example, there is also “writer,” “writers,” “#writing,” etc. Limit the campaign spend per day to make sure you target at least a full week. You don’t want to miss someone by a short margin.

LinkedIn: Once you master Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Ads will be much more familiar to you. On LinkedIn, you want to target a wide swath of job titles in your ad campaigns. LinkedIn offers a list of suggested titles that you should definitely add to your list. It’s a good idea to err on the safe side and target more industries than you might initially plan to, even if they’re only peripherally relevant. You never know which businesses might find value in your services. If you do this, you’ll maximize the amount of impressions your brand gets.

2. Showcasing your expertise 

People turn to sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook not just to interact with others, but also to read the news, track the markets, and keep up with the latest developments in their fields of expertise — in short, they turn to social media to learn from other users. This means you can position your brand as a valued contributor of information, and in doing so bolster your visibility among potential clients. By participating in relevant corners of social media, you’ll also get to communicate directly with potential clients without the attendant pressures of selling.

Why?

Few things are more crucial in B2B social media marketing than building up trust in your burgeoning brand. To accomplish this, you’ll need to target your brand exposure towards the places where potential accounts are most likely to pay attention.

Most businesses probably won’t take the time to click on a link to your blog, then watch your videos, read your press releases, and so on. Conversations on social media work differently than with other channels. Social media users have already chosen to log on, engage, and share with other users. That means you have a rapt audience waiting — all you have to do is join their conversations and grab their attention. The best way to do this is to offer expertise and insight that these users will find valuable.

When joining these groups, you won’t be presenting yourself as a salesman. You are there to participate in a community and offer insight, advice, and tips. By doing so, your brand’s prestige and awareness will organically grow over time. You’ll find down the road that sales come easier when you have a respectable track record of participation on social media.

On both Twitter and LinkedIn, you have the ability to utilize the classic filmmaking maxim of “show, don’t tell.” So instead of approaching each new contact out of the blue and trying to explain how you’re qualified to do this or that, you can show them your expertise by participating in group chats and discussions. When you finally do contact them, they’ll have at least some idea of what your brand represents and the services it offers.

How to do it

The best way to make your voice heard is to join — and actively contribute to — relevant Twitter chats and LinkedIn group discussions.

Twitter: Twitter chats can drive high levels of awareness, so you should seek out ones that are most relevant to your business. If there’s a guest presenter on the chat, research his or her articles beforehand so you’ll have some interesting questions and comments to contribute. Engage with other participants as well, whenever you get the chance. Using browser tools like tchat will help you keep pace with high-volume chat. It’s also important that your own feed is diversified and rich with content. This includes promoting content from popular external blogs and sources. For users, this creates an association between your brand and ones that already have a built-in audience and reputation.

LinkedIn: For LinkedIn, you’ll want to join and engage in relevant group discussions. These groups vary wildly in size, but your best bet is to go for the “Goldilocks” ones between 200 and 1,000 members — smaller groups won’t have the influence you seek, whereas your voice might get drowned out in 1,000+ member groups. Aim for the middle and pick a group that you know you can add value to.

3. Making contact for sales 

Of course, your B2B marketing campaign’s ultimate goal is to generate sales, so you’ll have to plot out a strategy for direct contact at some point. Not only is B2B social media marketing a great tool for raising your brand’s visibility, it’s a great way to follow through and make genuine connections with potential buyers. Start off by making a list of potential businesses that you’d like to work with, and then find where their social media presence is strongest.

Why?

The informality of social media makes it a fertile ground for building a lasting, genuine relationship with potential clients. The trick is to find where your potential clients are interacting (groups, twitter chats, etc.) and become a part of those forums. When you finally do approach them with a sales pitch, your presence on social media will have given the potential account an idea of your brand and the services it provides. That puts you at a huge advantage over a cold contact.

How to do it

Twitter: The key strategy for Twitter is to get involved in the conversations that are already happening. On Twitter, you’ll want to stay abreast of your timeline and make high quality contributions on a regular basis. This can involve commenting on shared content, retweeting relevant tweets, @tagging related (and ideally, more visible) brands, hashtagging keywords that pertain to your business, and so on.

LinkedIn: Ultimately, LinkedIn is the ideal platform for making one-on-one contact with a potential account. A very simple way to start the process is to visit the profiles of your potential clients. Whenever you visit a user’s profile on LinkedIn, that user is immediately alerted — and in most cases, they’ll check the profiles of people who have viewed theirs. Your goal is for the client to have some awareness of your company before you actually initiate first contact.

Track down groups that your target audience regularly participates in. Become an active participant: Comment on their shared content, post your own relevant content, and make yourself known as a friendly authority on the subject matter.

A new way to use social 

Adhering to these strategies will help give a sense of order to your B2B marketing efforts on social media. That said, it bears repeating the social media is not a magic conduit to sales and brand visibility. If you pour money and time into a social media strategy without planning in advance, it’s almost guaranteed to yield a terrible ROI. The truth is that B2B social media works better as a tool that you can use to influence your sales targets, rather than a channel to direct conversions. This is especially true because social networking sites so thoroughly blend personal and professional interactions. It’s important that you never come off as a spambot fishing for leads. Instead, you should make a genuine effort to join conversations, add value to them, and in doing so present your brand in the best possible light. The ultimate goal is to ensure that each of your potential clients has laid eyes on your brand before you initiate first contact with them.

Looking for more inspiration on delivering compelling B2B social media content for your B2B marketing efforts? Read CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook: 24 Epic Ideas for Connecting with Your Customers.

Author: Allen Narcisse

Allen Narcisse is the COO and Co-Founder of Ebyline. Allen founded the company in Los Angeles in 2009, and since then has provided a platform connecting companies with freelancers to create exclusive, high-quality content. Follow Ebyline on Twitter.

Other posts by Allen Narcisse

  • Jenn Lytle

    I’d like to say thank you for writing this article, I was struggling to put into words HOW our marketing efforts were paying off without seeing the ROI on paper.

    • Allen Narcisse

      Hey Jenn, so glad this was useful for you. Explaining your value is all about choosing the right KPIs. Your business partner knows what they want, and as a marketer you know how to get them there. Its up to you to tell them what to track to make sure they reach their potential. Thanks for your feedback!

  • RM

    Fantastic article

  • http://www.shrmarketing.com/ Stan Robinson, Jr.

    Excellent synopsis of how B2B companies can use a combination of paid and free social media to directly and indirectly increase sales. Social media is an equally powerful tool for listening to what your industry, customers and competitors are talking about; it can provide valuable business intelligence.

    • Guest

      Great point Stan. Good conversation goes both ways. Brands definitely need to get their image out on social media, but playing blind won’t get you anywhere. Listening in on real conversations is vital to talk to the right people.

    • Allen Narcisse

      Great point Stan. Good conversation goes both ways. Brands definitely need to get their image out on social media, but playing blind won’t get you anywhere. Listening in on real conversations is vital to talk to the right people.

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    I have been waiting for this for a long time and what I need from it is very wonderful, thanks

  • Nasif Kazia

    Amazingly explained posts on how the B2B business establishments make use of both paid and free social media to promote their business and boost their sales. I guess it is getting imperative for B2B companies operating through an online B2B portal to promote their business through the gigantic and extremely resourceful social media channels and see their business reaching new horizons of success speedily…Thanks!!

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    Getting sales is very difficult job. But Colabo makes it simple. Track the traffic on website and convert them into Leads.

  • http://www.pimediaservices.com/ Henry Smith

    Showcasing yourself or your business online is really a tough job. Without help of social media channels, online marketing would have been a distant dream of us. Isn’t it so?

  • Prakash

    In reality how effective is social in really marketing B2B products? I for one do not still research on B2B products/solutions on social media as I would do for a consumer product