When you are starting up a consumer business, there’s no shortage of great examples to follow for using social media to build awareness, reach new audiences, and even drive social commerce. In fact, seeing what social campaigns are creating the most buzz (and results) is as easy as checking out the latest Facebook Studio winners or Shorty Awards for best use of Twitter.
But what if you are selling goods to other businesses, or don’t fit the profile of the typical brand campaign? The good news is that a growing number of business-to-business (B2B) brands, service providers and marketers are also seeing successful results with social marketing and provide a roadmap for getting started. Consider:
* 56% of B2B marketers plan to increase their spending on social media in 2013. Sure, even more (70%) are increasing investments in their websites, but clearly social is a key part of the digital toolbox for B2B marketers, and like the world of retail, omni-channel is becoming the name of the game for B2B as well. See more stats on priorities here.
* B2B marketers are investing in content creation. The demand for rich media assets continues to grow (see my recent post on the topic here), with nearly half of content now coming from outside the marketing department or other employees according to Forrester.
* Social channels are becoming key content distribution channels. An amazing 74% of B2B marketers are using Twitter to distribute content, while 70% use Facebook, and 56% use YouTube according to last year’s CMI and MarketingProfs content marketing study.
* Social channels generate leads! According to HubSpot’s excellent State of Inbound Marketing study, 52% of marketers they surveyed (B2C and B2B) get leads from Facebook, 43% get them from LinkedIn, and 36% get them from their blog. Coupled with the opportunity to reach and engage influencers via social listening and outreach, the impact of social marketing (and sales) has never been stronger.
It Starts with a Playbook
B2B social marketing is less about discrete campaigns and requires more of a continuous marketing mindset. For these reasons, to build a sustainable program, marketers looking to bootstrap their B2B social marketing need to have a distinct B2B social marketing playbook, even if they look to consumer success stories for inspiration
For starters, what I’ve seen in my consulting is that this should include looking at how buyers, partners, influencers, and investors interact and consume content on various social channels, along with their reach and topics of interest. This will help isolate the most important targets and the best ways/places to engage them. Then, for each channel, an accompanying action plan should outline roles (e.g., social media manager, content contributor) and tasks (e.g., listening, promotion, outreach), along with the desired frequency of posts, metrics, and suggested tools.
Then B2B marketers need to take an iterative approach and remember to focus on:
1. Creating a different mix of content and offers versus their consumer counterparts, e.g., white papers and web features vs. multi-channel/mass media promotions and social contests.
2. Identifying connectors and communities which can amplify and validate key messages, along with syndication channels (earned and paid) that can provide additional reach.
3. Delivering engaging experiences and tying together social insights with Web and transactional data, as I discuss here.
4. Looking at ways to harness the power of big and small data to focus messages and offers, align with hot topics and themes, and even identify the most promising prospects and channel partners. A topic I recently discussed at SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW event (see post-session highlights here).
5. Emphasizing thought leadership and selling big ideas versus simply selling products and being an internal agency, as my colleague Robert Rose eloquently argues in his recent post.
Effective B2B social marketing leverages internal and external experts to create great content to feed your social profiles, and listening and engagement strategies to create sustainable, high-impact programs. Are you ready to take the leap?
Allen Bonde is a Partner and Principal Analyst at Digital Clarity Group, a co-founder and advisor to Offerpop, and a 3-time CMO. He loves helping early-stage ventures with their strategic positioning, social marketing, and channel development, and tweets at @abonde.