As we are moving at a fast pace towards 2019 and preparing for topics like Messenger and permission-based marketing, chatbots, influencer marketing, live-streaming, video and augmented reality – and the rather dry but important matters like security and governance one subject that has caught my attention over the last few months is the future of social media for business-to-business (B2B) communications.
I’m not telling you anything new. What once was considered a trend has become the most popular and normal thing in our everyday life. And exactly because it is not a short-lived trend but a continuous development of marketing opportunities, it is even more important for companies to address social media for B2B.
Last year, 70 per cent of internet users also spent time on social networks, and this percentage will continue to increase. Social media used to be our private space in which we shared our holiday pictures and apprised our loved ones and friends of our wellbeing, whereas today there is also a lot of communication and interaction between companies and customers via Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, the five most relevant platforms. Social media for B2B is therefore inevitable, because now this is where it is often decided how users consume content and make their purchasing decisions.
In the meantime, social media for companies no longer simply serves the purpose of being present. It has also become an important platform for direct purchase. Furthermore, an unbeatable advantage remains: companies can communicate with a large number of readers at once via social networks, therefore achieving reach cost-efficiently, which is often challenging and costly for other channels.
The role of social media for B2B is growing, and with it the percentage of people surfing on social. More than 80 per cent use tablets and smartphones, but what is even more significant is that mobile users share almost twice as much content as desktop users. It is therefore essential to create appealing content for consumption on mobile devices, which can be easily shared.
But B2B leaders go beyond the consumerisation of B2B marketing, transforming their functions into digital and data-driven machines that engage customers and stimulate sales better than ever before. And it all starts with the new B2B buyer, one who does not expect to interact with a consultant until it is time to close a deal. Instead, these buyers rely on digital resources and social media. In addition, these new B2B buyers look for the same online and mobile experiences that they come across as consumers.
This obviously requires appropriate addressing of the target group. B2C content is emotional and direct, whereas B2B content is informative and fact-based. The reason for this: impulsive actions and short-term decisions are rather atypical in the B2B field, often with multiple decision makers involved, who need to be convinced by the product or service. A pure focus on emotional stimuli is therefore usually not effective. Instead, the main focus should be on the rational activation of prospects. Examples of drivers for rational activation can be case studies and best-practices, statistical material to support argumentation and evaluation of cost and benefit.
Research shows that business buyers consume content from multiple sources and that social
media, as a distribution channel, also plays an important role in three-quarters of B2B purchases.
As pointed out by Boston Consulting Group, during the purchase process, more than half of all B2B buyers view at least eight pieces of content, and more than 80 per cent view five to seven pieces. That’s when B2B marketers can take advantage of marketing innovations, including marketing automation, nurture marketing, predictive analytics, content automation and new approaches to account-based marketing to deliver personalization at scale.
Companies should tailor personalized types of content such as infographics, white papers, case studies, landing pages and posts to specific segments and industries, as well as localize that content by country or region. Preparing for your upcoming campaigns, you might also want to consider the following subjects:
- Visual appeal: On social, images – above all, moving images – have always been more attractive to the eye and the brain than plain text. No wonder Instagram is so popular and constantly evolving. Instagram pictures and videos can shed beautiful light on your brand and your professional environment.
- Livestreaming: Moving images are good. Moving live images are even better. You are showing that what you present is genuine. Give your followers, for example, interesting insights into your production processes, your offices or events, and with a look backstage you can form a positive and sympathetic brand perception. Digital and social channels can extend event participation to audiences outside the convention hall.
- Geosocial services: Location- based referral services such as Foursquare, Google My Business and Knowledge Panel are gaining more importance. Not just for the burger joint around the corner, but increasingly also for large companies in the banking, communications and IT industries.
- Automate social media campaigns: Social media marketing is only partially manual labor. The marketing team can use dedicated software, such as monitoring and social listening solutions, to track activities and conversations around your industry topics on social networks and blogs, or tools to analyze and optimize paid ad campaigns, and solutions to generate lead data, benchmark against competitors or measure your content’s performance.