Social media marketing is potentially more transformative for B2B than for B2C.

What started as an experiment for marketing teams has increasingly become an integral part of marketing and sales strategy for B2C. Now B2B companies are increasingly using the popular social platforms as well.

Why? B2B marketing tends to rely more on reputation and word of mouth to attract new clients and build partnerships. 91% of B2B purchasers said that word of mouth is the most important influencer when it comes to making a decision. It makes sense to use the vast existing communities on social media that are already conveniently segmented to connect with other businesses.

Social media marketing for B2B versus B2C

Social media marketing is becoming a vague term to mean everything and nothing. It is a catch-all term that refers to a broad range of activities designed to gain traffic or attention on social media. While the strategies used by B2B and B2C are fundamentally similar, they differ in their tactics and which channels they emphasize.

B2B marketers emphasize thought leadership, client education and partnerships with other businesses in their use of social media and are more focused on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Slideshare. Sixty-four per cent of marketers selling to other businesses used social media to gain a reputation for thought leadership.

In contrast, B2C marketers predominantly use social media to connect with customers, improve brand awareness and research customer response to brands, focusing on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram. Sixty-five per cent of B2C marketers listed Facebook as number one choice in a survey from 2015.

Creating B2B social buzz

That isn’t to say that B2B marketers shouldn’t use social media to create a buzz to achieve their marketing goals. Creating buzz was the primary goal for consulting firm PwC’s #BallotBriefcase campaign, which won a Shorty award for the best in social media marketing. Using Snapchat, the campaign story followed the Oscar ballot briefcase as it raced around the country accompanied by celebrities, arriving just in time for the Oscar ceremonies.

They achieved each of their three goals: to reposition their brand to appeal to a younger talent demographic, to increase visibility of their activities around the Oscars and to reconnect with their employees (80% Millennials). Their potential impressions were increased 136x on Twitter. In the first two weeks their Snap story received 700 views, continued to grow, and received comments such as, “I’m so excited to hold the briefcase. Best day of my life.” Over 2,000 employees waited in line more than 45 minutes to hold the briefcase and have been tagging their friends and colleagues on multiple social media platforms.

The PwC #BallotBriefcase is truly a formidable example of how a word of mouth campaign can work for B2B marketing in unprecedented ways.

There are a few takeaways from the #BallotBriefcase that are applicable for any B2B social media marketing campaign.

  • Match the goal to the channel. Snapchat was a good fit for PwC’s marketing goals because the users fit their target demographic and the quick, real-time snap stories helped amplify the sense of urgency as they raced around the country with the briefcase.
  • Attract the right influencers. When Neal Patrick Stewart performed a magic trick with the briefcase on the Oscars, he kick started a buzz around the suitcase, which PwC took advantage of to create the campaign and engage him as one of the celebrities on the journey. His popularity with the target demographic, lighthearted approach and relevancy set the right tone for the rest of the campaign.
  • Monitor the campaign to maintain an appropriate and consistent tone. A member of PwC’s social media team accompanied the briefcase at all times to protect the reputation of the company. For many B2B companies, a social media campaign like #BallotBriefcase appears to be an unnecessary risk for a business, but this risk can be mitigated by planning for negative response and monitoring the message at all times.
  • Encourage employees to act as brand ambassadors. Activating employees was one of PwC’s goals for the campaign, but it was also one of the rewards that will continue to benefit the company’s image. Employee engagement won’t be as effective as a top-down order to post on social media, but rather needs to be activated in order to be authentic and effective in the long term.
  • Cross-promote the event or content. While the primary platform was Snapchat, PwC also promoted the campaign on other social media sites and on their website, making it a cross-channel event and expanding their reach to a broader audience. Even though two platforms, LinkedIn and Facebook, dominate social media for B2B, any social media campaign needs to take place across multiple channels to gain maximum exposure.
  • Remember B2B marketing is human to human. PwC created a personality for the briefcase that was both humorous and authentic. Since the briefcase was inanimate, it also allowed the social media team to speak more freely. Even though purchase decisions by businesses tend to be more rational than consumers’, people are still the ones driving those decisions. Cultivating a sense of authenticity through tone builds personal relationships by treating people like people.

Don’t miss out on conversations and opportunities

Most social media initiatives by B2Bs won’t focus on creating buzz, but having a presence on social media still plays a critical role in influencing potential customers before they engage you directly. A study by CEB and Google found that the average customer completed over half their research online, which includes social media, before engaging with a sales rep.

Post only quality content in social media

Social media tends to be more informal, however, it is still crucial to keep quality high for all content.

Look at the range of content and posts your organization is creating for social media. The CEB study with Google suggests some criteria to evaluate them: relevancy, professionalism, insight, clarity and newsworthiness. If your content doesn’t hold up to these standards, then it might be time to revisit the way you oversee your social media strategy.

It only takes a little time to spread the word

As little as six hours a week on social media is enough time to spread the word for marketers.

For companies that had spent two years on social media, 61% of B2B marketers reported they had gained new partnerships as a result. Eight-one per cent of marketers also said that six hours was also enough to increase traffic and to reduce marketing expenses.

Gather data on your social media engagements

It is no longer enough to gather data on social media engagement from shares, clicks and likes because now you need to track offline customer behavior. With the use of mobile devices on the rise, one of the types of engagement you cannot ignore are phone calls, which are expected to generate one trillion dollars in revenue in the next year. That means including a phone number and tracking the number of calls may be a crucial measurement of your success. Social media can also influence offline customer and employee behavior in other ways that the PwC campaign demonstrated so well and should be a part of the analysis.

Social media continues to rise in popularity—in 2016, it has an estimated 2.34 billion users and is projected to have 2.67 billion by 2018. Facebook is still the leader with only three per cent of marketers not planning to use it. For B2B marketers, LinkedIn looks to be the most important platform in the coming years with 80% planning to increase their usage.

As the social media users mature in a company and their numbers increase, social media will be further integrated into marketing strategy as one of the most cost effective strategies for B2B as well as B2C companies.

If risk-averse PwC can win a Shorty with the engaging and lighthearted #BallotBriefcase, what campaign will you launch to get you a social media marketing Oscar?

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Olga Zakharenkava

Olga Zakharenkava is passionate about marketing and excels at helping businesses choose the right technology to solve their challenges. She spent the past 15 years immersed in marketing, tech and leadership, building great products and teams in startups and established enterprises. At Telmetrics (www.telmetrics.com), Olga helps marketers interpret rich data from consumer phone interactions and optimize their advertising campaigns to convert more callers into satisfied customers. https://ca.linkedin.com/in/olgazakharenkava

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