It’s easy for business-to-business (B2B) brands to dismiss social media as more of a consumer-facing marketing tactic. But according to “What Works Where” research, not only do companies benefit from B2B social media tactics, but it could be one of their most effective marketing channels.
In a survey of 1,150 B2B marketing specialists, this research from Omobono and Marketing Week found that 41% of marketers ranked social media as their most effective marketing channel — up from 27% just two years ago. In the same study, marketers said they are spending 12% of their digital budget on social media tactics, the fourth-highest tactic.
Still, some B2B marketers don’t understand the benefits social media has to offer.
Why B2B social media is important
It’s important to remember that behind B2B roles are a real people with real emotions and feelings and social needs. And humans often use social experiences as a key part of their decision-making processes. According to Nielsen, for example, more than 80% of consumers purchase a product based on recommendations from someone they know.
These buyers are asking themselves questions like “do I like this person? Do I trust them? Can I see myself working with them?” Humans want to know their partnerships are knowledgeable and trustworthy.
B2B companies are so accustomed to doing business in this way — building trust and knowledge before making a sale — that they can more easily translate those strategies into social media tactics than many consumer-focused brands.
B2B companies are also accustomed to buyer research and long sales cycles. A study conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC) found that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level or vice-president level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions. Considering social media is often where buyers begin their research into a company’s reputation as well, it’s easy to see how important it is to maintain these online platforms.
Benefits of B2B social media
Although it’s clear why incorporating B2B social media tactics is crucial, what isn’t always immediately apparent is how social media can advance your brand. Here are the ways social media can benefit your brand.
We’ve heard some version of this story time and time again: “We have a fantastic product that stands out from the competition. We have excellent customer service, willing to help and provide advice. The problem is no one knows who we are.”
Brand awareness is a huge issue for many B2B companies, and social media is one tactic that can help provide better visibility. With 72% of Americans using social media in some capacity, it’s an important digital platform for building a community of customers and prospects.
With search features such as hashtags, many social sites help users find conversations about industries, products or services they’re interested in. Connecting your brand with these important conversations helps your brand reach prospects who may not even be familiar with your brand.
Additionally, social media platforms provide detailed targeting options for sponsored content or ads, allowing brands to choose demographic information or user interests to ensure their campaigns are being seen by the right audiences.
Even if you don’t participate in paid campaigns to increase your audience size, simply posting on a regular basis helps keep brands top of mind with your followers and goes a long way toward helping increase brand awareness.
Strengthen a thought leadership position
Thought leadership is often underestimated for how valuable it can be to helping generate trust with buyers. LinkedIn/Edelman research found about half of B2B marketers believed their thought leadership would build trust in their companies, while more than 80% of buyers said thought leadership builds trust.
Social media can help provide an avenue for establishing a B2B brand as a thought leader, no matter what industry it’s in. If you’re already investing in thought leadership content, social media is the perfect place to distribute those assets to a wider audience and help prove your expertise.
Social media also helps you understand your audience better, allowing you to gain more insight into their pain points. By listening and understanding your audience needs, you can better inform your content strategy and help you develop content that meets your audience where they are.
A brand’s social media accounts are a critical part of the sales funnel and should be closely aligned with sales. Social media helps by:
- Identifying prospects,
- Positioning the product to appeal to prospects,
- Developing relationships with prospects and
- Lead nurturing.
By quickly identifying users who’ve shown interest in the types of products a company sells or the company’s industry, social media marketing essentially looks for users who are holding up their hands instead of trying to generate curiosity in those who aren’t interested.
Social media can help brands develop a position and messaging that will resonate with a specific target audience simply because it can selectively reach certain groups of users. This capability is one that’s often unavailable in traditional media.
As mentioned previously, social interactions can function to build trust between buyers and sellers. Communicating across social channels can help provide much-needed support, helping to bind the buyer and seller more closely. (More on this below.)
Additionally, the sales team can leverage social media as a tool for nurturing leads. Viewing social media profiles and learning about shared interests or major life events can help a salesperson better connect with a prospect.
If you want to learn more about aligning a sales team with social, check out this guide to using LinkedIn as a sales tool.
Deepen customer relationships
As you work to connect with both customers and potential customers, one of the best ways to deepen these relationships is to show the human side of your brand. Social media is one of the best tools for helping humanize your brand.
Through social media, B2B companies can show how they’re embracing their brand values. Make it easy for your followers to see how your brand is looking out for the best interests of both customers and employees.
Social media is also a great way for providing proof that your product or service does, indeed, really work. A survey from Trinity Mirror Solutions found that 58% of adults do not trust a brand until they see “real-world proof” that it is keeping its promises.
Social media’s two-way street is what differentiates it from traditional media. It gives your brand the opportunity to interact directly with customers and followers, while also giving them the opportunity to interact directly with your brand. Building engagement through social media will help deepen your relationships with your customers and prospects.
Getting started with B2B social media
With increased brand awareness, strengthened thought leadership, sales promotions and deepened customer relationships, it’s obvious why many B2B marketers name social media as their most effective marketing channel. Now it’s time to put this channel to work for you and your brand.
Whether you’d like some help with promoting an event, like this “Chef’s Challenge” campaign we helped implement with Antunes, or implementing a long-term social media strategy, we can help. Reach out at any time to find out how to get started and make the most of your social media.