The Real Truth About B2B Marketing And The Social Media Platforms You Need

I’ve read a few articles about social media and B2B Marketing lately that have blown my mind. You won’t believe number three…OK, there is no number three. And this is not a listicle. However, I read an article recently that got me thinking as it raised some interesting points about social and B2B. In answer to the age-old question of which platform is the best one for B2B marketing? Like most complicated questions, the answer is going to be different for every company.

shutterstock_421498384It is unsatisfying, I know — but there is certainly no shortage of opinions on the matter. For example, that article I mentioned was called Facebook ranks ahead of Twitter and LinkedIn for B2B decision makers, and the title alone was enough to surprise me. It details the results of a study by United Kingdom PR agency Hotwire called The Changing Face of Influence, and there is a lot of interesting information there. The statistic that hooked me? “…when asked which one channel they’d turn to for information on a purchasing decision, 1 in 4 (24%) decision makers said Facebook would be their social channel of choice.”

Why Facebook over Twitter and LinkedIn, you may ask? “Because we use it more – our study reveals the average decision maker uses Facebook 18 days a month, compared to 13 for LinkedIn. Decision makers look to the channels they’re using as part of their daily routine – we don’t want to check whole new sources of information if we don’t have to.”

That actually kind of makes sense.

To be clear, nothing in the study showed me that they obviously differentiated between paid advertising and organic shares. And considering that the so-called “organic” articles you see on a LinkedIn feed are often populated by authors you are barely connected to, or shared by colleagues that are often several times removed from your personal network, it might be all that surprising that Facebook might be a better source of information for your search. Especially when, as the study pointed out, “…individuals are willing to consider relevant information regardless of the channel they find it on” and “…every organic post we see on social media comes from someone we believe is worth listening to.”

There are a few caveats to be aware of based on information in the report. One of them is the buying stage of the prospect. Why? Buyers may use social media to help create a short list of potential vendors, but struggle with it as a tool to help in the final stages of the decision making process. “Over a third of our survey respondents (37%) said they find it difficult to find relevant information around a vendor’s qualities and service when they are making their final decision to select one vendor over another.” To put it another way, “For IT decision makers, there’s a clear focus on using external sources of information as a source of research, rather than as an aid to decision making.”

Another caveat is that any firmographic or demographic breakdown of the prospects was missing from the report. It indicates that all 1000 buyers interviewed were “…marketing and IT decision makers from large organisations across various sectors in the US, UK, Germany, Spain, France, Australia and New Zealand…” but it does not define what a “large organization” is, making these results a little less interesting to most B2B marketers trying to sell to the Fortune 1000.

All that being said, I interpret the findings like this:

  • People generally visit Facebook more than they visit LinkedIn or Twitter
  • If it is something relevant to what they are working on, they will read it
  • If it is something shared by someone they trust, they are more likely to believe it.

Not exactly an earth-shaking declaration. But what are you going to do about it? And what about Instagram and Snapchat?

Social media experts like Gary Vaynerchuk say that Snapchat will be great for B2B! Well, as David Lee King said in his blog post of the same name, there is a Big Difference Between Your Social Media & Gary Vaynerchuk’s Social Media. As Mr. King stated in his article, “…his experience using Snapchat (or any other new social media tool) is a unique one that has more similarities to what a celebrity experiences than what a business or organization might experience…Gary has a large, loyal ‘tribe’ that will readily follow him to the new social media channel…Gary gets instant followers/feedback/engagement, and then thinks that ‘this new social media tool is HOT.’ So he ends up sharing quotes like the one above.”

This is so true.

So what is the best platform for B2B, and how can you be successful on any of these platforms? As I said before, it depends. But you need to follow these steps:

  1. Do the research into not only which platforms your buyers are spending the most time on, but also how they use those platforms in the context of how they work vs. how they play.
  2. Identify how the “top performing brands” on that platform are engaging with it, and understand what they are doing right. Also consider what the lesser brands are doing wrong.
  3. Focus your resources on developing a presence on the top 1-2 platforms your buyers are spending time on. Create a strategy to engage on those platforms based on how you can adapt or emulate what the “top performers” are doing.
  4. Accept the fact that most buyers (unless your research has discovered otherwise) are only looking to social media for high-level, introductory research into the solutions for their problems. It is more likely that they are looking for a solution to a problem than a vendor for a product.
  5. Understand that “building a presence” involves more than simply posting blog articles or white papers, and try to create an unbiased source of educational information to serve the needs of the buyer. Content that is shared by a trusted peer, colleague or friend (because it is helpful) will do more for your brand than a paid advertisement.
  6. Also understand that a paid advertisement might sometimes be the best way to get your helpful article shared by the right people. But never, ever waste paid social dollars on content that is not worth sharing.
  7. Measure your performance based on the specific platform, and learn from what you find. Don’t just track which leads came from social, track which leads came from which content on social, and which leads from those articles became customers.
  8. Optimize your platform presence based on the content that works for that platform, and understand that what works for your audience may vary from platform to platform.
  9. Cut bait and try something different if it doesn’t work. After a reasonable evaluation period, focus resources on the platforms that are creating opportunities and revenue — not followers and downloads.

The worst thing that a B2B marketer could do after reading the Hotwire study is to “double-down” on Facebook without a strategy, and the best strategy for Facebook (or any social media platform, as well as for any of your demand generation programs) is one based on truly understanding the buyer.

Author: Jason Stewart @jstewart_1 Vice President, Strategic Content for ANNUITAS