Social media marketing is essential for a successful B2B inbound marketing program — and it’s especially valuable for companies in complex industries whose buyers take significant time to research and consider before making a purchasing decision.
Social media posts count among the many pieces of content you need to create, but just as important, they also serve as distribution and promotional tools for your targeted, valuable blog articles and advanced content pieces that live on your company’s website. Your choices of specific social platforms, your profile and brand voice on each channel, and the content you choose to share all need to be informed by your targeted buyer personas.
B2B social media enables you to attract, engage, and delight prospects, and nurture them along the path of their buyer’s journeys. But its potential as a tool for business growth doesn’t stop there. Done right, social media tactics can help you achieve more than marketing objectives. Social platforms provide opportunities for sales, human resources, and whole teams to reach out, connect, and support closing sales, retaining customers, promoting your company culture, and recruiting your next new team members.
Inbound marketing is a growth-focused business methodology that encompasses more than content creation — it’s a holistic set of tools and processes that actually includes much more than marketing.
Along with social media strategy, a holistic inbound approach incorporates content, communication methods, and technologies including:
An inbound strategy is all about eliminating roadblocks between your prospects and you, to attract, engage, and delight the right people in the right places, at the right time, with exactly the information they need… demonstrating that you’re just the trusted partner they’re looking for. Your company’s presence on social media platforms helps create new opportunities to make that happen.
Watch the video to learn how social media fits into an inbound program!
All the elements of an inbound program, including social media, work together to support being found by quality prospects using tactics that include:
- Targeting specific audiences
- Distributing and promoting content
- Boosting website traffic
- Improving SEO
- Generating and nurturing leads
- Cultivating relationships
Social media has evolved from a handful of platforms people used for casual communication to a powerful and complex online landscape that allows for much more targeted, personal, and intimate conversation. As users and platforms have grown more sophisticated, their expectations for B2B brands — and their social media profiles and presence — have changed, too.
Social media audiences expect two-way communication. Your social pages are much more than online bulletin boards or walls where you post announcements without any sort of monitoring or follow-up. The whole idea behind social media is connection and conversation, so expect to take steps to not only spark an online dialogue, but also participate in it.
Attracting, engaging, and delighting on social media means making it easy for target audiences to find, understand, and appreciate your brand presence, the content you promote and distribute, and the communities or groups you participate in.
So, go ahead:
At the same time, be prepared to use your social media presence as a tool for listening to prospects and customers, competitors, vendors, partners, prospective employees, and more. No other communication tactic gives you the same potential for direct, immediate interaction that social media can deliver.
The unscripted and public nature of social media interaction demands attention, monitoring, and responsiveness. So you’ll need to be smart about your commitments. You don’t need to be on all platforms — just the ones where your target audiences are most active and likely to engage with you.
What about paid advertising on social media?
Paid social media ads can be a highly effective, precision-targeted tool for boosting traffic, improving SEO, testing content, attracting job candidates, and much more.
Because pay-per-click social ads are such a distinctive and specific tactic, we recommend you take a deep dive into them with our Inbound Marketer’s Guide to Paid Media. You’ll come out much more aware of your options, as well as some of the best use cases for social media PPC campaigns.
Once you’ve recognized the importance of including social media in your inbound program, your work can begin. The first step? Deciding where your B2B brand needs to be, in terms of platforms.
Global participation is still on the rise, with current counts suggesting nearly 4 billion users worldwide (now more than half of all humans), with the average user having between 8 and 9 accounts across social networks. And how many social media platforms are there? At least hundreds, including niche online communities and geographic-specific sites.
The short answer: the sites where your target audiences can be found.
The longer answer: You’ll likely want to create pages and profiles on more than one platform, and you should expect to do some work to customize the experience across channels. The most commonly used sites for B2B companies include:
That doesn’t mean you need a presence on all of them; nor does it mean you’re limited to only these choices. Many different companies capture value by participating on sites like Reddit, Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok, and more.
Use research tools like Sparktoro to determine platforms that make the most sense for your business to most effectively reach your best prospects and job candidates. It’s important to narrow down your list. Having a presence on all may not only be unnecessary; it could also dilute your efforts — and your effectiveness.
Your decision should be driven by your customer and prospect knowledge: Who are they, where do they go online, and whom do they ask for recommendations and input? Does your presence on a selected social site create opportunities for your company to have authentic interactions with prospects, customers, and potential employees? Can you identify places and occasions on these platforms when it’s appropriate to share helpful, valuable content with those audiences, and spark conversations with and among them?
You’ll likely select at least two social platforms for company participation, and set up company pages or accounts to start.
A few basic tips to get going, if you haven’t already — and if you have, go through the list to make sure you haven’t missed important details:
So, you’ve done your research, evaluated the opportunities, selected your social platforms, and designated team members who’ll post. No matter which sites you’ve chosen, ongoing, consistent effort is the key to getting results.
One important key to successfully incorporating social media into your B2B inbound program is variety. Topics, content types, themes, and tones can all vary. Think about the content your company might post in some of the following circumstances:
Social content might include simple text posts, links to other social media sites, website links, images, videos, GIFs, and more, and they should be selected for how well they convey the message.
Social media trends are constantly evolving along with site features, social and cultural change, and user expectations. So yes, it’s a moving target, and it takes work and commitment to consistently get it right. Below are some tips for the most popular B2B social media platforms. In addition, we recommend bookmarking this always-up-to-date social media image size guide from Sprout Social to put your best visual foot forward.
LinkedIn is by far the most popular social networking site for businesses and professionals, and 2020-21 saw a surge in users and activity on the platform. Companies and individuals tap into LinkedIn for a variety of uses, including:
Is Facebook right for your business? These days, the short answer is probably, yes.
With 69% of Americans using the platform and 73% of U.S. adults accessing it daily, Facebook is still the biggest game in town. If you know your target audiences use it, then it’s good sense to make sure they can find you there.
A few tips for developing a sustainable company presence on Facebook:
Twitter is a fast-moving online venue that businesses and individuals use to connect, inform, observe, entertain, and more. It offers useful opportunities for identifying and connecting with thought leaders and influencers in industry niches, or around specific topics that may relate to your business.
You can identify and follow thought leaders, influencers, newsmakers and more, and identify opportunities to add your own insights to the conversation.
Don’t forget, you can start the conversation, too. Think about some of the most frequently asked questions your business gets. How many of those could you answer in a tweet or a live-tweet conversation? Go ahead, show off your expertise, and solidify your position as a thought leader in your industry (and maybe beyond). Consider live Tweeting from events like seminars, trade shows, and conferences — and be sure to use event hashtags when you do.
Important tips to remember when using Twitter:
Instagram is a uniquely visually-driven social space that might make it easy to overlook. But consider the fact that inbound marketing for B2B is about attracting, engaging, and delighting your audiences — and then remember that audiences are made up of people.
Those people are ready to respond to your content, especially if it’s visually arresting and designed to tell your company story in a human way. Instagram makes a great environment for video, graphics, and images.
Speaking of humans, Instagram presents a terrific opportunity to showcase your company’s unique culture. That’s useful for human resources and employee recruiting, employee engagement, community relations, and more.
Social selling was important before, but 2020-21 catapulted social networks to the forefront of prospecting, relationship building, and sales interactions.
Social selling is the process of using social media as a tool for establishing, developing and nurturing relationships as part of the sales process.
It has a particularly valuable place in B2B marketing and sales, and especially incorporated into an inbound program. That’s because the longer, highly-considered buyer’s journey of most complex B2B industrial companies’ customers typically involves a lot of research, and much of that research is performed online.
On social networks, especially LinkedIn, individuals ask for opinions, advice, experience, referrals, and other input to help inform their purchasing decisions. And that’s where your sales team’s social media work comes in.
Key to continuous improvement of any tactical plan, including social media, is performance measurement. And social platforms offer a wide range of data to measure, including:
But not all metrics are useful; some are just noisy vanity metrics that don’t offer valuable, actionable insights. Do likes correlate with leads? What’s really important for you to know, and what should you do with the data?
Just fill out the form to send yourself a handy recap email.