Facebook: the one place you can find pictures of kittens posted by your sister, engagement announcements from your high school friends, and Buzzfeed articles posted by your grandma. Nearly everyone spends their free time on Facebook, including contacts who probably work at companies you'd like to earn business from. But how can you reach them on a platform that has such mass appeal?
Since nearly half of the 3 billion monthly Internet users are on Facebook, it'd seem like the ideal marketing channel for any company, right? Often, B2B marketers pause when they see a channel with such mass appeal. Sure, Facebook has contacts that buy and sell business-to-business, but the platform itself seems far too personal and friend-oriented for real business interactions, right? Afterall, that's what LinkedIn is for: business-to-business, career types that love networking.
The truth is Facebook's power is too big to ignore for most companies, including many B2B brands. The platform's reach is huge; its targeted advertising capabilities immense; and, the underlying fact remains, gathering leads is far more personal than most "professionals" think.
It's just not a marketing channel a company should lighly neglect. Keep in mind, however, that even though all of your prospects are probably using Facebook, they're not necessarily looking to connect in a B2B way on the platform.
B2B Facebook Marketing Has Three Component Steps
- Find your B2B prospects on Facebook
- Post offers linking back to your website
- Once they're at your website, ensure your website visitors convert
Sound simple enough? Well, it’s not.
Today, we'll focus on only the first step. If you're B2B marketer, finding your prospects on Facebook can be a daunting task. In an ideal world, they'll find you – but it's not always that easy. No business wants to be seen actively pursuing individual leads on social media for fear of appearing desperate or downright annoying to the very people being pursued. Rather, you need to build an audience that appreciates and shares the content you produce. Is it easier said than done? Yes, but it's worth it.
Unlike LinkedIn or Twitter, industry connections play a very small role in building an audience on Facebook. Business acquaintances will rarely friend each other, and quite honestly, they're not going to start anytime soon. A prospect may be interested in some electrical equipment manufacturing, but that doesn’t mean they’ll start friending the head of sales of a manufacturing company on Facebook. It's a unique, personal culture, and you have to adapt your marketing strategy to connect effectively.
B2B Strategy on Facebook Begins with the Company Page—Not Personal Friending
Rather than promoting content through your personal accounts (a doomed-to-fail tactic), focus on creating the strongest possible company page. While your prospects may not rush to friend your staff, if they are interested in your company, they may find you on Facebook and give you a “like.”
A “like” gives your content a place in your prospect's News Feed, allowing you promote your business and services to your heart's desire. By "liking" your company, prospects have not only expressed interest in becoming a future customer, but they've also opted into seeing your content and nurturing themselves for a later sale. Pretty sweet, right?
While it’s great that they can now see your content, you still have pretty steep competition for their attention.
One of the reasons that Facebook is so popular is that it presents their users with a never-ending stream of content generated by the user’s friends, family, and interests. Everything from their cousin's baby photos to whatever LeBron James is up to these days. It's all pretty interesting for the user but it’s quite a bit of content to compete with for your prospect’s attention.
Thankfully, Facebook's greatest strength is that, as a platform, it's built on people's desire to consume content. Especially for business people, Facebook is a content channel that they'll only consume when they have time to give and actually read. When your prospects take a quick break at work or are looking for something to do before brunch on a lazy Sunday, they'll be scrolling through their Facebook News Feed—a valuable reason to publish eye-catching content not only on Facebook, but other platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter as well.
Content that Stands Out
Once you've received the all important "like" you need to stand out in your prospect's News Feed. There are literally thousands of other posts for your prospects to give their time and attention to; what makes yours special and worth it?
Every time you post on Facebook (which should be about 2 times per day according to Fast Company), make sure the content is interesting and engaging. Always make sure the post actually benefits your business prospects. Humans are visual creatures, so make sure your post has an interesting image. Try to surprise your prospects with something that catches their eye and makes them stop and think. Your link, image, and caption all need to work together to get your prospects off of Facebook and on to your site.
A few common mistakes marketers often make on Facebook
posts without pictures
promotional posts that don't benefit your audience
posting too frequently (which leads to "unlikes")
posting at the same time every day (makes your content predictable and limits potential audience)
posts are too long (tl;dr) — if you don't get this, click the link.
There's no end to the "Facebook Marketing Best Practices" posts we could write but, at the end of the day, it all comes down to understanding your prospects' behaviors and how they want to be sold to. If you can give them the best buyer's experience, you'll have their sale.
Consider Paid Advertising (gasp!)
Ok, ok – before you freak out about an inbound marketing agency recommending paid advertising, allow me just a moment to make my case.
Few Facebook users are actively searching Facebook for business opporitunities. If you want to engage a number of prospects, promoted content can unobtrusively place your helpful posts in their stream of content.
While it is paid advertising, Facebook advertising is actually worth your time (and money) because it targets only the prospects that would be actually interested in your company. To focus your advertising, Facebook gives you three tools to target your audience with unparalleled precision.
- You can input your personas' interests so your promoted posts are matched with those interested
- Input lists of actual people you know have interest in your company and promote posts directly to them
- Use "Look-a-Like audiences" to promote posts to prospects who are similar to the people you've targeted in the past
All these tools make advertising actually work within your ongoing inbound campaigns. As long as you have a detailed understanding of your prospect, paid advertising with Facebook can drastically increase your audience while keeping it focused on those actually interested in your service. For more information on Facebook advertising and how you should budget for it, see Jon Loomer's article "How Much Should You Budget for Facebook Ads."
Putting It All Together
Your prospects are on Facebook, but reaching them can be difficult. The best Facebook campaigns pair high quality content with a diverse distribution system centered around your personas. Make sure your posts are interesting and helpful to the audience you're trying to reach. And if your audience is smaller than you would like, consider allocating a bit of your budget for promoted posts to expand your audience.
If you're already producing high quality content, Facebook marketing shouldn't take more than 15 to 20 minutes of your day. Promote your content a couple of times a day, respond to any comments you recieve, manage your advertising efforts, and that's about it. Make sure your content and personas are on point and Facebook marketing is easy.
With a network of 1.35 billion users, you're sure to find your prospects on Facebook. You just have to make sure they find you.