Just recently AOL published the results of an impressive study into what drives engagement with content in social media. This study encompassed 32,000 respondents and an analysis of 55,000 consumer interactions across eight different markets – a pretty generous sampling that gives the survey some real validity. If you are a content writer, take note!
But this is consumer social media, you may be thinking, what can B2B marketers learn from this?
Well, firstly, we are increasingly learning that buyers are humans too, and when they are on social channels such as Facebook or Twitter they, not surprisingly behave just like everyone else. Most visitors to Facebook and Twitter are there to relax, be entertained or to be sociable and approaches that incorporate these elements will get their attention. So if you are posting to social as part of your marketing, or using these channels to publicise your blog posts or content offerings, then this research is certainly relevant. Secondly, even if they are in professional mode – perhaps on LinkedIn or researching solutions, they will still have some of these motivations. After all, one of the commonest failings of a B2B content writer is to inspire and entertain.
There is also growing evidence that there is less of a difference between B2B and B2C marketing with an increasing socialisation of the buying process. More B2B buyers are turning to peer reviews, to social channels and to researching out of hours – often on personal mobile devices. Research has shown that three out of four B2B buyers and eight out of ten executive buyers use social to make purchasing decisions. In addition, buyers who use social are more influential, have larger budgets, and buy more frequently.
The new rallying cry is not B2C or B2B; it’s B2Human (or Person2Person), with an emphasis on personal engagement using marketing automation, customised messages and targeted content. You should consider developing Buyer Personas if you haven’t already done so.
So here’s my take on the eight motivations arising from the survey and what they mean for B2B social media engagement and content publishing.
1. Inspire: look for fresh ideas or try something new
When people are casually browsing on social, they are seeking to be inspired, so if you can post something inspirational relevant to your product or service, you are more likely to get their attention. When publishing content on your blog, or on LinkedIn, you will attract more engagement if your post is inspiring and helpful, rather than sales focused.
Think of new applications for your products or services, case studies with a positive outcome, happy customer profiles or perhaps ways the industry has moved forward – future plans and how your company is making a difference in the world (benefitting the environment, charitable works or other contribution to society). Do this with snappy yet educational copy and related yet original images – or even video.
2. Be in the know: stay updated or find relevant ideas
This motivation is easy to relate to B2B as it is in almost every B2B buyers’ interests to be well informed and educated before making a buying decision. There is no difference between B2B and B2C here. You need to make sure to publish plenty of content that is helpful to potential buyer’s research. Position yourself as a thought leader by talking about what’s in the news, summarise the latest thinking and how the wider environment is affecting the industry. The more informative and helpful you can be the better.
3. Find: seek answers or advice
Like the previous motivation, this is also easy to see from a B2B perspective. When searching for solutions to their challenges on social, ensure buyers can find your helpful content. Be ready and waiting for their questions and respond accordingly. Both Facebook and Twitter are becoming common channels for product issues and sales queries – monitoring them and responding promptly should now be an essential part of every company’s customer service and sales function whether selling to consumers or not. Make sure your product or service specifications are easy to find, use and understand.
4. Comfort: seek support or insight
This motivator is very social and is all about getting support from friends and family. From a B2B point of view, it could be about making sure you are supportive of your existing clients, who become your promoters on social by sharing their real experiences.
5. Connect: learn something new or be part of a community
There are two different elements here. Firstly, publishing educational content is a great way of reaching people. Think about what your target audience – or buyer personas challenges or points of pain are. Can you make their lives easier by helping them to understand a complex subject, for example? This is where eBooks, podcasts and email newsletters shine.
Consider webinars, how-to videos and introductory on-line seminars. For social, you can produce ‘bite-sized chunks’ of training or how-tos. And in the real world, you could offer training courses and seminars too.
Secondly, enabling customers or potential customers to meet each other and talk about their issues and situations – whether virtually or in the real world – is a useful role too. Provide the framework via forums, discussion groups, weekly on-line get together's via Facebook, Twitter or even Google Hangouts or physical meets.
6. Feel good: improve mood or feel relaxed
This is an interesting one, how could a B2B related post make someone feel good, improve their mood or relax them? If a buyer has more confidence that their decision is the right one, through finding your helpful content and gaining a more thorough understanding of their needs, then they will probably feel more empowered which in turn relaxes them.
Knowing that there are others that share their problems or their pain is reassuring – so sharing customer stories and case studies will help here. In a survey of B2B tech buyers by Eccolo Media, case studies and success stories were by far the most popular type of content, cited by 25% of buyers. (Followed by guides/white papers –16% each, podcasts/emails – 13% each, blogs/infographics – 12% each and videos/product brochures or spec sheets – 11% each.)
7. Entertain: look for an escape or a mental break
While a buyer is in ‘social’ mode on Facebook or Twitter, a content writer is probably more likely to catch their attention with a post that is entertaining rather than strictly business-like. On the one hand, you don’t want to post something inappropriate or unsafe, but this is a potential moment to let your hair down. Are there any customer experiences you can talk about that are entertaining or comedic? Is there a customer service story that is unusual or interesting? Can you think of a way to create some compelling content that features your product or service? It could even be incidental to the post. Even when the buyer is in ‘professional’ mode reading your blog, eBook or newsletter, try and make the content entertaining. Too much business content is dry or unappealing.
Remember that video is a great format for interesting posts – think about what content would work best as a short, entertaining video for Facebook or YouTube. (Don’t forget that Twitter and Instagram also support short videos).
8. Update socially: stay updated or take a mental break
This is a motivation that is social in nature, and it is hard to see how it could apply to B2B – or even have a marketing element at all. People go on social to talk to friends and catch up.
One approach to consider could be to create a social network for your customers, to share stories and help each other – as mentioned above (point 5) – this could then tap into this need to socially interact. Another might be to post about what the company or what its key individuals are up to – this helps personalise the company and allows buyers to ‘connect’ with the company in a social way. The mental break aspect of this motivator relates back to the entertaining and inspiring motivators above.
What have we learned?
If you’ve read this far, you’ll have seen some common themes throughout; the idea of sharing customer stories and case studies to let buyers know they are not alone in their pain and that they are part of a community (and that they are in safe hands if they are dealing with you). The need to develop the ability to answer customer questions and respond to sales queries in a timely manner via social channels. The idea of a customer and prospective buyer community. The confirmation that good, informative, helpful content is essential. The need to vary the content depending on the social channel, content type and to meet people’s different motivations. And perhaps most importantly, the idea that content should be positive and engaging at the very least – but ideally inspiring and entertaining – especially if you intend to share it via social media channels.