With 64% of the UK’s population of over 65 million active on social media – spending an average of 108 minutes a day on one or more social networks – you can’t ignore social as an essential way to connect with people and businesses.
But which network should you be using for B2B marketing? And are some better than others for specific campaigns? How do you choose?
The largest social network, Facebook has around 1.94 billion users. A quarter of the world's population now uses Facebook every month. So, you can play the numbers game; if your buyers are on any social media platform, the odds are it will be Facebook.
Given its personal nature, posts with a human touch work best – posts that entertain or inspire. Curated content also works well as Facebook has a very high rate of sharing.
Creating a presence for your business through a business page is easy and there are good tools for managing the page and analysing the results. You can even create a Call To Action (CTA) directly on the page’s cover.
If you are a HubSpot user, you can link in your Facebook lead generation ads for greater integration with your B2B marketing programme.
- It’s the best advertising platform for generating leads as you can create highly targeted ads. You can select industries, companies and even job titles. Such focussed ad targeting makes Facebook adverts cost efficient and effective.
- Content is easily shared on Facebook, so if you create an engaging post, it is more likely to be shared on Facebook than almost any other social network. In fact, Facebook posts are shared ten times more than tweets on Twitter and 37 times more than LinkedIn posts.
- Using video on Facebook also yields good results. It’s a great platform for this with both pre-recorded videos and live streaming proving very effective.
- Relatively easy to set up a presence on Facebook via a company page.
- Reaches a high proportion of mobile users.
- You can share a range of different types of content on Facebook, along with promotions, competitions and more – making it suitable for almost any message or marketing technique.
- Organic reach has been throttled by Facebook over the past few years – it is currently anywhere between 6.5 % or as low as 2%, which could mean that a post from a page with 5,000 likes would only be published to 100 people. (Who may, or may not, actually see it).
- Users on Facebook are predominately consumers – so great for B2C marketers, but not so good for B2B.
- It can be difficult for a post to make an impact amongst the sheer volume of traffic in a person’s feed. Due to its popularity amongst consumer brands, it’s the most competitive social network.
- Low effectiveness for B2B. In a survey of B2B marketing professionals by Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs only 30% rated their Facebook activity as effective. (versus 66% for LinkedIn).
- Conversion rates are low for Facebook leads.
Over 6,000 tweets are posted every second by a total of 328 million active users. Twitter has recently announced plans to broadcast video 24 hours a day, and have re-positioned themselves as a news and content network, setting up partnerships with content providers.
As users see a constant stream of tweets, it is ideally suited to short, instant, topical messages such as news or announcements. It also has a messaging aspect – making it good for engagement and lead nurturing.
- Twitter is an open, public platform, and as such, it’s ideal for monitoring mentions of a brand or topic. It can be used for business intelligence or for searching for leads.
- It’s a good channel for one-to-one engagement, allowing for mentions, replies and conversations.
- Twitter is also ideal for lead nurturing – you can use it to stay in touch with leads and for customer support.
- Tweets work well to promote content on other platforms and for driving traffic to your website.
- It is easy to share links to other people’s content and to retweet posts.
- It allows for real-time delivery of messages – invaluable for a developing situation or for covering a live event.
- Twitter is very global in reach – 79% of users are outside the US.
- There are various software tools available such as HootSuite and HubSpot which allow posting to be automated easily.
- Limited capabilities – the 140 character limit means that only simple messages can be posted – generally these are links to longer content elsewhere.
- Tweets are very ephemeral – they are instantly lost in the stream. As people spend on average only a minute on Twitter a day, the chances of them actually seeing any individual tweet are very low.
- Establishing a presence on Twitter can take time – building followers and making an impact could take months.
- Because of the disposable nature of tweets, it needs constant attention. Regular tweeting requires a lot of time and content.
- Advertising is not as welcome in people’s streams as on Facebook – it’s generally seen as spam.
It’s fast becoming an important content publishing platform – especially for B2B.
- LinkedIn is the highest rated platform for B2B effectiveness.
- It’s user base is older, and more professional than other social networks.
- You can potentially reach a high level of engagement with your target audience by joining and participating in groups.
- You can gain direct contact with potential leads through its messaging and InMail features.
- You can connect with people on LinkedIn after meeting them – allow you to nurture your leads on the platform.
- Creating company pages and maintaining them, helps with your SEO and they are listed in Google.
- Publishing content, answering questions and participating intelligently in groups can help establish authority.
- LinkedIn is the only social media network to prioritise long form content.
- Users are on LinkedIn less often than other networks such as Facebook, and so posts may not get seen by your target audience.
- In addition, a user’s stream is very busy with a lot of ‘spammy’ posts – it can be difficult to get your post noticed amongst the noise.
- It can be expensive to advertise on LinkedIn
- It’s not suitable for direct selling, which goes against the business-like, professional culture of the platform.
Google’s rival to Facebook has a fraction of its users with 375 million active users on Google+.
Launched by the search giant in 2011, Google+ provides an alternative to Facebook. It allows a similar level of posting and sharing, but has a few unique features, such as circles, which allow you to categorise your contacts in different ways, so you can then choose which categories to publish content to. While it enjoys moderate success amongst businesses, it has yet to catch on as a network for private users.
Although Google+ claims a user base of 2.5 billion, over 90% have never made a single post public. This is because every Gmail user is automatically assigned an account upon registration whether they want it or not.
Having a business page on Google+ is, perhaps not surprisingly, good for your SEO. Its business take up is biased towards tech or design businesses – so if you are targeting those companies it becomes a more worthwhile proposition.
- A Google+ business page can help your SEO.
- Hangouts and other features allow for some good communication options.
- Useful if you are targeting tech or design businesses.
- Not widely used, with few active users.
- Those users spend very little time on the platform.
- You can’t run competitions or promotions.
- Lowest rated platform for B2B effectiveness.
Having recently added 60 second videos to its image sharing options, Instagram is currently the fastest growing network with around 600 million active users – 14.3 million in the UK. It’s owned by Facebook.
- Popular with a younger audience who are very active on the platform.
- It’s a great option if you have lots of visual content or short videos.
- There’s a very high level of engagement with brands – 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter.
- Great for visual branding.
- Images only – so not so good if you have very little visual content.
- Limited marketing opportunities.
- Not many business users or professional buyers on the platform.
- Needs a good, carefully thought out strategy.
- Cannot be managed or automated easily.
The digital scrapboarding site Pinterest has 150 million active users. Like Instagram, it’s great if your product or service has a strong visual element, or you can tie in great photography or infographics.
- Fast and easy to share content.
- Doesn’t need constant attention – you can leave a long time between posts with, generally speaking, no ill effects.
- Generates direct sales for suitable businesses – especially retail.
- Drives traffic to your website.
- Has a high level of engagement.
- High post longevity – once pinned, pins remain effective for quite a while, and they are always accessible to searches. Pins can still collect repins months or even years after posting.
- Images and videos only.
- Limited demographic – majority of users are female. Interestingly, the users have become younger over the past few years with 50% now in the 18-29 age range.
- Most users are consumers – so again another platform that is great for B2C – but slim pickings for B2B.
- The way Pinterest works by linking an image to an image on a web page – means that you need high quality images – photos or infographics – hosted somewhere else, preferably on a landing page.
With 1.3 billion users watching 5 billion videos a day, YouTube is a significant social network and the number one network with the younger audience. Despite that, it has a broadly spread demographic with around half the users age 35 or over.
- It’s the best platform for how to or explainer videos.
- You can host videos on YouTube and then share or embed them elsewhere – thus getting the best of both worlds.
- Advertising on YouTube is relatively cheap.
- You can create your own branded channels for content.
- Videos show up in search.
- Creating video content is resource intensive and requires a good deal of time and creativity.
- It’s famous for its negative audience and the generally dumb or trolling comments on videos.
- There is little in the way of marketing you can do outside of the videos themselves.
Your best option?
So what social media network should you use? Well looking at these pros and cons should help you decide, but don’t forget there are other factors that are just as important:
Look at where your audience is
It’s no good picking Facebook as your marketing channel because of its massive popularity and creating targeted ads if your buyers simply aren’t on the platform. So always ascertain which social media platforms your buyer personas are using.
Look at what you want to say
The message may make a difference to your choice of channel – a long complex message won’t work on Twitter for example – for long form content LinkedIn would be a better match.
What are your resources?
Some networks require a lot more work and a higher commitment of time and resources than others – so bear this in mind when formulating your social marketing plans.
Personal vs Professional mindset
Research carried out by TNS for LinkedIn has shown that people are in different mindsets when they use different forms of social media. This is really important when considering which social media network to use and what to post. The research showed that when users are on a personal network like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, they have a different mindset and different drivers than when they are on a professional network like LinkedIn.
The drivers for using a social network are:
- Keeping in touch
- Being entertained
- Killing time
- Sharing content
- Maintaining a professional identity
- Making useful contacts
- Searching for opportunities
- Staying in touch
- Keeping up to date for career
The bottom line is that personal networks are about spending time – users are in a casual frame of mind, often just passing the time; whereas professional networks are about investing time – users are investing time to improve themselves and are in a purposeful mindset.
More generally, on personal networks users are expecting to be entertained, whereas on professional networks they are expecting to learn something.
Plan your content and strategy carefully around these two mindsets depending on which social media channel you are utilising.
Social Media can be a very effective way to carry out B2B marketing – you just have to have the right content on the right channel at the right time, commit to a programme of engagement and utilise your chosen channel or channels’ strengths.