For the vast majority of people in the world, social media is an everyday part of their lives.
Here in the UK, 66% of the population are active on social media; in January 2018 that was 44 million people.
And, that figure is still rising, and is up 5% on the previous year.
We all know what a major part the big social apps such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and LinkedIn play in many people’s personal and private lives – the average time spent on social in January 2018 was nearly two hours a day.
But do they have any impact on B2B business buyers? And can they be used to grow a B2B business?
Is Social Media relevant to B2B?
There seems to be little doubt B2B marketers think it is relevant, with 83% of them using social media; making it the most common B2B marketing tactic.
Now that’s a US statistic, but here in the UK, 91% of content marketers use social media posts (excluding video).
And of those content marketers, nine out of ten were from businesses that operated in B2B.
The Millennial Factor
So most B2B marketers accept social is relevant – but are they right? Or is this just a gut feeling? Surely social only appeals to the younger buyer – there can’t be many of those?
And although 64% of senior level employees have the final say on purchases, 81% of non-senior staff have influence over purchasing decisions. As that research is over three years old, let’s look at a more recent study by Merit on millennials that showed that some 73% of 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies, with one-third reporting that they are the sole decision-maker for their department.
These digital natives prefer their information in short bursts – preferably visual – considering phone calls to be tedious and disruptive.
Surely Sales People are still the key?
Latest research shows that 70% of buyers fully define their needs on their own before even approaching or engaging with a seller. Meanwhile, 44% of potential buyers identify specific solutions before engaging with sales reps and 20% don’t contact sellers until they’re ready to commit to a deal. In a survey of 500 decision-makers, only 23% of buyers said they identify sales-people as a top three resource for solving their business problems.
Content is king – long live the king!
So being found during the research stage is absolutely crucial, and engaging the buyer before the purchase decision is vital to ensure you are considered for the purchase. We know that in today’s market, content marketing is the principal marketing method that is effective in attracting and converting buyers – and this relies heavily on social media for content distribution and content awareness.
How Social Media fits in
Here are just two areas where social media can play a significant role in growing your business:
- Awareness & Distribution
- Support & Advocacy
Sharing your content using social to raise awareness and increase distribution
The more good quality, relevant and useful content you have, the more likely it is that you will be found by buyers in the research phase when conducting searches.
But as well as search engines, social media and peers have a significant influence too. Publicising your content using social media and encouraging your followers to share will increase your presence and attract more prospects. Because sharing is such an effective way to increase awareness, you should concentrate on identifying and creating the kind of content your market is looking for.
Creating interesting, entertaining and/or useful social posts will grab attention and spread the word. Video is particularly powerful in this respect with humorous and entertaining clips shared the most.
Identifying and working with influencers is another powerful marketing tactic, and one which relies on an influencer’s social media to work. By providing either original content to influencers that is suitable for them to post on their social accounts or by posting great content that an influencer can then share, you can extend your marketing reach still further.
Creating community to provide support and engender advocacy
Building a community around your customers and prospects is a great way to support existing users of your products or services and demonstrate to any prospective buyers your future commitment to them, should they make the decision to buy.
Being helpful and answering questions not only helps in the pre-sales stage, but supporting your customers in this way creates loyalty from happy customers who are then likely to tell others – becoming unpaid advocates for your brand.
What could be more powerful than a glowing recommendation from an existing customer?
You can also use your community as a sounding board – you can find out what they want, what their concerns are, what problems they face and additionally, learn the ways that they are using your product or service to solve those problems.This in turn allows you to be more targeted and relevant when creating future marketing content.
Loyal customers with interesting stories can be the source of powerful case studies which are particularly effective at converting prospects.
Spot the buyer
As with any form of marketing, understating your potential buyer is the key to reaching them, creating the right content and engaging with them. With social, that also means finding where they are. There are a huge number of social channels available; you need to know which ones your buyers are engaged in.
Fortunately, there are only a handful that are truly relevant to B2B marketing, and head and shoulders over the rest is LinkedIn, with 97% of B2B marketers using that channel.
But Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram also have significant B2B usage too, so it’s important to find out which of those social channels will be effective when engaging your buyers.
Create content for your buyers - not for you
The overriding thrust of your B2B social media efforts should be to provide what your buyers want. Remember it’s about them – not about you. Find out what they want to know, hear and learn and provide it. Don’t preach to them about your business, your products and services or your people. (Although in the context of informing and educating, all of those topics have a role).
Whenever I talk about marketing – any aspect of marketing – I tell people to answer the one question that all prospects, buyers and customers are asking; “What’s in it for me?”
If you can provide relevant, useful, interesting and timely content to post or share on social media, you will answer that question and grow your business.