One of the reasons we love social media is that it’s free. We can share and connect with others without a paywall. Marketers love social media because it’s a free way to find out exactly what our audiences are thinking and talking about. We use it to fuel our content production and overall strategy planning sessions.
B2B marketers have been using LinkedIn as their main social media platform, and have also branched out onto Twitter and Instagram as well. In fact, according to CMI’s latest B2B Benchmark Report, 94 percent of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute their content, with a whopping 92 percent using social media in general as part of their marketing strategies.
However the free ride B2B marketers have been getting with various social media platforms is coming to an end.
- Starting in early 2015, Facebook will be cracking down on “overly promotional” status updates from brands.
- Twitter is continually increasing the number of “promoted” categories they offer; what started with promoted tweets, has moved into promoted accounts, trends, and videos.
- Instagram has been moving forward slowly with their ad program, offering it to brands that make sense for them, for now. So while they’re mainly B2C brands, look to see them move to bigger enterprise brands in the future.
- LinkedIn has also been diversifying their ad offerings, moving from text-only ads into text and image, as well as video ads too.
This means getting organic results through social media is going to be increasingly more difficult for B2B brands. They’ll be competing with other brands that have paid for the privilege of position and reach, trying to cut through the clutter of paid ads to reach their own audiences. And that ad traffic will continue to increase, since Convertro/AOL Platforms’ research shows that paid ads on social networks have better conversion rates than organic content – a 25% increase for some of Convertro’s customers.
How can B2B marketers keep up?
There’s no doubt that this affects how B2B marketers plan their social media marketing going forward. Gone are the days when you could have one of your marketing interns schedule a number of messages to be published over a specific time period, or where you could co-opt one of your graphic designers to create an infographic for you once a quarter.
Getting a handle on paid social media is going to take some planning and a number of different resources.
- Include paid social media in your marketing budget. If there’s no money in the budget for it, paid social media will never get done. Find out how much campaigns cost on the various platforms you want to use and add it to the budget.
- Hire a social media team. Yes, you’re going to have to take the plunge now and hire social media experts whose sole focus is your social media campaigns. It’s no longer feasible to tack it on to another marketing employee’s task list. You need dedicated resources who know what they’re doing.
- Start analyzing your social media activities. We’re talking about low-level information that goes beyond the simple number of shares/likes/etc. You want to find out the level of engagement your audience has with your content, how visitors from different social platforms behave on your own website, or how your social media standing affects your SEO efforts. This will help you plan your strategy and know where to focus your efforts.
- Learn how to explain the value of social media to upper management. Especially in a B2B context, social media marketing can seem like a lost cause to upper management. This is where having analytics can be helpful. We all know C-suites likes numbers, and cutting to the heart of the matter, so your analytical data will help you do that. You’ll be able to explain where in the B2B sales cycle your social media messages are hitting your target audience, give examples of how prospect-to-lead and lead-to-customer conversion numbers are changing, and how you’re using it as an extension of existing marketing efforts.
- Keep everyone in the loop on your social media marketing efforts. It’s easy to think of social media marketers as “young people typing away on their smartphones all the time”, instead of serious marketers who are using all of their marketing knowledge and yes, personal social media experience, to help grow the B2B business. Produce regular updates and reports for upper management and the rest of the company to help dispell any myths.
For the 92 percent of B2B brands already using social media as part of your marketing efforts, congratulations! That’s an increase of approximately 5 percent from last year, and well over 30 percent higher than five years ago.
Let’s take a quick look at a B2C example to learn how this lesson can be applied to B2B. Castrol Moto, the motorcycle division of the international Castrol brand, Castrol experimented with both organic and paid social campaigns on Facebook in an effort to boost engagement with their brand in North America, as we learn here.
They created ads and promoted posts targeted by region, age, and interests. The results?
We can glean from this experiment how your reach and new Fan-Likes can soar nicely with the right kind of targeting. Any B2B firm should play with Facebook Ads and Post Boosts in order to learn what works for which audience.
Now it’s time to evolve along with the platforms themselves. Move from free content to paid content, from an add-on ad hoc task to a full-time social media team. Doing so early enough will put you ahead of your competitors and you’ll be blazing a trail for them to follow.
Photo via socialmediaelearning.co.uk
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