It’s funny how outdated conventional wisdom has a way of sticking around.
For years, the marketing world believed that social media marketing only worked for B2C and that it wasn’t nearly as effective in the B2B marketplace. I’m still asked about it all the time at conferences — and in some corners of the internet, the idea is still regularly debated.
But the truth is, among B2B experts, there is no real debate about it. In fact, I’ll answer the question you came for upfront.
Does Social Media Work for B2B?
Yes. Of course it does.
That’s why 89% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn for lead generation. It’s also why 83% of them use social advertising, according to a Content Marketing Institute report that found the practice was second only to search engines in success.
The pervasiveness of this question shows there’s still a lot of confusion about how and why social media marketing works for B2B. In this post, I’ll explain both and put to rest once and for all any doubts about social media marketing’s efficacy. I’ll also detail how social media drives sales and highlight the best practices and limitations of each social media platform.
Why It Works: Because Social Media Is Where Your Customers Are
Think about all the times you’ve searched for a business’s Facebook page before you thought to search for their website. Brands that aren’t on social media are invisible, and brands that aren’t active on social media look stagnant.
The most important aspect of marketing for any brand is to meet its customers where they are. Social media is now where people engage the most: Facebook and Instagram users log on more than six times per day, on average. Social platforms aren’t just where people build contacts; they’re where they find industry news and form impressions about brands and businesses. And, increasingly, it’s where they begin the journey of shopping for services.
A survey by LinkedIn found that 76% of buyers are open to having sales conversations on social media. And other surveys show they’re most likely to have those conversations with sales reps they see as thought leaders in their industry. One formative study found that 84% of C-level/vice president executives use social media to support their purchase decisions.
The best part? Consumers who follow you on social media are the most likely to buy from you. Nine out of 10 people say they buy from companies they follow on social platforms. And they’re not just more likely to buy from you — they may be more likely to spend more, too. A 2020 study showed that 75% of people spent more on brands they follow.
Social Drives Traffic to Your Website
One reason companies sometimes question the efficacy of social media marketing is the buyer’s journey for many B2B products can be a long one. Social media is just one early stop in that journey, and it doesn’t always yield the fast conversions that every company longs for.
But the slow-and-steady nature of social media marketing is what makes it so effective. That’s because many B2B products and services are complex. They take time to explain and demonstrate; some can’t be fully explained in a simple advertisement.
Social media can provide the repeated exposure that companies need to explain what they do. It fosters brand awareness and can help drive traffic to your website. From there. consumers can learn more about your services and products and — if you’ve captured their interest — connect with your sales force.
Social Media Marketing Does What Ads Can’t
At this point, some of you are wondering, “Wait, can’t paid ads do the same thing?”
Yes and no. Ads can also drive website traffic. But customers have a much more pleasant experience with B2B content than they do with ads. 74% of users say they see too many ads on social media, according to Survey Monkey, and 63% complain that they only see the same few things advertised repeatedly (a sign of both ad fatigue and that users may not be noticing many ads).
Good B2B content, on the other hand, can be informative and entertaining. Because it feels less like a traditional ad, prospects are less likely to be on guard when they’re exposed to it, leading them to form more positive impressions of the company behind it.
What kind of content works best? Insightful blog posts, articles and infographics that speak to customers’ most pressing needs (such as how to navigate changing trends, remove pain points, build their reputation and bolster their bottom line) are always in demand.
And because this content is useful and welcome, it can be shared far more widely than a traditional sales brochure ever could. (When have you ever been moved to excitedly share a company’s brochure with your 200 closest friends?)
Social Media Is an Invaluable PR Tool
Here’s another huge perk of social media that some companies overlook: It lets you amplify your own PR. When your company gets covered in the news media or in a trade publication — or when your employee appears on a prestigious podcast — social media outlets offer platforms for sharing that coverage.
These are prime opportunities to demonstrate your credibility in your industry, which enhances your reputation and builds trust with your consumers.
Social Media Promotes Sales
The reputational benefits of social media are clear. What’s less clear to some companies is precisely how social media feeds sales. For your sales team, social media helps in three primary ways:
1. Identifying prospects. Anybody in sales knows that one of the most cumbersome steps is identifying prospective customers. It’s time-consuming and expensive, and if you focus your efforts on the wrong targets, you’ve wasted a lot of effort.
But on social media, your prospects often identify themselves. By following your company and engaging with your content, social media users telegraph their interest in your products and services, providing your sales force with a strong indication of their willingness to buy. It sure beats cold calls or scouring company databases looking for potential leads.
2. Positioning. This might be one of the most overlooked benefits of social media. It doesn’t just give customers a chance to know you. It also gives you a chance to know them. Because social media marketing reaches such targeted audiences (something that traditional media usually can’t do), it helps companies and sales teams stay in the loop with their industry and buyers.
This results in better-honed pitches that resonate with target consumers. When your company is better connected to your industry, your positioning becomes more nimble, responsive and effective.
3. Fostering and maintaining relationships. Social media provides your target customers endless opportunities to engage with and develop a relationship with your brand, and each of those communications links you closer with your buyer. Unlike traditional advertising, it offers a two-way channel: You can alert your customers to new services, for instance.
But they can also reach out and ask you questions as well. Increasingly, social media has started to replace traditional customer service. Many customers will reach out to brands on Twitter instead of sending an email. They expect a human response, and you should give them one. Don’t look at these interactions as obligations. Each is an opportunity to put yourself in a prospect’s good graces.
Not All Platforms Are Created Equal
One of the most common questions about social media marketing is, which platforms should businesses be using?
Customarily, in articles such as this one, I’m supposed to waffle a little and explain that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, and each platform has its advantages and disadvantages.
Technically, that’s true. But there’s one platform that towers above them all for B2B marketing: LinkedIn. With more than 810 million users, it’s the channel prospects are most likely to turn to for industry news, insights and thought leadership articles. It’s four times more likely than any other social channel to drive traffic to a business’s website.
That’s why 97% of B2B marketers share content marketing on LinkedIn: No platform reaches a captive audience more effectively. The best practice is for businesses to post at least 15-20 times a month on the site. That may sound like a big commitment, but it’s worth it to stay in prospects’ feeds and on their minds.
That’s not to say other networks aren’t worthwhile, too. Here’s how to make the most of other services.
Facebook. Two things can be true: Yes, your company still needs a Facebook presence, and no, Facebook isn’t the miracle worker it used to be. Facebook’s organic reach has declined steadily for businesses over the years, to the point where their posts are unlikely to be seen by the vast majority of their followers unless they’re boosted or promoted.
But Facebook is still by far the world’s most-used social media platform, with more than 1.9 billion active users. You’d be foolish not to take advantage of it. Use the site to establish brand awareness and share industry insights and product news. To maximize unpaid reach, take advantage of video options such as Facebook Watch and Facebook Live.
Twitter. Although Twitter’s endless scroll can seem chaotic, the site offers some of the best opportunities to engage one-on-one with potential buyers. No site better rewards the conventional wisdom that a brand’s voice should sound authentic and human: Users want to feel like they’re communicating with real people, not robots.
Each personalized interaction you have with users helps cement their loyalty. Increasingly, Twitter is also seen as a customer service arm of a company, so if a user tweets or direct messages you, make sure you respond promptly and authentically.
YouTube. Too many marketers overlook YouTube and its 845 million active monthly users. It’s the most widely used B2B social media platform for videos, and those videos can index high in Google searches if you employ some basic SEO.
In addition to product demos and how-to explainer videos, brands can share repurposed articles, blog posts and webinars, as well as behind-the-scenes footage that demonstrates a company’s industry expertise and work culture.
One nice thing about YouTube is that a well-performing video can continue to draw eyes for years, so don’t be afraid to invest in videos that could have a long shelf life.
Instagram. Instagram may not be the proven lead generator that some of the above channels are, but it provides a great outlet for showcasing your business’s creative side. More than 200 million Instagram users visit at least one business page a day.
Visual content shares best, so make sure any intriguing infographics or alluring photos or videos your brand creates find a home here. Also, be sure to take advantage of the site’s “Stories” feature, as stories are more likely to be seen than posts under Instagram’s algorithms.
B2B marketing on social media takes commitment and patience. When done right, though, it yields real returns: more leads, more conversions, bigger sales and stronger brand loyalty.