The B2B Social Media Guide
Social media can feel a bit frivolous, can’t it? A bit shallow. Noisy. Egotistical even.
It’s all well and good for consumer brands who need to reach the masses, but it would be a pointless distraction for a B2B brand, right?
B2B companies are built on personal relationships, having the right connections, being seen as an authority in the industry.
But that’s exactly where social media excels. At least, social media done well.
It’s the most powerful relationship building tool we have, after face to face time. But with social media it’s much easier to build those relationships with thousands of potential customers and partners.
Historically seen as a marketing sub-discipline, in truth it’s more pervasive than that.
It has grown to straddle marketing, CRM, staff engagement, sales, PR and more.
So it’s high time we all started making better use of it, especially those of us in the B2B world.
In this paper we’re going on a whirlwind tour of B2B social media content marketing, giving you the tools and understanding to get it working for you.
There’s no hiding it. Social media marketing has become an essential component of any successful B2B marketing strategy.
If you’re reading this paper you probably already understand the transformative effect it can have on your business but it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves.
We’ve divided them into four categories:
All play a part in building your business, and none should be neglected.
If your target audience doesn’t know you, how are they going to do business with you? If you’re not active on social media it’s incredibly difficult to be discovered. Of course, existing customers and partners will know who you are, but without regular content you certainly won’t be front of mind.
With the right approach you can remain mentally available, reach new audiences and massively increase your brand awareness among a much wider audience than before.
“Mental availability means being easily noticed and/or thought of in many different buying situations”
- Byron Sharp
Do it well and you could punch well above your weight, driving brand awareness far exceeding what you’d expect from a business, whatever your size. There are plenty of solopreneurs out there with many thousands of followers, all because they understand the principles of an effective social media strategy.
Hand in hand with awareness is brand recognition. This might seem similar to brand awareness but there is a subtle but important distinction. Using your brand assets in the right way ensures anyone who sees your content also registers who produced it. They see your name, your logo, your design style and your tone of voice. They associate it with your content and the services you provide, they pay more attention to what you have to say in future and they know where to go when they need your services. This relies on having a distinctive brand. Are you noticeably different from the other brands in your niche? Are you recognisably and unmistakably you? And do you use these assets to their full potential?
Products & Services Awareness
If your audience doesn’t know what you sell, how can you expect them to buy?
It’s all well and good being known for compelling content, but unless you’re trying to become an influencer there’s no inherent value in that to your business. What transforms compelling content into material benefit for your business is when people connect the positive impact your content has on them, with the products and services that you provide.
Understanding how to bring your products and services into your content in a balanced way that doesn’t turn your audience off is key to getting as much visibility and engagement as possible without losing sight of the bottom line.
So don’t be shy to show off your products and services. Remember, your audience is only the right audience if they have an interest in what you have to offer.
Bonus: Personal Awareness
Particularly on Linkedin, the interplay between business pages and personal profiles is a huge opportunity.
Building a personal brand can be hugely beneficial to your own career and the success of your business.
As an individual you can say things your company can’t. You can get involved in conversations, events, podcasts etc and it all acts as a vehicle for your brand. You can think of yourself as an ambassador for your brand in this way.
On the other hand, your brand can present information in a way that no self-aware individual can. For example a lot of people find it easier to shout about business successes, for example, from a business page than their personal profile.
Linkedin has tended to favour personal profiles, with company pages getting lower engagement overall. But this is shifting, and it was almost certainly contributed to by the different (and frankly more boring) content that these company pages have historically been producing. More on that later.
Many B2B businesses are built on a vast amount of expertise, knowledge and innovation. Your business will no doubt be the same, perhaps more than you give yourself credit for.
Establishing yourself as thought leaders in your industry can make a huge impact on how your audience sees you. So does demonstrating your customer successes.
Become the go to brand for industry expertise and it’s a short step to a qualified lead. It has a remarkable effect on your credibility.
Be seen as busy
None of us wants to go into an empty restaurant. The bustle of business being done is proof of the quality of the product and service. It’s the same across the business world. Looking busy is a powerful sales tool.
Being seen to be busy isn’t just for show. It provides social proof that you’re worth doing business with.
B2B audiences are so often treated as fully rational beings. Hence so much B2B marketing is so dull and ineffective. Of course, they care about rational factors, they have a business to run, but don’t forget they’re the exact same people who buy Jaffa Cakes and iPhones.
No matter how logical we might see ourselves, in truth we all make emotional decisions in our business lives.
Showing a bit of personality can go a long way to making people feel comfortable with you, to feel good about engaging with your content and ultimately to feel like they could do business with you.
Build relationships with potential customers
LinkedIn & Twitter in particular offer a great opportunity for B2B businesses to network with other professionals in their field. Connect with potential partners, suppliers, investors, and customers who could help you grow your business.
Being part of the conversation as a brand and as an individual goes a long way. Comment, like, share and message when you can add value.
You can also join industry groups and actively participate in discussions about topics that are related to your field of expertise, helping to build valuable connections that could lead to long-term success.
Gather valuable insights
Social media is a two way street. Just as you should contribute to conversations, you should also actively listen to them.
Understanding what your audience cares about, their preferences and behaviour can inform future marketing efforts as you tie in your messaging to fill their needs.
Most platforms provide insights into what kinds of content resonates with users, so you can tailor your posts to target your ideal audiences.
Staying on top of this helps ensure that your content is engaging and relevant to your audience, increases the chances of gaining more followers and building a larger presence on the platform, and helps you to build increasingly stronger relationships with your followers.
The strongest relationships are built on trust. Social media provides an incredible opportunity to build trust before you even speak to a potential customer, and long before a working relationship is developed.
Sharing your expertise, showing your credentials, providing insights and opinions and interacting with people and other brands on social media all help to build a sense of trust between your business and your followers.
Trust that you can deliver, that you understand their needs, and that working with you is a worthwhile investment, not a risky one.
Tangible actions that have a measurable impact on your business.
Increase website traffic
By building a community around your business on social media, engaging with followers and providing valuable content, you massively increase the chances of people clicking through to your website when, at the right times, you link out to it.
Linking out to your website turns social into a great traffic driver. Combine it with paid campaigns to supercharge the effect. That not only helps with search rankings, you know these new visitors are exactly the sort of audience you want to attract to your website so your conversions will benefit too.
Improve search engine rankings
While social media is not a direct ranking factor for Google, it can still be an important part of a comprehensive SEO strategy and help to drive more traffic to your website.
Active use of social media accounts and the use of high-quality backlinks to your website is hugely valuable in improving rankings.
Social pages are treated by Google as individual web pages and they are ranked accordingly. This means if your social accounts are posting highly relevant content, it will be discoverable to your audience based on their search terms.
And finally, by sharing your web content, for example a blog or case study pages, on social media you increase the number of people who see and interact with it, which further improves its ranking in search results.
This has to be one of the most appealing benefits of social media to a B2B brand.
By building an engaged following, optimising your company page and content, you maximise your chance of enquiries via your calls to action and external links.
Taking it a step further, by running targeted ad campaigns that reach potential customers based on their interests and demographics, businesses can reach a larger but still highly targeted audience and drive lead generation through various mechanisms.
This guide focuses primarily on setting you up for success in organic social. Creating a content generation system and building a robust organic strategy, but the opportunities for paid media and the leads this can generate are enticing. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about this
Now we know some of the ways social media can support the growth of a B2B business, it’s time to get the ball rolling and make sure you’re set up for success. We’ll take you through every step.
The first step in developing a B2B social media marketing strategy is to determine your specific goals.
This is a largely introspective task. Look at yourself, look at your business. What are you trying to achieve as a business and, crucially, how do you imagine social media will contribute to reaching those business goals. Without clear goals it’s very easy to waste your energy.
If you’re going to put the work in, you better make sure it actually benefits your business.
Goals can change and grow as you come to discover a broader range of opportunities with your brand and audience, but stating your goals early is essential. The huge range of possible content types, platforms and audiences available to you mean it’s easy to become consumed with work that has no material impact on your business’ success.
So, what might your goals be?
Well first up take a look at all the benefits we’ve already gone through. Which resonate most with you, and which align most closely to your business goals. This will give you a pretty good starting point.
Maybe you want to increase website traffic and leads or direct users to informational pages.
Or do you want to grow your email subscriber list? Are you trying to recruit new members of staff?
Are you aiming to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or improve customer relationships?
Or maybe you just want your industry peers to recognise that you’re absolutely smashing it.
If you’re like most businesses you’ll probably have multiple goals. That’s good. There are so many ways B2B businesses can use social media that it would be a shame to limit yourself.
But choose one priority. It can’t be exaggerated how much more effective your marketing efforts will be if you have a clear priority.
If you want to set really effective goals, make sure they’re SMART. The SMART method seems a little old hat these days, but there’s a reason it’s stuck around. Make sure your goals are:
If you’re not familiar with the process, there’s plenty of information online about it. It’s genuinely worthwhile and only takes a few minutes, so please take the time to be thorough.
Now one of the challenging and most interesting things about B2B social media marketing is that you will have multiple audiences.
These might be:
It’s vital that you figure out what all your potential audiences are. Be thorough, be thoughtful, and understand whose attention you really want. And take time to assess which of your potential audiences matters to you most.
Your audiences should spill directly out of your objectives. A short example to show how:
You’re a tax advisor who wants to reach new prospects. Your primary audience might be directors or owners of businesses.
You also want to appear to be an authority in your industry. Other tax advisors or members of industry groups might be another audience.
You’re also looking to recruit the best young talent. So you have a third audience of graduates and young accountants.
Understanding your audiences
Once you’ve established your key audiences, it’s time to understand them in as much detail as possible. Some questions you might ask yourself are:
What type of business are they in?
What do they care about?
What are their challenges
What content do they engage most with?
What channels are they using?
Who are they following?
What are they trying to get out of their time on social media?
Do they come from a particular demographic?
What groups are they members of?
This all starts to paint a picture of your audiences in a way that might challenge your presumptions.
How do you get these insights?
Of course, assumptions can be made. But we all know what assumptions do.
There’s no substitute for observation and conversation. Identify individuals within your audience and spend some time with them.
You probably have a client or two who would be willing to give you 10 minutes of their time. You might even have a supplier or partner who you want to engage with on social media because they have a large following that you want to piggy-back on, or because it would be mutually beneficial to promote one another. Ask them what sort of content they would like to see from you.
Write down as much detail about your audiences as you can. You’ll use this information later when you come up with your goals and content pillars and you’ll always be able to refer back to them to make sure your content is aligned.
Overall, identifying your target audiences is an essential step in creating an effective strategy. By taking time to understand who your customers are, where they spend their time online, and how they like to be communicated with, you can create content that is tailored specifically to their needs and interests.
The final step before you start working on the content you’re actually going to create is to look at all the channels available to you and decide where is best for you to spend your time.
There’s an ever growing list of social media platforms. Staying on top of them all can be hard work, understanding which of them is appropriate for your business can be even harder.
We need to be very clear on this point, there is no one right answer. It’s all down to your audience.. But given the businesses we’ve worked with in the B2B space, this is generally the order of priorities that we recommend.
Built for professional relationship building and with a nice clear correlation between personal profiles and business pages. It is becoming increasingly mired in personal content, but it’s still the go to place for building a B2B brand’s social presence. New features are added all the time that are great for B2B businesses.
Very popular among business people across industries, particularly for staying on top of news and sharing opinions. Ideal if you can stay on top of the interactions as things move fast on Twitter. The high volume of content on Twitter can make it hard to drive engagement per post.
Once primarily a photography platform, Instagram is still probably the most aesthetic platform of them all. You might be surprised at what can be considered aesthetic, there are niches for everything, but you’ll need an angle that allows you to create good looking content while talking specifically to other businesses, not consumers. Instagram is currently experiencing a shift toward TikTok style video consumption so things have shifted on this front. But 2023 is seeing a recalibration towards static images. Good news for many as the barrier to entry is generally lower with static media.
No, you’re not too old for TikTok. Yes there are plenty of business owners using it every day. And if you deliver content that hits a niche, you could gain a real edge on your competitors. It’s still something of a challenge to get people off-platform and driving action but things change quickly.
Unfortunately, Facebook is a hard sell for the B2B world. People are mostly in friend and family mode or consumption mode. They’re not in the same discovery mode as they are on TikTok, and they’re unlikely to be in business mode as some people will be on Instagram. For many B2B brands this is a ‘nice to have’, not a ‘must have’. However Facebook groups can be a great place for community building and understanding audiences in more depth. If the right group exists, a little social listening will go a long way.
These are huge generalisations. You’ll need to understand where your audiences are (more on that later) and give proper consideration to the situations where they’re most receptive to hearing from you.
Think laterally here. For example, you might be a B2B business, but your customer might be B2C. If that’s the case, and they’re using Instagram to reach their customers, Instagram might be a professional channel for them, not a personal one.
Spend some time understanding the platforms, their strengths and weaknesses and the type of content that does well on each. This will be crucial later on when you start thinking about what sort of content you might be able to create, and how it might fit on each platform.
By this point in your journey you know what your goals are. You understand your audience’s interests and needs. You know what content formats work best on what platforms, and which platforms are your priority. You also know what key messages you want to get across thanks to your robust goals. And you’ve seen enough from your competitors to get plenty of inspiration.
Now it’s time to turn this knowledge into a plan. We’ll start with your content pillars.
What are Content Pillars?
Content pillars are the foundation of every successful content marketing strategy. Think of them as buckets of different types of content.
They serve to categorise the content you produce, providing clarity and visibility. They allow you to stay focused on your core objectives and ensure that all your objectives are being covered. We use them to provide inspiration for content ideas, and to make sure we’re hitting all our objectives.
If you can look back at the last month and see you’ve produced an even spread of content across all content pillars, you have a good idea that you’re not missing key elements of your marketing strategy.
They also ensure the content you create gives a consistent experience, delivering value in areas that you know are relevant to your audience and aligned with your product or service.
If you skip this step, coming up with content ideas in an ad hoc manner, your content will start to lose its focus.
Most brands will have 3-5 content pillars. Often they’re categorised based on the objective.
Say one of your objectives is to be seen as an authority within your industry. One content pillar could be “authority” and could cover things like thought leadership articles, awards announcements or announcing that you’re serving on an industry panel.
Perhaps another objective is to help hiring. Another column could be recruitment and could cover obvious things like job vacancies, but also staff recognition posts or ‘life in the workplace’ style content. You can see how it starts to take shape.
Stuck for content ideas? Some tips to get the creativity flowing
Look at your own social media accounts and see what types of content and format have performed well.
Analyse the content and strategies of your competitors and other industry leaders. What are they publishing? What gets the best engagement? What would fit your brand better?
Identify trends and patterns in successful content outside of the industry to help inspire you. Look at entertainment brands and industry publishers both inside and outside your industry for inspiration.
Ask your audience what they’d like to see from you! Polls work, but so does picking up the phone and getting it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Drop us a line
If you need a little support, we do this for a living.
Balance of content
Your pillars will form the backbone of your editorial calendar.
The first step is to work out the relative weighting of each content pillar i.e. what percentage of your monthly content should belong under each pillar?
This balance should be based on your objectives and their relative importance, the ease of producing content for each pillar, and the interests and needs of your audience.
With the above example, if you’re posting 20 times per month, 10 would be Authority posts, 6 would be Recruitment posts, and 4 would be for your third pillar.
We’re asked this question all the time: “How often should we be posting?” There’s a lot of information out there about best practices and hacking the algorithm. But the reality is that, while these best practices work on average, no two businesses are the same.
The more helpful question to ask is how frequently can you manage sustainably over the long term?
Social media is a long term project. The longer you keep it going the better the pay off.
You might have a load of ideas and enthusiasm to begin with, only to notice it begin to wain after a couple of weeks. You might even win a new client and find you struggle to keep up the same volume. Look at your content pillars and give yourself an achievable goal frequency.
If that’s one post a week, on one platform, so be it. You can always up the frequency at a later date. Now the maths is simple. You have your number of posts per month and the relative weighting of your content pillars. That translates to what amounts to a rota.
Your Editorial Calendar
You have the framework. Now you need to apply it to the real world. It’s time to plot it against a real calendar and with clear outputs.
A editorial calendar is a schedule for planning and organising your content creation and promotion. It should include details such as the topic, format, and target audience for each piece of content, as well as publication date.
This is ground control for your social media content.
You can use the calendar to ensure that your content is consistent and aligned with your overall social media strategy. You can also use it to gather all the relevant information into one place to help with copywriting. And you can even use it to help manage the process of content approval before posting.
Brands are built over time by delivering a consistent experience and messaging to a target audience. This means consistency across subject matter, design and tone of voice.
Social media can be one of the more forgiving platforms for imperfect visuals. So please don’t let the lack of a brand design identity stop you.
But consistency really does pay off and using your opportunities to get your brand in front of your audience will be a huge benefit to your business. Consistent delivery of a distinctive brand is a central factor in building a brand over time.
Having a single document with a set of design rules, i.e. a brand guidelines doc or brand book, with logo rules, colour palette, photography style etc all set out is what we would all have, ideally. But that takes time and money that you know can be better spent elsewhere, at least in the early days.
For the short term, having a set of templates in your brand colours can be really helpful. If you don’t have the luxury of an external design agency or in-house designer, there’s a host of tools available such as Canva to make the job easier.
Two words of warning though.
If you’re going to use online templates, make sure you personalise them to fit your brand and your needs.
Mix it up, don’t always use the same template, over and over. Consistent colours, fonts, graphic devices can keep your brand consistent while your layouts vary to fit the content requirements.
Need support with brand design work? We’ve got you. Drop us an email and we’ll be happy to talk you through the process to create or refine your brand.
Tone of voice
Tone of voice is so often overlooked. Possibly because it’s the least obvious element of your brand. Or possibly because we all feel like we can wing it. Unfortunately that’s not always the case and it leads to inconsistent and low quality writing that turns people off your brand.
Fail to define your Tone of Voice and you’ll probably go one of two ways:
Inconsistent and inefficient.
Without rules, your tone of voice is always up for debate. You’ll spend more time going through approval processes than writing and posting. Even worse, the posts that do get published will be a real hodge-podge.
Without clear and direct permission to be interesting, to actually show some personality, the writer will feel the safest thing to do is to write bland, corporate, ignorable content that sounds like a press release. Without express permission, dull is the safest option.
The power of tone of voice
But there’s no reason for it to be this way. Your tone of voice can be a tool. It can help you fit in. It can help you stand out. It can help you connect with people and it can drive engagement. And it’s not that hard to land on.
Defining your tone of voice
The most important thing is authenticity. Smaller businesses and entrepreneurs often find this easier because their company tone of voice can be their own.
If you don’t need to delegate copywriting to someone else, you can get away with doing it by feel.
But for larger companies, and those solopreneurs among you who want to do things properly, a bit of a framework is helpful.
Your tone of voice should fall directly out of how you want your brand to be perceived.
You can go the whole hog and commission a writer or agency to draft a fully fleshed out tone of voice document. But this is often overkill, and you might be better served with a few permissions, some reminders, and some examples.
Am I allowed to use jargon? If so, in what contexts? Am I allowed to be playful? To what extent and when would it be appropriate? Am I selling or sharing?
You sound more human when you use contractions You sound a bit snooty if you refer to yourself in third person
Pick out a few posts from competitors, industry bodies or other social accounts that you feel would reflect your brand in the way you want to be perceived. Remember though, these are brands you want to emulate from a tone of voice perspective, not a business perspective.
This can be a living breathing set of guidelines that you add to as you come up with more use cases. But it’s important you set out with a clear idea in your head.
Now your strategy is set, there’s nothing stopping you from getting going. But the job’s not over yet. Here are some tips to help you manage this new work stream efficiently and to ensure you’re always learning and optimising.
Never let best practices get in the way of you taking action. If the choice is between doing it imperfectly and not doing it at all, go with the former. But follow these recommendations if you want to make life easier.
There’s a ton of information out there about post scheduling. The idea is that you get all your content created, upload to a scheduler and it posts automatically at a date and time selected by you.
It’s a huge time saver, especially for those managing multiple brands and platforms, in the sense that you can get it all done in one go. But if you’re managing a handful of accounts, with low volumes of content it might be less work simply to post things natively.
Be aware, though, that there are limitations to the format of the content e.g. Linkedin doesn’t allow documents to be attached to posts that are scheduled using third party apps. The good news is that Linkedin has its own post scheduling function which gets around that.
Two Way Traffic
Building a community and fostering engagement on social media is about more than just spitting out content to be absorbed by the masses.
B2B businesses should strive to build a community of followers and connections by fostering engagement through comments, likes, and shares as well as direct messages. Interact regularly with followers, reply to comments and questions, and ask questions and listen to the answers.
Invest the time here, even if it’s 10 minutes a day to stay on top of your latest notifications.
Here are some tips to operate an efficient and effective content creation process. Some hard earned experience, save yourself a lot of time and frustration by getting these right.
1. Dedicated discussion time.
Chances are you won’t have a full time team working on this for you. And even if you do, you need input from across the business to seize all those content opportunities. Get one call or meeting each week into the diary at a regular time to discuss developments in the business and to plan ahead to keep your content calendar full.
2. Clear roles.
While everyone can feed into the planning process, give responsibility to a single individual to manage your accounts. Educate them on the importance of the task and empower them to chase others in the business for inputs and approvals when needed. NB this does not mean wash your hands of it, this person is just the engine room to ensure things get done.
3. Approval process.
If you have clear content guidelines, brand identity & tone of voice, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about rogue content being produced. But we always recommend a senior member of the team review content before it’s posted to avoid any unnecessary business implications. This is especially important if you’re delegating social media to a junior member of the team who might not be aware of the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of your business and industry. Which leads us onto...
4. Don’t leave this all to your most junior staff.
This is the temptation for a lot of business leaders, but this is your business’ reputation we’re talking about here. Delegate certain tasks, sure, but someone who understands the business deeply should direct the work. Senior involvement is essential to make sure opportunities aren’t missed, the right subject matter is being publicised and your brand is being represented appropriately.
5. Encourage your staff to get involved.
The most successful businesses on social media engage with their staff, and make social media a positive part of their working life. Part of this is in publishing content they feel compelled to engage with and ideally to share with their own connections. This helps the reach of your content massively, but remember your staff can also be just as important an audience as your potential customers. Part of it is interacting with them on social media and recognising their achievements publicly. This helps them to feel appreciated and shows you’re a positive employer. But also encourage your team to share content ideas. Put the word out among your team that you’re looking for content ideas for social and you might be surprised how many good ideas you hear back. This works especially well if you bring them on the journey with you, explaining your strategy and encouraging them to contribute.
Social media marketing provides businesses with the unique ability to track and measure the effectiveness of their campaigns in real time. This makes it possible for B2B businesses to make data-driven decisions that optimise their social media marketing efforts and maximise their return on investment.
When it comes to measuring the performance of a B2B social media marketing campaign, what you choose to focus on should depend on your marketing objectives. You’re able to measure website traffic, engagement rates, conversions, survey or focus group feedback, industry benchmarks, leads or sales generated, brand mentions and sentiment, and more.
By taking the time to measure the performance of your B2B social media marketing campaigns, you can ensure that your efforts are targeting the right audiences, resonating with them, and driving business results.
But selecting a handful that matter most to you will give you more clarity than trying to monitor it all.
So there you have it.
Good luck in your B2B Social Media growth journey and let us know how you get on! If you need a hand, open a chat or connect with us on Linkedin.