One of the most important steps in launching a successful social media campaign is choosing the right platform to connect with your audience. For B2B firms, where the social interactions and buyer relationships are more complex than in many B2C contexts, this is especially true.
The benefits of social media marketing include brand awareness, building your overall profile with specific audiences, connecting with a broader conversation in your niche, and driving traffic and exposure to your key content.
If you want a general background on the relationship between social media and B2B companies, see my article, How to Run a Successful B2B Social Media Campaign. Choosing the right network is the first step to running a successful campaign; here’s a closer look at how to determine where to invest your time.
Whenever possible, I recommend basing your social network choices on data.
Depending on where your firm is in the social media lifecycle (e.g., novice to established firm), you can leverage different information sources to look at how engaged and active your audience is with a particular network. When I talk to many businesses and entrepreneurs, they fall prey to a common misconception. Many of them suggest that choosing social networks simply relies on common sense. There’s no need for conversation or leveraging data, they suggest; it should be obvious where their audience is spending time.
It’s an easy intuitive leap to make; after all, there are certain platforms that are clearly a good fit for your business. But I recommend basing that on several factors that you can measure and observe, including insights gleaned directly from your customers and prospects. Some factors to consider include:
In the last two years, an interesting evolution has taken place between social media and content marketing. The discussion around content types and social promotion has evolved from how to use different platforms to distribute your content to how to match the platform to the content for optimal reach. I covered this trend more in-depth in my article, “How to Integrate Your Content Strategy & Social Media Campaigns.”
Partially, this relates to the fast-changing social landscape. New social networks are springing up on a seemingly daily basis. Existing networks are expanding their services and functionality through new development and acquisitions. Features such as hashtags, once the sole province of Twitter, are now showing up in the vast majority of major networks.
It’s also a byproduct of more sophisticated content marketing. Recent Google algorithm updates like Panda skyrocketed content marketing to one of the core online marketing disciplines. One of the tenets is diversification. Many companies are being bolder than ever with shaping and exploring their company’s story.
Whether they’re sticking to the written form but expanding into blogging, eBooks, or white papers, or experimenting with visual formats like infographics or video, companies are trying to find the right medium to both position themselves and resonate with their audiences. A natural extension of this is then finding the right networks to showcase and promote that content.
Let’s take a closer look at the three major content types.
If there’s one message that you take away from this article, I hope it’s that a one size fits all approach to social media marketing isn’t effective. Instead, it’s important to use real data and audience insights to inform your choice of network and evaluate your campaign’s progress over time.
For help with this, see “Why You Should Track Social Media Analytics and How it Affects Your ROI” and “The 5 Best Tools for Measuring Social Media Performance.” That being said, your marketing decisions need to be made within the broader context of the social media landscape and how it’s developing.
As trends emerge, general data about what’s working is shared and user interest spikes in specific networks, it’s important to be aware of these data points. Your exploration of whether they apply to your business is the most important part of the process. However, with this in mind, here are seven social networks (and types of networks) every B2B social media marketer should consider when working to identify the right networks for your audience and business goals.
1. Pinterest & Other Image-Based Networks: While Pinterest may be primarily a tool to connect with consumers, it plays a role in the B2B world, as well. Check out this excellent Social Media Examiner case study on how Constant Contact is leveraging Pinterest for B2B marketing. Other popular social media platforms with a visual spin include Visual.ly and Instagram. The lessons for succeeding on visual networks are simple:
2. Video Networks Such As YouTube & Vine: If you’re interested in video, there’s never been a better time to use it as a medium to connect with customers. B2B firms have a wide range of options available via video, but I recommend the following with 2014 social media trends in mind:
3. LinkedIn: LinkedIn remains the top network for business-focused social media marketers. Having an active presence isn’t enough; B2B marketers need to think about creative ways to leverage innovative features like:
4. Twitter & Facebook: Twitter and Facebook remain among the top players in the social landscape. Having an active presence on these networks gives you access to tremendous scale. Prioritize value-rich and customer-focused updates and whenever possible, connect your work to the broader conversation. For more help with Twitter and Facebook, see “How to Maximize ROI on Your Facebook and Twitter Campaigns.”
5. Niche Networks: No B2B social strategy is complete without taking stock of the niche networks that dominate a space. It’s potentially hard to weigh the impact; networks tend to be smaller, but also have very active communities. Depending on the context of the network and your campaign goals, niche network participants can also offer a highly qualified lead pool.
6. Google+: Matt Cutts’ recent confirmation that Facebook and Twitter signals don’t contribute directly to SEO was a revelation for many. This just reinforces the importance of a Google+ profile. If you’re active on Google+, the top things to remember are:
7. Location-Based Networks: Finally, don’t expect location-based networks to go away – especially for local businesses. If you’re offering B2B services at a local or regional level, for example as an accountant or a commercial building management service, your local presence is critical. Being active on local networks like FourSquare can give you an advantage.
For a closer look at the hot social trends across industries in 2014, see The Top 7 Social Media Marketing Trends that Will Dominate 2014.
For B2B social media marketers, choosing the right platform for your business is the first step to running a successful social campaign. Whether your choices are being driven by which networks your audience spends time on, analytical data or how best to showcase your content, harness the power of those network’s best practices to increase your ROI. What networks are working best for your B2B social efforts right now? Let me know in the comments below.