B2B marketing on social media might seem like a tough challenge. After all, how many of your clients are using your products out of necessity rather than because they want to?
When faced with such a consumer, building that evangelism or desirability that comes naturally to many B2C brands, can be a gargantuan task for many B2B brands. Yet, the benefits that B2B brands stand to gain from an active social media presence is considerable. If the picture looks bleak, then it is perhaps because you use the same parameters to measure B2B performance as B2C.
Here, I identify trends in the performance of some of the most well-known B2B brands. With these insights, I formulate a B2B social media strategy.
I’ve picked some of the small and medium B2B brands that millions of companies use on a daily basis. These are Dropbox, GoDaddy, HootSuite, HubSpot, Intercom, MailChimp, Marketo, Moz, Sage, Salesforce, Shopify, Verisign, VMware, wix, and Zendesk.
I studied how these brands fared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram during the six-month period between 1st May and 31st October.
Where Should B2B Brands Hang out More?
With more social media networks gaining popularity, brands face the dilemma as to which network they should prioritize.
The simple solution would be to target the one where your prospective customers are. As social media users, most of us spend our time on multiple social networks. Therefore, it makes sense for brands to have an active presence on multiple networks.
But, social media marketing demands devoted attention—whether it’s for content creation, responding to user comments, or keeping an eye on the competition. Along with that, social media audiences are more receptive to brand content on some platforms than others. It makes sense for brands to concentrate on the platforms that get them more interactions (thereby more leads, money, and ROI).
The chart below shows the engagement levels that these B2B brands get on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. (For ease of representation, I’ve used a proprietary engagement score here where brands are scored between 0 and 1000 based on the volume and type of interactions and allows comparison no matter how large a brand’s audience size is).
Instagram appears to be the platform that gets B2B brands the most engagement. In social media marketing circles, the engagement that brands can get out of Instagram is well-established. However, B2B brands getting such great engagement levels on this platform is surprising.
Even if you look at engagement metrics such as Likes or retweets, the observation remains true. The brands studied here got on average 13 likes on Twitter, 171 on Facebook, 210 on Instagram and 47 on LinkedIn for every piece of content they published on the respective social network.
However, when it comes to comments/replies and shares/retweets, Facebook takes the lead. Since these brands don’t get a lot of comments or shares, the engagement score corresponds more to the Likes earned by brands. On Facebook, each brand got eight comments and 16 shares, compared to 1 reply and ten retweets on Twitter. They received an average of 6 comments per Post on Instagram.
All the brands included in this article manage a Twitter handle and a Facebook Page. This is not unusual given that these networks’ popularity with a diverse range of users. See below the number of Followers/Fans these brands have on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram:
Twitter puts these brands in touch with a wider audience, where the average followers per brand are over 1 million. If you discount the outliers like Hootsuite and Dropbox, this number comes down to just under 205,000. On Facebook, the average number of Fans is over 758,000. Instagram reports an average following of 187,000 and LinkedIn 31,000.
Fan and Follower numbers aren’t synonymous with Reach. With promoted content, brands can Reach audiences beyond their Fans/Followers. To see how true that is, let us take a quick look at the promotion strategy of these brands.
Overall, these brands promoted 10% of all the content they put out. Marketo promoted the most, with over two-thirds of paid content. Zendesk and Intercom did not promote any posts. Your social media goals should inform the choice of content to promote.
If you take a look at the content that Marketo promoted, you’ll see that they promotely mostly links. This is a great way of routing social media traffic to your blog or website.
The following chart shows the portion of content that these brands promoted on Facebook and the impact on engagement:
Since Verisign experienced the greatest surge in engagement promoting under 10% of the content, let us examine how this affected their estimated Reach.
What is interesting here is that these spikes in Reach coincide with the 7 Promoted Posts put out by Verisign.
All the Posts they shared were links to offers and discounts on their services.
How Much Is Too Much?
This is a question that social media managers get asked all the time. And there is no definite answer. The number varies from industry to industry. The only way you can narrow down on a number is by testing the effect of the frequency with which you publish content to your social media goals.
It goes without saying that this varies from one social network to the next.
In order to zero in on a ballpark, let us look at the frequency at which these brands post to different networks and its impact on engagement.
The ideal number of Posts is somewhere between 170 and 220.
B2B brands should Tweet between 2-3 times daily (or between 450 and 520 times within a six-month period).
As for Instagram, there is a strong negative correlation (-0.7), which suggests that brands should post fewer times to be more engaging.
In conclusion, it is evident that quality trumps quantity. Right now, the best strategy would be to concentrate on building an optimal promotion strategy.
This way you can ensure that content creation efforts don’t go unappreciated. Setting a clear goal for each campaign you run can help you prioritize pieces of content that need to be promoted.
The best time to post varies from brand to brand and with the audience that you plan to target. Take a look at what times gets the most engagement for the brands studied here:
Brands get the best engagement between 3 – 6 P.M. At the risk of sounding repetitive, these are average values based on these 15 brands and the results aren’t universal. The only way you can pinpoint a cadence that gets you most engagement is by testing out your social media performance.
Are Videos Going To Take over Your 2017 Content Calendar?
I can’t emphasize enough that content creation is not about quantity. We have all been reading about video content’s ability to bring in great engagement. Yet, during the period studied here, videos account for 1% of the social media content published.
But this does not tell us much about engagement. Let us look at the amount of engagement (as a sum of interactions) brought in by different content types:
Yes, videos bring in more engagement than other types of content. But, remember, videos constitute only 1% of the total content produced. What social media marketers should do is aim for a good mix of content, with clear goals.
If you do create video content, make sure that they have clear calls to action. To ensure the achievement of these goals, supplement good content with promotion. Out of the video content studied here, 68% were promoted. Three-fourths of the links had money behind them as well.
Summing up, social media managers should focus on these things in 2017
- Decide what goals you want to achieve using social media content
- Tailor your content to serve these goals
- Monitor your social media performance to optimize volume, timing and content types
- Support your content with promotion to get better reach