Can you safely ignore social media? Or is social your ace card for reaching prospects? If your business-to-business company is that one in six who isn’t using social media at all, perhaps you need to take another look it.
Why You Might Want to Ignore Social Media
First, you’re already busy managing Paid, Earned and Owned. Developing a social media strategy is a challenge cited by one in three marketing directors, and procuring sufficient internal resources is cited by more than half. Further, social media is insatiable. To make an impact, you have to be present. Not just when you have something you want to say, not just when it’s convenient. Regularly. You can’t just dump something off and run. (At least not if you want to be effective!) You have to stick around, see what others are talking about, and then, take the time to digest the information and add your voice to the conversation.
Second, social is harder to do than it looks. In fact, 49% of digital marketers call it one of the most difficult to do, and no wonder. Social media is complicated. Just because they’re social platforms, they’re not all alike. So, while you might think you should be able to take the same content, in the same format, and simply use it again and again, you can’t. No more so than you could take a billboard and paste it on TV. Even platforms that seem to be the most similar still have differences, in the same way that subway signage, outdoor display, and bus wraps all have their own requirements.
Not only do you have to manage the technical requirements, the content itself has to be adjusted for platform context. You can’t just write it once and use it many times. Further, you need to tweak your content, even your images sometimes, for your different buyer personas.
Third, it can be hard to make a strong case for social in the face of competing needs. A whopping 46% of B2B marketers simply don’t know which digital marketing channel is most effective. Six in 10 social marketers say measuring social ROI is a top challenge for them. Add to that, only four percent of digital marketers believe social is the most effective online channel. It’s easy to simply ignore shared media.
But you shouldn’t.
Why You Should Not Ignore Social Media
So, do you really need to add the low-cost-but-hard-to-do social media?
First, giving your social user prospects interesting, informative content helps bring them in as quality leads. Among B2B buyers, 47% report that they consume three to five pieces of content before they engage with a salesperson.
At this point you might be saying to yourself, wait a minute, we have a blog! (You may even have more than one.) A blog is great. Some type of regularly published owned content is necessary for you to establish and maintain connections. But, if it is your only way, you’re falling short. Here’s why: your blog only reaches existing customers and those who already know about your company, product, or service. While 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions, 74% use LinkedIn, and 42% use Twitter.
In a recent survey of B2B buyers, 53% of the respondents reported that social media plays a role in assessing tools and technologies, and when making a final selection. Three out of four B2B buyers use social media to engage with peers about buying decisions. In fact, peer recommendations are influencing more than 90% of all B2B buying decisions. The most connected B2B companies reported realizing 31% greater revenue growth compared to the least socially connected in one survey.
Second, your prospects are making qualitative evaluations about your company based on your social media presence, or absence. If you ignore social media, they are likely to ignore you. More than four out of five of the B2B buyers surveyed said the winning vendor’s social content had a significant impact on their buying decision. Another survey found that B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales rep who provides new insights. Six in ten buyers who feel a “high brand connection” are more likely to purchase from that brand, irrespective of price, than those who feel a “low brand connection.”
Third, there’s some corollary evidence that social media does in fact lead to sales. Another survey showed that 72% of the B2B salespeople who use social media report that they outperformed their sales peers. More than half of them indicated they closed deals as a direct result of social media. This use of platforms, often called social selling, allows salespeople to research, prospect, and network by sharing educational content and answering questions. As a result, they’re able to build relationships until prospects are ready to buy.
Social Is About Sharing
Here’s one more reason why social is valuable and why you should do it. Social is valuable because it is Shared. Today we live in a shared economy. We share rides (Lyft and Uber) and vehicles (ZipCar). We share opinions (Angie’s List). In cyberspace, we go crazy sharing our lives on an astonishing number of social networks. We share the most personal space we have, our homes (AirBnB). So why wouldn’t our customers and prospects expect us to share about our company with that same level of immediacy, intimacy and intensity?Can you safely ignore social media? Or is social your ace card for reaching prospects? Click To Tweet
So, how do you share well?
How to Share Well on Social Media
There are three straight-forward ways to share well on social media. When you share content with your followers, whether your own or content you curate from others, you are taking part in their community. Sharing gives you the opportunity to show your followers that you understand their needs. (Also to those who find you through hashtags.) You show that your company can be trusted as a source of useful information.
First, share by publishing valuable owned and earned content to your networks. This helps you build your brand, in turn driving demand, increasing awareness of your brand, and further extending your reach. With effort, you can build connections to the influencers in your industry. Even just one share by the right influencer can increase the number of times your content is shared by more than 30%. Think beyond your online network to your team and fellow employees.
Second, connect on an emotional level. Marketing that emphasis professional, social and emotional benefits realize a 42% lift. There’s some evidence to support the idea that B2B companies that connect with their buyers on an emotional level earn twice the impact over marketers who sell on a business or functional value.
Third, consider how you share curated content. Yes, it’s okay to simply pass along some information from others. However, most of the time you want to let your followers know why you’re sharing this particular piece of information. Just add commentary or expand upon or disagree with a particular point. Or, even just write a few words on why it resonated with you or why you think they will appreciate your sending it their way. Sometimes, it can be as simple as calling their attention to a quote, or relevance to a particular challenge.
Share, Don’t Ignore Social Media
Sharing is ultimately about building relationships, about being part of the social community. Yes, you can talk about your company and your products or services as a way of introducing yourself. But with some careful listening, you’ll also discover opportunities to create conversations with prospects. This is something that paid, earned and owned can rarely do, even over digital channels. (Interactive content, from opinion polls to live video, is the notable exception.)
Sharing is successful because no matter what or where you choose to share, you’re giving something to others because you know they will get value from it. Your followers recognize your effort, appreciate it, and sometimes reciprocate.
Don’t let measurement obstacles that prevent a clear declaration of social-cause-to-purchase-effect cause you to ignore social media. There’s plenty of evidence social media aids decision-making, influences buying decisions, and that companies that engage in social media realize more leads, more sales and higher revenue.
Tap into the power of social media. A good place to start is where you always start with social media: crafting your strategy, based on your financial and human resources.
I’ve spent 15 years building business-to-business social media programs and I’d like to help you build yours.