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A Playbook for Sustainable B2B Social Marketing

SocialWe all know the high-profile successes of consumer brands like Audi, Nike, Old Spice, and Pepsi on social media – for awareness and engagement, and increasingly, for driving social commerce. (See the Facebook Studio winners here and Shorty Awards for best use of Twitter here.) The trend to leverage social media for engagement continues as a growing number of business-to-business brands and marketers are upping their investments in social channels, while others are jumping on the social media bandwagon for the first time.


  • 56% of B2B marketers plan to increase their spending on social media in 2013. Sure, even more (70%) are increasing investments in their websites, but clearly social is a key part of the digital toolbox for B2B marketers, and like the world of retail, omni-channel is becoming the name of the game for B2B as well. See more stats on priorities here.
  • B2B marketers are investing in content creation. The demand for rich media assets continues to grow, with nearly half of content now coming from outside the marketing department or other employees according to Forrester.
  • Social channels are becoming key content distribution channels. An amazing 74% of B2B marketers are using Twitter to distribute content, while 70% use Facebook, and 56% use YouTube according to last year’s CMI and MarketingProfs content marketing study. Another cool stat from the same research shows that 20% of marketers use Slideshare to distribute their content, a low-cost way to reach users and syndicate your favorite PPT.
  • Social channels generate leads! According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound Marketing study, 52% of marketers they surveyed (B2C and B2B) get leads from Facebook, 43% get them from LinkedIn, and 36% get them from their blog. Coupled with the opportunity to reach and engage influencers via social listening and outreach, the impact of social marketing (and sales) has never been stronger.

The B2B Playbook

Of course some aspects of B2B are way different than B2C.  Most notably: the length of sales cycles, the complexity of many B2B products (and buying decisions), and the role of influencers, channel partners, and service providers. But most importantly, B2B social marketing is less about discrete campaigns and requires more of a continuous marketing mindset. For these reasons, to build a sustainable program, B2B marketers need to have a distinct B2B social marketing playbook, even if they look to consumer success stories for inspiration.

For starters, this should include looking at how buyers, partners, influencers, and investors interact and consume content on various social channels, along with their reach and topics of interest. This will help isolate the most important targets and the best ways/places to engage them. Then, for each channel, an accompanying action plan should outline roles (e.g., social media manager, content contributor) and tasks (e.g., listening, promotion, outreach), along with the desired frequency of posts, metrics, and suggested tools.

Overall, whether you are just getting started, or an early adopter, B2B marketers need to take an iterative approach and remember to focus on:

  1. Creating a different mix of content and offers versus their consumer counterparts, e.g., white papers and web features vs. multi-channel/mass media promotions and social contests,
  2. Identifying connectors and communities which can amplify and validate key messages, along with syndication channels (earned and paid) that can provide additional reach,
  3. Delivering engaging experiences and tying together social insights with Web and transactional data, as I discuss here,
  4. Looking at ways to harness the power of big and small data to focus messages and offers, align with hot topics and themes, and even identify the most promising prospects and channel partners. A topic I recently discussed at SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW event (see post-session highlights here), and ultimately,
  5. Emphasizing thought leadership and selling big ideas versus simply selling products and being an internal agency, as my colleague Robert Rose eloquently argues in his recent post.

So, how are you using social channels and fan marketing in your B2B campaigns? Are you tapping internal (and external) experts to create rich content to feed your social profiles? Are you looking at the role of big and small data to build high-impact, sustainable programs?

We’d love to share our perspectives on how to take your B2B social marketing to the next level. Contact us to set up a briefing with our analyst team, and feel free to join the conversation in the comments below.


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