B2B Social Media Marketing: 5 Great Strategy Examples
B2C marketers may have blazed the trail for social media marketing, but a large number of B2B companies now recognise the potential in using their
Published: 17 Oct 2013
5 minutes read
B2C marketers have blazed the trail for social media marketing, but a large number of B2B companies now recognise the potential in using their networks to grow brand awareness, interact with customers and establish thought leadership. For many of these firms, B2B social media marketing remains a maturing channel. We know from this year's Social Media Benchmarking Report by B2B Marketing that 61% of companies still engage with social media on an ad-hoc basis, rather than through a defined strategy. Some firms are recruiting in-house specialists to handle their social media activity or outsourcing the task to an agency, but others still prefer to educate existing staff as they go along.
So we could be waiting some time for an industry-wide consensus to emerge on B2B social media strategy. However, social media expert and Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers recently argued that the 'tipping point' for business sentiment will occur in 2014, when businesses finally agree that social media is a 'must have', rather than a 'should have'. He predicted that "we'll see a move away from assigning social media tasks to existing employees, and see even more companies hiring social media strategists or full-time social media managers".
With that in mind, and with the need to be just as good at B2B Content Marketing, here are five great examples of B2B social media campaigns that show how it should be done:
New social networking platforms are springing up all the time, and debate continues over which networks are the most effective for business (to summarise recent trends: Twitter still reigns supreme, but faces competition from the rapidly growing Google+ and LinkedIn, which continues to roll out useful new tools to influence professionals). American Express has offered a way to neatly sidestep any dilemmas over which platform to focus on - create your own network. However, this is not a response to the recent explosion of social media sites, as its OPEN Forum has been in existence since 2007.
This online community allows small business owners to share advice with each other, as well as providing expert insight and educational content from more than 200 contributors. It leverages existing social media tools - users can log in with their LinkedIn details, for example - and maintains a focus on sharing content that is genuinely useful to small businesses. It is also an exercise in content marketing - there are no promotional messages on the network, just content that supports a long-term relationship between Amex and its customers. Six years down the line, the OPEN Forum represents a huge online community (its Twitter page has more than 195,000 followers) that positions Amex as a trusted source of information and an authority on issues that motivate the small business community.
Danish container shipping firm Maersk Line has been making waves with its social media activity for the last two years. Although operating in a fairly low-key and unglamorous industry, the company is present on almost every social network imaginable - you'll find it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and even Instagram.
Maersk Line offers a great example of what can be achieved by dedicating time and resources to a B2B social media strategy. The company has boosted its brand profile immeasurably through creative applications of its social media presence, such as the way it dealt with one of its ships striking and killing a whale on the way into Rotterdam harbour last year. Instead of playing the incident down, Maersk posted updates and a Q&A about the incident on Facebook, created a Pinterest album entitled 'In Memory of the Maersk Norwich Whale' and received a large amount of positive feedback. Its corporate Facebook page now has more than one million likes.
Frederik Preisler, partner at Danish advertising company Mensch, told Reuters that Maersk's incisive use of social media has left rivals trailing in its wake. "Maersk Line has been the first social media mover within the shipping industry. I'm convinced others will follow," he said.
Supply chain management firm Kinaxis is another early adopter of B2B social media marketing. Back in 2007, the Canadian company set out to double both its web traffic and leads via a social media strategy. It comfortably exceeded those targets, largely by using its networks to share humorous and engaging content that attracts users to Kinaxis web properties, such as its 21st Century Supply Chain blog.
Examples of the 'learn, laugh, share, connect' strategy implemented by Kinaxis include its web series The Late Late Supply Chain Show and Suitemates, which can be seen on the company's YouTube channel. The latter is a series of short comedic episodes starring Kevin Pollack (The Usual Suspects) and Ray Wise (Twin Peaks).
IT and tech companies face added pressure to prove they really understand social media and the myriad opportunities it presents. With about 67,000 employees worldwide and global revenues of roughly £30 billion, network provider Cisco certainly has the resources to make its B2B social media campaigns stand out from the crowd. However, the firm's UK and Ireland head of marketing Jackie Nixon recently outlined some subtleties of social media marketing that apply to companies of all sizes. Speaking to the Guardian, she advised businesses to view social media as just another channel in the marketing mix, rather than a replacement for traditional methods. The secret of success is choosing the right channel for your key messages, so they reach their intended audience in the most effective format. "The real marketing skill lies in choosing the channel well," Ms Nixon commented.
She also discussed the benefits of involving employees from outside the marketing team in social media activity. Additional training may be needed here, but having senior personnel Tweet on behalf of the company adds a personal touch to the brand identity and reinforces key messages. The Twitter account of Padmasree Warrior, Cisco's chief technology and strategy officer, has almost 1.5 million followers.
As befits a company that provides integrated marketing software, HubSpot expertly uses social media to share content that its customers and prospects value. Its strategy is based around driving traffic to the HubSpot blog, which has become a widely trusted source of high-quality content about digital marketing.
The blog offers many insights into social media strategy that have been put into practice by HubSpot customers and in the company's own marketing efforts. As Lisa Toner illustrated in a recent post, these recommendations include making content as shareable as possible and keeping your audience engaged by personalising your messaging across different social networks. "Take one piece of content and break it out into multiple social media posts. Take an image from the content and post it to Facebook. Take a quote out of a blog post and tweet it. These are all great ways to keep your audience engaged and coming back for more," she explained.
The thing that is really going to attract your customers and keep them coming back to your brand is your expertise. Your social media messages must convey thought leadership. Read our free guide below to understand how to do this.