9 Social Marketing Lessons All B2B Marketers Should Know

Marketing is constantly evolving, so it can be easy for marketers to focus more on what’s next than on essential basic principles.

As Ian Walsh pointed out in “The Top B2B Industries on Social Media,” different industries have varying levels of complexity that can influence engagement and audience growth (e.g., price point, buying cycle). Even so, there are some guiding principles that all B2B marketers can follow. Here are nine social fundamentals from Walsh, CMO of digital marketing analytics provider TrackMaven, and Brendan Lowry, marketing director for visual commerce platform Curalate.

1. Know your audience. Customers’ social posts reflect who they are. Marketers should use insight from those posts to produce engaging social content that speak to their audiences’ needs and desires. Identifying key topics and creating content around them, Walsh says, will help marketers separate their content from the rest of the noise.

“Make sure you understand who your buyers are, where they go to learn, and what channels they engage on,” he advises.

Lowry adds that paying attention to customers’ social activities can shape other marketing initiatives. He says spending 10 minutes on a prospect’s Twitter feed, for instance, can shed light on his favorite publications, pop culture interests, and personality traits and turn a cold email into more of a warm handshake.

“No sales CRM will be able to provide you this type of qualitative data,” Lowry says.

2. Be wary of content volume. Technology has made it easier to produce and distribute content across multiple platforms, Walsh says. But even as marketers’  content output increases, their target audience doesn’t, and neither does the number of hours in a day. As a result, only the “cream of the crop” gets noticed, he says, and the rest falls to the wayside. So, Walsh urges marketers to be wary of their content volume.

“Be judicious with the volume of content that you’re putting into place,” he says. “You don’t want to walk away and abandon your audience and only get in front of them every once in a while. But if you’re just torturing them to death with a constant barrage of content, then people are going to tune you out.”

3. Learn when to chime in and when to keep quiet. Part of being conscientious about content production is knowing when to partake in a conversation and when to hold back. Even if a trend is catching fire in an industry, Walsh says, marketers should only create content about it if that trend is going to engage their audiences. He cites conversation around #TheDress as an example; although myriad brands produced content about it, many saw their content underperform because they weren’t in the top 2%. So, only produce content about a topic when it’s possible to present it from a their own angle.

“If everyone is talking about some trend in the industry…and you don’t have something truly unique and compelling to say to bring to that conversation,” Walsh says, “you’re better off staying out of the conversation and sticking to the topics where you do have something unique and compelling to say.”

4. Use social as a place to have conversations. Social media shouldn’t be a projection platform for marketers to blast their latest campaign slogan. Instead, Lowry says, it should be a place where marketers curate content and have conversations with their prospects and customers. Professionals should leverage their industry expertise to prioritize conversations, he adds, which customers will appreciate and, in turn, reward.

“Simply broadcasting your own message won’t move the needle,” he says. “Actually, it may move the needle, but most likely backwards, as prospects will grow tired of your vanity.”

5. Ask for what you want (and make it easy to do). If marketers want customers to perform certain actions, then they need to be direct and ask. Include calls-to-action in posts, Walsh says, and ensure that they’re tailored to each platform, such as inviting people to comment on a blog post or retweet on Twitter. He also recommends making it easy for customers to follow through with these request. For instance, he says if marketers want to promote a visual element in a tweet, they need to include that element in the original tweet along with a request for retweets. 

6. Think channel-specific. It can be tempting for marketers to slap the same creative across all of their channels for a campaign; however, Walsh says marketers should consider the channel first and then ask what they want to do on each specific platform, even if that means running a single-channel campaign.

Indeed, Lowry adds that marketers shouldn’t consider social media as just a distribution platform. Each channel needs to be addressed differently, he says, and marketers should make sure the content they’re investing time and resources in is being optimized for each platform.

As he puts it, “If ‘social media’ is a single bullet under ‘distribution’ in your most recent demand-gen plan, you’re doing it wrong.”

7. Don’t ignore Instagram. Instagram isn’t just for B2C marketers. According to TrackMaven’s research, B2B companies experience their highest engagement ratios on this platform—and for good reason. Not only does it encourage engagement through commenting, Walsh says, but it also allows marketers to view text, images, and videos right in the platform, so users don’t have to click and go elsewhere to view the content.

“Engagement rates on Instagram across the board are about eight-times higher than the other major social media networks,” Walsh says.

8. View social as more than a content dumping ground. Posting on social media shouldn’t be an afterthought; on the contrary, marketers need to have standards for their social content. That includes refraining from posting images and copy that clash with the requirements and aesthetics a brand’s community managers have put in place.

“It looks amateur and, in some cases, may do more harm than good,” he says.

9. Remember, social isn’t an add-on. Although social media may not be at the top of every B2B marketer’s to-do list, it is becoming essential. “It’s not additive to the other ways that people engage with brands,” Walsh says. “It’s taking over [and] it’s replacing the ways that people engage with brands.”

Indeed, Walsh says social media “eats away” at other marketing activities, such as email and cold calling. So, it’s important for marketers to be where their customers are.

“If you’re not doing social media and your competitors are,” he says, “then they have a much higher likelihood of engaging your buyers.”

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