A dozen years into B2B social media marketing as a channel, research can still reveal surprises (and mistakes), as this infographic illustrates.
It’s not surprising that nearly half the people on earth use some form of social media on a daily basis. Or that 93% of social media advertisers use Facebook ads regularly.
What is surprising is how both marketers and the social networks continue to make mistakes and miss opportunities. Here are six noteworthy findings from the infographic below, created by Crestline.
LinkedIn dominates B2B, but its shortcomings leave a competitive opening.
As shown in the infographic, 46% of all social media traffic to B2B websites comes from LinkedIn, and an astounding 80% of social media leads are driven by this platform.
Yet ongoing weaknesses keep this B2B-focused social network from fully capitalizing on its dominant position, and leave openings for competitors (perhaps Twitter; see below). High ad costs drive vendors to other channels; its “stream” is not conversational; there’s no way for members to group their followers; and Sales Navigator doesn’t play nicely with CRM systems.
Twitter is missing the B2B opportunity.
According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, Twitter ranks as the second-most widely used and second-most effective social network by B2B marketers, behind only LinkedIn.
Yet the milieu of adolescent trending topics, pop culture trivia, celebrity gossip, and political vitriol creates a less-than-ideal environment for business thought leadership (though the giant ship stuck in Suez Canal memes were pretty stellar). Twitter’s ad targeting capabilities are also primitive compared to LinkedIn and Facebook.
Yet Twitter is strong in at least two areas where LinkedIn falls short: its conversational nature, and capability to create groups of followers and following. A separate Twitter for Business network with more detailed (and verified) user profiles is one intriguing idea.
YouTube also has huge, under-utilized B2B potential.
Video isn’t just for consumer marketing; according to Thomas Publishing, more than half of engineers and technical professionals say they spend at least one hour per week watching videos for work, with pros younger than 45 watching even more.
But marketers are justifiably concerned about marketing in the YouTube “neighborhood.” Pulling up one professionally produced vendor video dealing with digital transformation, for example, showcased videos about design thinking, the Internet of Things, and entrepreneurship in the right-side column on the page. Those seem reasonable as at least somewhat topically related content.
But that list also highlighted videos about trading cryptocurrency, “Foster Pigs Spa Day,” Demi Lovato, John Travolta’s dance moves, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Hunter Biden. Which illustrates why many B2B brands view YouTube—like Twitter—as a less-than-ideal environment for sharing thought-leadership content.
Sites like Vimeo and Wistia trying to capitalize on such shortcomings by creating a more professional video platform experience. But YouTube draws 300 times as much traffic as Vimeo, and 10,000 times more than Wistia. YouTube’s search functionality is also far superior. So there’s clearly an opening in this space.
B2B marketers need to educate and inspire.
Among the top reasons people follow brands on social media are to learn about new products and services (but not just “marketing copy”); to connect with people who are like them; to be inspired; and to be educated.
Buyers are most likely to share brand content that is inspirational or educational. Workflow automation software vendor Kinetic Data, for example, publishes posts about how IT professionals can be business heroes, which check all the key boxes: educational, inspirational, in touch with their market, and with just a little product information thrown in.
Don’t ignore, annoy, or preach.
The top reason (56%) that people give for unfollowing brands is “poor customer service.” Another 29% unfollow because companies ignore brand mentions and comments. With powerful brand monitoring tools available for any budget, there’s simply no excuse for businesses to ignore questions, complaints, or brand advocates.
Also among the top reasons for unfollowing are too many ads or too many promotional posts. Based on patterns like the 60-30-10 rule or the 5-3-2 rule, 50-60% of the content a business posts on social media should be educational content from third-party industry sources or experts. 30% should be educational or inspirational content posted by the brand. Just 10-20% should be promotional or drive followers to take some type of action that helps the brand.
Another 34% (probably a low figure) of people will unfollow brands that post about politics or social issues. It’s important, of course, to hear from political and community leaders on these issues. But when brands jump in, it can seem self-serving or like empty virtue signaling. And on controversial issues, a brand can risk alienating a third to a half of its prospective customers for no real gain.
Expand your repurposing.
If there is one point this infographic makes clear, it’s the importance of producing content in multiple formats, for multiple audiences, on multiple platforms.
In most cases, B2B sales are no longer about appealing to a single decision maker, but to a buying team. That team has members from finance, IT, and various business functions. It’s mostly Gen Xers and Millennials, but bookended by Boomers and Gen Zers. Their content consumption preferences range from text to video, audio, infographics, and stories.
As noted here previously describing the evolution of web presence optimization (WPO), “The notion of repurposing content is nothing new…But in the near future, this practice will be kicked into a new gear.”
Here are all the findings from Crestline.