B2B Lead-Generation through Social Media
According to Hubspot, as we move into the new year, social media will be more important than ever for B2B lead-generation.
Over the past 6 months, 21% of marketers reported an upswing in leads generated by social media, while traditional marketing routes continued to decrease in effectiveness as spam filters and other tools become better at blocking them. In fact, Hubspot’s research showed that inbound marketing is now the greatest lead source for most B2B companies, with social media and SEO leading the inbound marketing pack, with each driving 14% of all lead-generation.
In 2013, over 50% of B2B companies acquired a customer via Facebook and 43% acquired a new customer through LinkedIn. Despite its newness and smaller pool of users compared to Facebook or LinkedIn, 15% of companies even acquired a customer through Google+, proving that even the lesser used social media channels have been significant lead-generators over the past year and may well increase in effectiveness moving forward.
How B2B Companies are Finding Success Using Social Media
For years, B2B companies have been reluctant to add social media to their marketing strategy because of the relatively small pool of potential consumers that exists in the B2B world and the difficulty of measuring the effectiveness of social media. Recently, however, B2B companies have seen that it’s because their audience is so comparatively narrow that social media can be such a useful tool. B2B clients traditionally spend a lot of time and effort researching various companies before they ever speak to a representative. Social media offers companies the chance to connect meaningfully with potential clients during that research stage, ensuring that once they take the step of contacting a representative, that representative won’t have to “sell” them a positive impression of the company; they will only have to confirm the positive impression that has already been built.
The top-performing B2B companies of the last year got the bulk of their leads from LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, with LinkedIn leading the pack by a significant margin. On LinkedIn, the most successful B2B companies participated in discussions within industry-specific groups while sharing content relevant to those discussions. Research has shown that the recent addition of the “promotion tab” in LinkedIn Groups isn’t useful for B2B companies. Most leads have come from contributing meaningfully to a discussion and providing help in answering questions without promoting one’s company, which is generally considered bad form in LinkedIn’s discussion forums.
The companies who used Twitter most effectively did so by tweeting 12-15 times a day on the company handle, sharing short, compelling insights such as industry news, thoughts on best practices, or links to relevant videos, blog posts, etc. Attempts to use Twitter to blatantly promote products or services fell flat.
YouTube has become a popular tool for B2B companies as a centralized storehouse for all of a company’s industry and brand related videos. The main downside to YouTube is that it drives traffic away from the company website. Even if a video is posted on the website, many viewers choose to navigate to YouTube to watch it. To mitigate this, the most successful companies provided a link to the website and/or relevant landing pages in the first line of the video’s description.
Best Practices for Social Media Success
Despite the variety of social media channels B2B have found success using, there are several best practices that can be applied across them all.
The first and probably most important is not to spread yourself too thin. There are dozens of social media platforms, each with a different core user base and each best suited to a different type of content. It is simply impossible to create relevant marketing across all the possible channels available to you, so B2B companies should pick the 2 or 3 platforms that best encompass their target market—LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter have proven the most effective as shown above—and focus their efforts on creating the type of content that will create an impression on those platforms. A second best practice is to get your company’s executives’ on board with leveraging social media as a core component of your overall marketing strategy. Because of the difficulty in measuring results, many B2B executives aren’t clear on the value of social media for B2B lead- generation and therefore are hesitant to approve funding for it. Executives need to be presented with clear research underscoring the reality that social media is now the best means of connecting with consumers, then encouraged to take an active role in creating social media campaigns.
By now it is well known that companies who want to use social media effectively must create and share content that is relevant, timely, and useful in some way to viewers. But this cannot be done on an ad-hoc basis and expected to produce stellar results. In terms of content, the best practice for B2B companies is to create an overarching strategy by identifying potential customers’ interests, wants, and needs, and then using that relevant, timely content to address them. A related guideline is that companies must monitor their social media marketing efforts and continue to refine them. Analytical tools should be put in place and the data gathered and analyzed on a weekly or monthly basis. Problems or weaknesses should be identified and steps taken to correct them. For example, a lack of sharing of your content might be addressed by creating sharing tools that are more prominently placed or easier to use.
A final best practice for B2B social media marketing is to throw money at the problem by taking advantage of the many paid promotional tools on Twitter and LinkedIn. To learn more about the paid side of social media marketing for B2B companies, stay tuned for Part 2 of this post!
Learn why the Internet is manufacturing’s best friend, including reliable ways to generate cost-effective leads: