Most people's first interaction with social media is typically through personal use - snapping pics of their day (or lunch) and sharing it online with friends and family. It's not surprising then, that when it comes time to manage social media for their business or employer, already overburdened staff have a tendency to use many of the same approaches they're already familiar with. In addition, most of the recommendations and resources online for how to manage social media marketing are written for a B2C market, which often recommend growing an organic following through daily interaction with your customers.
Most of The Interactive Dept.'s clients however are B2B brands or if they do sell to consumers, they typically sell to a very niche market. For those brands social media can feel like a real up-hill battle and rarely seems to provide the return on investment for the time they have to give up. Alternatively, some clients see no value in social media altogether and stick with traditional forms of marketing that while not necessarily effective, are at least consistent in their eyes. There are a few mistakes I see many of these businesses making when it comes to social media marketing – and by just making a few modifications they could create a far more effective strategy to capture this potentially large audience.
1) Trying To Grow An Organic Social Media Following Instead Of Using Paid Social
For many B2B brands, growing an organic following can be a real uphill battle, if not entirely impossible. Several of our clients sell products that don't necessarily warrant a following – concrete restoration, agricultural pumps, insurance law – great companies with amazing services, but services that folk aren't really interested in ALL the time. Like many small businesses they jump onto Facebook and Twitter, acquire their first 20 or so friends/family/employee followers, but then struggle to get much further. Making posts begins to feel a lot like speaking into an empty room, and they begin to abandon those efforts, leaving a ghost-channel floating in the sea of social media.
Rather than try to grow a "following" – they should be using paid spend on social media to target potential new customers based on metrics relative to their industry and ideal customers. The value of Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other channels for B2B brands isn't growing a following, but getting their ads where people's attention happens to be. To use an example from another medium, small businesses don't create TV shows – they produce commercials that run during those TV shows. You don't need to own peoples attention on social – you just want to appear with the things that do.
2) Trying To Entertain Instead Of Educate Their Followers
I can't tell you how many times clients or leads have suggested they'd like to create a viral video or some type of viral social media campaign. People use the term as if its a "type" of marketing, instead of a rare result of... well... luck? I had the great pleasure many years ago of being the digital marketing director for "David After Dentist". NO... I didn't come up with that video idea, nor did I film it. But a few months after it became the most popular video EVER on YouTube, David's father contacted our company to hire us to help him manage what had become a full-time job after millions and millions of people had watched his video. Viral sensations happen when you least expect it and unless you're a large brand with even larger pocketbooks, creating a "sensation" on social media isn't a practical strategy.
On the flip-side, I see a lot of brands using social media for Happy Holiday or TGIF type posts. When a potential new lead discovers their page, instead of learning what the company does, they discover that they have a lot of holiday parties. Rather than trying to be "friendly" or entertaining, they should be focused on providing information and resources relative to what they do. While this might seem boring to them – when someone actually needs their services this content will have real value. While this might not garner a ton of followers, when combined with the paid "push-marketing" strategy above, this relevant content will attract new customers and show thought leadership to existing ones. Those not interested will move on – and that's fine because you don't need an audience, you need customers.
3) Posting Social Media In Real Time Without A Strategy
Since most folks learn social media in their personal life, they often take the technique of posting in real-time into their business life. This results in sporadic posting (or no posting at all) and irrelevant posts. It's this lack of a plan that is most likely the cause of the two issues listed above. Using our TV analogy from above, brands have a marketing strategy when placing ads on TV, they don't do them live and just try to improve their way through the message.
Brands needs to plan out in advance what they'll be talking about in the upcoming month (or months ideally), what the goal of that messaging is, and what results they're looking to see from it. Social media doesn't have to be posted in "real time". Content can be produced, reviewed and then posted as needed. They then need to measure those efforts to determine the effectiveness of both the message/content as well as the success of their paid spend.
A Real World Example
Recently our idMAUI brand was hired by a credit union on Maui. Wailuku Federal Credit Union has a VERY niche market – their customers, like most credit unions, have to meet certain criteria, and in their case it is living or working within the city of Wailuku. This means their target market lives within a roughly 10 mile radius. Their previous marketing efforts focused on a print ad in MauiNow - a local online newspaper. Not surprisingly, they were getting very little results from this ad – as it was one of many ads on whatever article it happened to appear next to. As it was a static banner ad, it could only tease an offer, which for them was "3% Down Can Get You Into A New Home". The ad's intention was to drive interest in their home loan program. It was not compelling or particularly informative, offered nothing to explain why their credit union was unique, and was lost in a sea of other paid ads. On social media they had a small following, and their average post received under 10 likes.
The Interactive Dept. took a different approach. Each month now we produce an article of interest on a particular topic relevant to the credit union which we post on their website. We then create a short video and some additional collateral for social media that points to this article. We use paid spend to make sure those social media posts are seen, targeting a 10-mile radius around the credit union.
In the two examples above you see the contrast between the old and new approach. The past approach is a quiz/content, that once answered (in the only comment submitted) is officially over. Because there is little value to the post and because they put no paid spend behind it, it received only 3 "likes" and drove zero traffic to their website. In the approach we took, we created an informative 30 second video that over the course of a month was watched 1700 times by folks within a 10 miles radius of Wailuku. Through various paid spots over four weeks it drove hundreds of customers to the longer form article on their website and resulted in nearly a dozen requests for their credit counseling services. Now, even though the campaign is over, the article continues to have organic growth and the 30-second spots continues to get views on YouTube (5,000+ to date) that continues to drive the campaign even after the paid-spend has stopped.
To summarize, social media is where people's attention is these days. Different brands will have different success on different channels ranging from Facebook and SnapChat to LinkedIn and YouTube. You need to determine where your audience is and what messaging would work best for those channels. You then use paid spends to get your content in front of the correct folks, driving them to relevant content on your website. This content can take the form of blog posts, articles, case studies – anything that provides more detail and insights into your expertise. At the end of this content should be a call-to-action where you ask for some information. This can be as simple as asking them to sign-up to your newsletter for more helpful tips - to pushing a free consultation or even a product/solution that you've now shown the value of. Once the campaign is complete you measure the audience numbers at each stage to determine drop-off rates and what type of cost-per-click and average cost per lead you're getting, so you can continue to optimize those efforts.
If you're curious how your organization can improve its B2B Social Media marketing efforts, The Interactive Dept. offers a social media marketing audit in which we review your existing efforts, identify potential opportunities and craft a 90-day action plan to optimize your brand's social media marketing strategy. If you're not ready for the audit, make sure to follow us on Facebook and YouTube, as we're always posting more helpful tips and strategies for you DIY marketers.
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