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In the ever changing world of digital marketing, I often find myself explaining the techniques and strategies I use, why I use them, how they work etc. Usually one good metaphor can do the job of a snooze-inducing marketing lecture and is often way more memorable. And this is exactly the case with the nuanced world of B2B social media marketing strategy.

Note: This article is intended to illustrate the key concepts of social media marketing in a B2B context for busy executives and others who have a beginner to intermediate level of marketing experience.

B2B Social Media Marketing Strategy

Social as a channel brings together elements of organic search, PPC, and community building/maintenance with the added challenge of immediate, two-way communication between the brand and the customer.

Which is one thing in the B2C world where transactions are usually low-cost, low-risk and have short sales cycles – but B2B marketing is a different animal (often the exact opposite of the former – high-cost, high-risk and long sales cycles). More often than not, the role of B2B social media marketing is to complement lead generation strategies, demonstrate to the market that the business has their proverbial finger on the pulse and as a platform for thought leadership. It can also assist with driving the conversation in a certain way, but only in rare cases will social media alone drive B2B sales.

Yet the ubiquity of social media suggests that our business buyers are online – just not as easily identifiable. (This is a huge topic in itself, and likely the subject of a future post). So how can we use social media in B2B marketing?

The Metaphor for B2B Social Media Marketing

Which brings me back to the metaphor that explains how to approach the complex world of B2B social media. Marketers should view themselves as the conductor of an orchestra.

For added effect, listen to this as you read on:

The Conductor

‘Wait, what?’

Yes, the marketer needs to be the conductor, shaping the phrasing and setting the tempo to get the best out of his/her orchestra. Ultimately, without somebody in this role there will be no strategy or direction behind social efforts.

The conductor is to music, what the social media marketer is to content. And with social media, content is king.

Tip: Get Your Setlist (Content) Right

As conductor, it is your job to guide the conversation on social by using content tactically. Use the 80/20 rule (i.e. 4 pieces of informational content for every piece of promotional content) when deciding on content to post. Develop a number of content pieces that speak to each of your key points in a variety of formats (blogs, videos, infographics etc.) so that your buyer persona can digest your content how they want.

The Orchestra

The orchestra, in this sense, consists of all stakeholders who can help to amplify your content over the noise on social media. This could include:

  • employees
  • senior management and thought leaders in the company
  • partners
  • suppliers and
  • current clients (usually advocates and supporters).

Tip: Make Sure the Full Orchestra is in Sync

The key to B2B social media marketing success is to leverage the networks and influence of your advocates (the orchestra). You may be surprised how many small and medium sized businesses don’t take advantage of this. The difficulty lies in organizing stakeholders to get involved and like/comment/share company content – without making it seem as if it’s been coordinated from head office. In addition, some of your colleagues will engage naturally while others may need incentives to keep them in time with the rest of the musicians.

Use account tagging and hashtags to bring others into the conversation. Only by tapping into these networks will you achieve the reach you need to make social media marketing worthwhile. You can also increase engagement from stakeholders by sending email notifications to employees when a new post goes out, preemptively organizing social media activity with external partners and managing the social media accounts of your thought leaders.

The Audience

The audience is the market, and only a segment of the audience (your target market and buyer personas) is interested in listening to your performance. It’s important to focus your efforts on those who fit your marketing strategy if you want to be heard in a crowded theatre.

Tip: Play to the Right Audience

This is social media strategy 101 – be clear on why you are investing in certain social networks. Defaulting to Facebook because you have heard it has the widest reach is a common mistake. Social media platforms, and the various tools within each, should be employed contextually to target a particular user segment.

Matching your intended audience with the social media platforms you use will help get your message to the right people, but also think about how they are using the platform. Maybe they only use the messenger feature, are particularly active in groups or use the platform to keep up to date with interesting articles. Research is necessary to develop an accurate picture of your buyer personas and will help to make sure you spend your time, and money, wisely on social media.

The Theater

Finally, without a stage you wouldn’t have an opportunity to play at all. Luckily the main theaters (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) usually attract large attendances – but as Facebook’s recent difficulty shows, this might not always be the case.

Tip: You Don’t Own the Theater – or the Audience

Sure, you’re delighted to be able to play to such a large audience in such a magnificent theater – but beware, you can’t bring the audience with you if the theater owners decide to change the rules, or kick you out. That’s why you always want to invest in building your own assets – website traffic, search visibility, subscriber lists etc. Developing your own platforms minimizes your risk.

More and more, social media is pay-to-play; meaning only businesses that are willing to invest advertizing dollars are going to reach the audience they want. As a rule of thumb your business post will only reach 2-3% of your followers organically. So 2,000 Facebook followers equals an organic reach of 40-60 people – unless your content has a rare viral quality.

In summary your role is that of facilitator – there are too many variables to account for on social to have full control. Adopting this perspective for your social media activity going forward will help to maximize your reach and ultimately drive the conversation.

Check out one of my social media case studies here.


P.S. I have unashamedly taken inspiration for the illustrative style from Wait But Why and Tim Urban – it’s a great blog (particularly the Elon Musk series), check it out.

Ronan Martin

Ronan Martin is a New York-based digital marketing strategist specializing in SaaS and ICT marketing. Having worked in Dublin, New York, Chicago and Sheffield, Ronan has a keen understanding of the digital business landscape in the US, Ireland and the UK.

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