Social media is no longer the exclusive realm of students and teenagers, it’s now full of diverse audiences and integrated into many people’s daily routines. B2C marketers use creative content to catch the attention of these people and create conversation, using a variety of media and tones of voice. We’ve all seen the creative use of social when it came to a particular cereal and beans pairing, or the plight of a certain caterpillar; but surely this sort of thinking isn’t required for B2B businesses? Think again!
B2C and B2B brands have different sets of challenges when it comes to targeting audiences on social media. A sandwich company is looking to find people who like sandwiches and try to convince them that they should buy one of their products; this sales process is a 1 to 1 communication between brand and buyer. A B2B brand on the other hand may have to convince multiple stakeholders that they are a brand worth purchasing from and working with. The process is longer, more complicated, and often the customer has a higher financial risk in the transaction and is therefore wary.
A core principle of all B2B marketing strategies is building brand trust; a wholesale sandwich supplier must convince a potential customer that they not only have a great product, but that they are knowledgeable, trustworthy, reliable, innovative, and working with them will be a good business decision, as well as a good sandwich decision. When translating this strategy to social media it’s tempting to focus on demonstrating these traits by sticking to sharing industry articles or technical specifications about products, however it’s important not to forget the principles that underpin all social media marketing: content must Entertain, Engage, Educate, or Inspire.
Social Media Habits
At its core, social media is just that; social. It’s easy to fall into the trap when looking to market a B2B brand of thinking that you are just talking to other businesses and brands, but behind these accounts are people: and it is these people we are speaking to. Like any other customer, a stakeholder or key decision maker can be profiled; what sort of things do they enjoy? Do they have a long or short attention span? Are they using desktop or mobile? What time of day are they using social media?
The question of ‘what are your audiences’ social media habits’ is something that should always be asked before coming up with a content strategy. In our hypothetical chain of shops looking to buy from a wholesale sandwich supplier, we need to consider who is using social and when, and what their role within the company is. Between the hours of 9 and 5 the person you are most likely to find on social media in the B2B world are other social media professionals and marketers. They are likely to be using a desktop device, they may be actively seeking content and therefore be easier to catch the attention of and will most likely be digitally savvy. While they should not be completely dismissed as a valuable contact, they likely are focusing on selling to their own customers and aren’t the decision makers we really want to talk to.
In the UK in January 2021, there were 53 million active social media users; this is 77.9% of the country. While your target client may be otherwise occupied during working hours, they are most likely on social media outside of this. Not only does that mean you should adapt your content schedule around this, but most importantly it gives an insight in to how we can target the people we really want to reach. Jane Doe: Executive Sandwich Buyer from Generic Shop Chain Ltd is most likely using social media in a personal manner in her free time, is looking for light-hearted or entertaining content to relax with and may interact with punchier, shorter-form content. As a B2B seller attempting to talk business; we are encroaching on this personal time.
This is where creative content comes in. To make Jane Doe interact with your content when she was previously in an hour long spiral of looking at funny dog videos, we need to give her a reason; it needs to Entertain, Engage, Educate, or Inspire; not just on a business level, but a personal level.
What can you do?
Being creative with your content doesn’t mean you have to forfeit professionalism; creative content is about leveraging the resources you have to say something interesting, and what that ‘something’ is depends on one question. What do you want to be known for as a brand?
Are you down to earth and willing to have a laugh, or are you industry experts, able to share your knowledge in clear and concise ways? While social media can be a good platform for announcing product launches or events, it’s by letting your customers know who you are at your core that you will develop brand trust on social media, and in turn be on Jane Doe’s list of people to call in the morning.
While there are several companies attempting to rival them, nobody has come close to removing Adobe Creative Cloud as the industry standard for designers. Key to their success however has been their software’s accessibility. By promoting extensive free trials and discounts for students and freelancers, and then sharing user generated content (UGC) from these creatives on their social media feeds, adobe managed to become the go-to software for end-users. As these users moved into industry positions, they brought this loyalty with them and in turn Adobe became the Industry standard software.
The surface aim of this strategy was to use social media to show that the company cared about artists and supported them with affordable software – they showed this by willingly using their platform to shine the spotlight on their work. The result was extensive brand advocacy that led to end user upselling to the companies they would go on to work for; giving Adobe the opportunity to sell much more expensive software packages.
IBM are a prime example of a B2B brand really looking at who their customer is and appealing to them as a person as opposed to a job role. They frequently create content that acknowledges current events and trends within the social media sphere while still having it on brand, relevant and professional.
In 2020 Zoom came from nowhere, overtaking the long-established Skype to not only become most people and business’ go-to video calling platform, but even becoming part of the vernacular; following in the footsteps of Google and Hoover by their brand name being used interchangeably with the verb for their function. People now simply ‘Zoom’ one another.
Zoom have been rather cryptic in revealing how they achieved this, simply stating that they focused on having the best product; a strategy that is integral to many B2B businesses. How did they translate this to social media, however? Their copy itself is often concise and to-the-point, however their creative assets are high-quality, varied, and accessible, making use of video, animation, and design work. This focus on having a high-quality appearance on social reflected their brand aim, and rapidly established them as a trustworthy brand and platform.