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How B2B Companies Should Use Social Media in 2021

Facebook is almost an adult!
Can you believe it’s been nearly 18 years since its launch?! Over that time, Facebook and other social media platforms have changed considerably. Just like your kids, they’ve grown up. And some might say for the better.

If you and your company are still operating on social media like it’s 2004, you’re due for some changes. First, let’s review what’s different about social media today. Then let’s discuss how your equipment company can carry out efforts that will lead to the best investment of both time and dollars. 

What’s So Different About It?
Remember when Vine was leading the short video game? (It doesn’t exist anymore!) Or when Twitter was a great source for referral traffic? (Not so much now!) How about when LinkedIn was just a résumé library? (It’s a lot more than that today!) Times have changed. And social media has changed with it. Here are a few more things that make social media different today: 

 BEFORE (2004)
Very inexpensive, often free
"Content is king"
Great for driving traffic
Repurpose content across all platforms
Automate! Automate! Automate!
A variety of content types work great
"Likes" matter
Ads are cool

TODAY (2021)
A significant investment
"Consistency is king"
Great for exposure and brand-building
Create unique experiences on each platform
Personalize! Personalize! Personalize! Video and visuals are more important than ever
Comments and direct messages matter
Ads are essential

For 18 years, social media has played a significant role in the marketing mix. It’s often been lauded as the initial touchpoint between customer and brand. In other words, it’s often the first place a buyer finds you. “Top of funnel” is what you might hear it called.

Social media still can play that role today. But the strategies around it must be different. And that’s especially true for B2B brands.

Top Two Social Media Pain Points
I did a poll recently on LinkedIn. I asked what the biggest challenges are when it comes to social media marketing today. The top results were:

1  It doesn’t directly drive revenue.      2  It takes a lot of time.

It’s important that we take a closer look at each complaint. 

Is it hard to connect social media efforts to sales? 
Yes, it is. That’s true. But why? It’s because the number of touchpoints needed to make a sale today is much greater than in the past. Statistics used to show it took seven touchpoints to make a sale. Today, I’ve seen that number suggested as being as high as 15 or even 20. That’s because we’re inundated with so much content, so many ads, so much media on a daily basis.

We know buyers are on social media. Facebook’s user count of 2.7 billion proves that. YouTube’s 5 billion daily views proves that. Therefore, we know that social media can (and should) play a role in helping introduce our products to our audience.

Will a single social media post lead directly to a purchase? Probably not. Can social media be one, two or three of those touchpoints that help lead to a sale? Yes. Reestablish your expectations. Social media is great for visibility, brand-building, and awareness-driving. 

If you accept that there are many touchpoints needed to make a sale (and social media can be a few of them), it’s easier to stomach the investment. 

Does it take a lot of time? 
Yes, it does. That’s also true. But like anything in marketing, it’s an investment. If done right, it can reap rewards. There are ways to be more efficient, too.

First, hire the right people for the job. The marketing and sales teams can leverage social media and put these channels to work for your company. Find team members that are creative, can build engaging posts and ads, and can analyze data. They’ll not only be able to do a great job, but they’ll move with greater speed.

Second, lean on tools to help you be more efficient. There are visual-building tools (like Canva), social media management tools (like Sprout Social), and image library sites (like Unsplash) that can all play a role in helping you be more time-conscious.

By being selective in choosing the right ways to invest your time, you enable your equipment company to operate more efficiently and you have a greater impact on the bottom line. 
It’s also important to focus on the right areas. Here’s where your company should be spending the most time on social media today.

How You Should Use Social Media Today

#1: Social as an Advertising Platform
Once upon a time, B2B companies saw traction with organic (free) content on Facebook.  Remember? You worked hard for those 2,000 fans! And it was safe to assume that when you put a post out, almost all 2,000 would see it. 

Fast-forward to today. Now, if you put that same post out, only 100-200 people will see it right out of the gate (5-10%). Why? Because Facebook wanted to turn a greater profit. They built a loyal customer base, got them hooked, and then capitalized on it. This reduction in organic reach directly led to the need (i.e., requirement) for brands to advertise. It’s really the only way to guarantee that your 2,000 fans (and far beyond!) will see your material. 

Plus, the targeting on Facebook and other social media channels is pretty stellar. It helps you target your ideal customer and only spend dollars on getting in front of the folks you deem most valuable to your dealership. 

Here are some ways you can target on social media: 

SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNEL

Facebook Targeting Capabilities
Location
Age, gender, education, job title
Include or exclude fans
Interests and hobbies
Similar audiences
Remarketing
Uploaded lists

Youtube Targeting Capabilities
Location
Age, gender, education
Household income
Hobbies and interests
Custom intent
Similar audiences
Remarketing
Uploaded lists

Snapchat Targeting Capabilities
Location
Age, gender
Interests and behaviors
Remarketing
Uploaded lists

Spotify Targeting Capabilities
Location DMA
Age, gender
Interests
Context
Genre

#2: Social as a Selling Tool
Beyond “brand pages,” it's becoming more and more common (and more and more effective) for sales folks to use social media from their own personal pages. In doing so, they can find prospects, build relationships, and ultimately engage in sales conversations. You might have heard it called “social selling.”

Depending on your industry, social selling can take place over Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram. But for most B2B companies, all directions point toward LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a business-to-business playground, and its prospecting tool called LinkedIn Sales Navigator helps you find professionals in your target audience.

Treat social selling as an extension of your company’s ongoing marketing and sales efforts. The only difference is that each salesperson acts as him- or herself. It’s their profile. Their comments. Their content. Their direct messages. Their personal brand.
Have them follow these rules:

- Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator and find appropriate folks to connect with. Personalize the request.

- Create content and educate users. Talk about what you know and keep it relevant based on what you sell, what the company stands for, and what you stand for.

- Comment on and interact with other people’s content. It’s important to be an active part of the social community. Develop real relationships. 

- When the time is right, go into sales mode. 

If your sales team invests time and acts as a resource for the online community, the leads will follow.

#3: Social as a Customer Service Channel
Social media is how many of us personally interact with one another. We don’t just text. Haven’t you noticed that almost every social media site, from Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter, has a direct message feature? In fact, my students this past semester told me that they mostly use Snapchat for direct and group messaging. Many rarely share photos with their stories anymore (a stark contrast from even just three or four semesters ago). And remember, these youngsters are your next generation of buyers.
Treat your social media platforms like any other customer service channel. In the same way that you place lots of value on website form fills and phone calls, accept that a social media direct message is equally viable. Enable your systems and tools to allow and encourage customers to communicate with you through these platforms. There are tools out there that can help aggregate and pull all comments, reviews and direct messages into one place for easier communication. Invest dollars in these resources. Not only will it save time, but it will help you measure your efforts and allow you to get a better grasp on the impact that your efforts are having.


Recommendations
Social media isn’t a tactic that you can dabble in. If you choose that path, you’re setting yourself up to fail.  Instead, be strategic in how and where you spend your time. Here are a few final recommendations:
Select only one or two social media platforms to focus on. Any more than that, and you’re likely biting off more than you can chew. Choose these platforms based on where your target audience spends the most time. In the equipment space, that’s likely LinkedIn and Facebook, or LinkedIn and YouTube.

- Set aside a budget. You have to invest in advertising to be successful. 

- Educate your sales team on the value of social selling. Have them optimize their LinkedIn profiles and  help them develop a social selling strategy that consists of content curation, comment creation, and direct outreach.

- Develop a system for direct messages to enter into your intake system in a way that allows sales or customer service to respond quickly and efficiently. Make sure those conversations and those leads get entered into your CRM, where appropriate. 

- Measure your efforts. It’s good to look at all your typical KPIs, like conversions, traffic, and impressions – but see them through the lens of social media. Just keep in mind that it’s a long-term game and social interactions may be just one of many touchpoints before a sale begins.

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