The typical reaction we get when we speak about how B2B marketers are using Facebook is, ‘well, we don’t think it’s for us’.
However, we aren’t afraid of the tough conversations with our clients if it means getting to the right result and when the sums don’t add up the way we see it, then we’re happy to take a contrarian position and go against conventional wisdom.
When we work with our B2B clients, we clearly advocate using LinkedIn and Twitter as the premium social channels to reach their target markets.
Dependent on location and industry, there are a vast range of other niche industry specific platforms which could be utilised for informational and networking purposes.
The below are just a few examples – some are better than others, but all capable of expanding your reach, dependent on your objectives:
Yammer – an internal social network for your company connecting employees and enabling multiple projects across groups of offices and locations
Care2 – Not for profit community / causes that may relate to your industry
eToro – US based trader and investment community
Stockpickr – a community showcasing the portfolios of major players in the stock market like Warren Buffet and George Soros
Active Rain – a community for real estate professionals
Meet The Boss – debates and discussions about business best practices
HR.com – Human resources community
Legal On Ramp – legal resources from over 40 countries
Google+ – social circles and groups that contribute to SEO when leveraging Google authorship
FourSquare – local business network
Even if you don’t think the above are for your business or sector, with research, you can find the appropriate platforms.
Yet, despite the plethora of social platforms out there prevailing on your time, as a B2B marketer (and the fragmentation of audiences that comes with them), the giant elephant in the room remains Facebook for B2B.
The powerful ubiquity and reach of Facebook is well documented, with 1.35bn people accessing the platform each and every month. B2B marketers have been cautious about adopting Facebook as a channel and deploying precious budget in what has been traditionally been acknowledged as a consumer platform.
Fair enough, B2C brands with broader target segments and often indiscriminate brand awareness objectives have capitalised on the personal nature of Facebook. They have leveraged the undoubted benefits of positioning their product right into the trusted personal spaces where so many consumers spend so much of their time and which are aligned with so many positive associations.
However, with 59% of the UK population having active social media accounts, it is an irrefutable fact that some people are actually masquerading as two things at the same time…both B2B buying decision maker and a Facebook user.
B2B inbound marketing can benefit from this revelation but only if we understand the rules of game on the Facebook platform are inherently different from others on which we may try to position as part of an integrated inbound marketing approach. Especially when it comes to B2B marketing across Facebook.
The marketing power of 3
Incisive Edge believe strongly in the power of ‘3’ when it comes to successful marketing and sales alignment. Consistency, Momentum and Emphasis.
If you apply these three themes with judicious care and attention to your campaigns and programmes, you will reap considerable reward.
We advocate the use of value added or ‘cut-through’ content in all its forms to engage with audiences, educate and nurture leads and integrate with your B2B sales process. This content driven process however, will need to be applied with a light touch across Facebook.
Facebook sits at the top of the marketing funnel
Just because, as we’ve already established, your target buyer persona may actually be residing on Facebook after all, it does not mean that they want to engage with you in the same manner as they do across other channels.
Distributing content will work only if positioned at a very ‘top of the funnel’ level. It will work for brand awareness and even for alignment of specific brand values in order to differentiate from the competition, or to drive preference and consideration.
But don’t start drilling into serious detail; facts and figures, technical specification, over-coming objections or pricing, or you will quite simply lose your audience.
When it comes to Facebook for B2B, it is all about ‘the rules of engagement’.
It takes time to build relationships, share ideas and canvas for opinion. As a business and brand owner you will need to invest in casual conversation, learn to listen and to share. It’s a far less direct route than B2B is used to, but given the scale and reach of the platform, if done correctly, it can pay significant dividends.
Building your social media equity
Building social equity takes time and it is crucial therefore, that before you enter into a concerted approach on Facebook, you determine that you are ‘genuine’ – real, responsive, personal, authentic and of course, consistent.
You will need to commit to ‘real time’ interaction on likes, shares and posts over the long term to derive your return.
Align your strategy with Facebook’s
Your strategy also needs to be aligned with Facebook’s recent algorithm changes which penalise ‘click bait’ and ‘like bait’ approaches (where a vague headline or audacious promise encourages users to click. And then, when on the page, the article beseeches users to like/share or comment on a post to capitalise on wider distribution favour for posts who have heavier interaction).
Facebook (like Google), wants users to be clearly signposted to content that adds value (and doesn’t induce them to bounce straight back, having been disappointed, or misled from their destination).
Link sharing posts are more heavily promoted, as opposed to embedded text posts – following the rational that Facebook wants to give its users more of the content they want to see and are letting them be the judge of what that might be. It’s majoring on authentic interaction and being human and your B2B brand needs to follow suit.
This organic interaction on the platform will need to be coupled with the deployment of your budget.
If you are taking the channel seriously and intend to build a following, then Facebook’s intentions are clear - they intend to monetise it.
The good news is, especially given the theme of this article, that there isn’t a whole lot of B2B competition on Facebook right now, so you have a great opportunity.
If you treat Facebook for B2B, in a similar fashion to the way that you have already been conditioned to consider Google, you can readily acknowledge that visibility and searchability requires investment coupled with activity.
Beware of the Boost Button
SEO, inbound marketing and Adwords all cost money to do properly if you want to rank for a hot key word or term on the search engines. Deploy with care however, as the Facebook boost button, whilst increasing reach and views on the network, is not a targeted method of reaching the niche audience groups that B2B demands.
For this, we recommend using the Facebook ads power editor tool to target specific placements or to engage with granular audiences. Couple this with pertinent campaigns and content and the Return On Investment from your B2B marketing budget across what is still considered a B2C platform, can be highly significant.
Facebook is expanding into B2B
Having said this however, it should be highlighted that Facebook themselves have tacitly acknowledged there is more that they can do within the B2B space.
Their first foray into Facebook for B2B, has been to launch their app Facebook At Work to compete with the likes of Microsoft’s Yammer (as mentioned above), Socialcast, Slack, Convo and the many others who are trying to deliver and compete in the enterprise social network space.
The functionality is currently more focused on internal project sharing and communication, emulating the way that Facebook have themselves been operating internally for a decade.
Once established in this enterprise arena, no doubt, leveraging their immense experience in creating fluid, personalised network experiences and perhaps going on to offer the option to link both work and personal accounts, providing ease of management and single profile view, it’s not too great of a tangent to then expect Facebook to want to encroach upon LinkedIn’s exclusive B2B territory and try to eat their lunch.
The purpose of the internet is to share information and to deliver inclusion and homogeneity. Silos obviously exist as humans naturally group together to form self-interest-led clusters.
However, B2B businesses should learn from the current direction of travel.
There is a total erosion of the divide between work and personal time. Technology now reaches every facet of our lives with the total penetration of communications’ devices and 24/7 on demand access to our media driven world.
B2B needs to take heed. There is business to be done on Facebook right now and yet more to come.
B2B Facebook Marketing. Who would have thought?