Successful Brand Building (Still) Requires Social Media — Here’s Why
By Peggy Tierney Galvin, chief strategy officer, Force4 Technology Communications
The social media landscape is complex and fluid. Concerns over technical issues and leadership changes have led companies and individuals to reconsider a Twitter presence. One market research agency estimates that over 30 million users will leave in the next two years. There’s also potential regulatory crackdown looming. Two cases in motion (as of this writing) at the Supreme Court call into question whether Google, which owns YouTube, can be held responsible for the content it recommends if that content advocates terrorism.
Even with such questions hanging in the air, social media remains incredibly valuable for brands. Having a social media presence as a B2B tech company is no longer just a handy additional resource but an essential component of business, especially when it comes to brand development.
Social media is table stakes
How important is social media to leaders? A recent Harris poll found that 80% of business executives think it’s very important or essential to invest additional resources in social media marketing.
Your company needs a presence on the primary platforms where prospects might be searching for information about products and services that your offer. Investors, partners, journalists and analysts also use social media to look for and share information of interest. Covering the bases of a communications strategy means maintaining a presence on the main social media channels that your B2B audiences use, specifically LinkedIn and Twitter.
Social media use represents a business development opportunity, but there are some challenges to be aware of. First, it’s a public forum, which makes it more feisty and less controllable. That may spook tech leaders who are risk averse.
Influencer marketing is also a factor. It’s easier to assign an external influencer to a social campaign than to conduct one in-house. But this doesn’t allow the brand to speak for itself. So, influencer marketing should be used as additional resource for social media campaigns, not the entire campaign itself.
In addition, social media is highly competitive. Not only are there more channels that ever, but more users and more activity on those channels. For instance, more than 500 million Tweets go out each day – that’s 6,000 Tweets per second. It can feel overwhelming to make your voice heard in this crowd.
A report by social listening platform Hootsuite found that only 28% of all respondents think their firm has mature social media procedures for assigning value to social media-driven business outcomes. To succeed, you’ll need to establish goals, so you’ll know what to aim at then consistently measure results – see below for more information on this.
Best practices for a solid strategy
So, for your B2B tech social media strategy, which platform(s) do you pick? And how do you use them to greatest advantage?
Your first step is to identify your audience’s platform. You do that the same way you would identify a prospective customer or audience. Keep in mind the demographic you want to reach. Then define the goals you’re trying to achieve with this campaign: awareness, conversions, brand loyalty and so on.
Research each potential platform and apply the above findings to identify the best one. The posts for each platform should be tailored to each audience. For instance, Twitter posts should be short and punchy – and they tend to be newsy. LinkedIn posts are generally longer, more detailed and technical but still should be to the point and interesting to read.
You’ll need to identify social spokespeople as well. Who will be the face of your company? 62% of CEOs are now present on at least one social media platform. Posts from an executive’s account should be in their voice and more focused on thought leadership and market insights, rather than “pushing product.” Big product announcements are great, if they’re positioned with context on what it means for the company/industry, rather than just a sales pitch.
Make sure you are tracking with social media best practices, too. For instance, try to apply the 4-1-1 rule. This means that out of every six posts, four of the posts should be educational or entertaining (content that is new and interesting), one post will be a soft promotion (news, event happening, shared content or un-gated content), and one post can be a hard promotion with a call to action (i.e., contest or self-serving post). The idea of the 4-1-1 rule is to make sure you are varying your post content, keeping the information new and interesting, and not always posting on the same subject. This allows your social channel to become an additional resource for customers, partners and prospects.
Engage to be engaged. Don’t just “post and ghost” – dumping content without interacting with followers and influencers. 78% of consumers are willing to buy from a company after having a positive experience with them on social, which means a “like” can go a long way. Set up alerts on your social platform to allow quick feedback on customer concerns or comments. Schedule blocks of time throughout your day to scroll and actively engage with social content that is related to your business.
Measuring return-on-investment is another best practice. It’s important to consistently and accurately measure ROI when planning and launching a social campaign.
Your communications strategy should have a measurable through-line of keywords and key messages from the top of the funnel – which includes PR tools like social media – all the way through each stage of the buyer’s journey in sales campaigns and CRM tools.
Use tools like Google Analytics to measure the relative interest of your targeted audiences when they click on social posts containing your Google Ad keywords and key messages. This provides insight into interest areas for your targeted audiences that you can re-invest into your nurture streams in CRM tools like Pardot or HubSpot.
Maximize your effort
Social media is great for brand building when done correctly. It shows that the company is established, mature, dynamic and well-run, especially with a cohesive narrative that connects the dots between the social channel content and the rest of the marcom apparatus. Use the best practices outline above to ensure that you are making the most of this dynamic opportunity.