Progressive B2B brands are taking a note from the B2C playbook and meeting buyers on their preferred platforms, such as on podcasts, through videos and on social media. In fact, the number of buyers using social media to research potential solutions has grown from 20% in 2012 to 54% in 2018, according to the B2B Buyers Survey. Yet, research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that while 80% of B2B marketers have a social media strategy in place, only 32% have documented it.
A winning social media strategy must be documented and expansive. B2B companies should leverage a variety of social media platforms to not only promote their products, but also share relevant content, engage with customers, build brand awareness and more. Here are five B2B brands with a stellar social media presence we can all learn from:
MailChimp is an email marketing platform, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it by looking at their Instagram. The company’s Instagram page is a beautiful blend of bright colors, entertaining videos and a dash of humor — a winning combination that has landed MailChimp over 83,000 Instagram followers. Visit the page for yourself and see if you can resist hitting the follow button.
Slack leverages Twitter as a two-way communication platform to engage with current and prospective customers. On most days, the Slack Twitter is awash with relevant videos, articles and more, and the Slack team is constantly responding to comments from other Twitter users. But on days where Slack is down, the company uses Twitter as an active platform to send out status updates and field individual questions and feedback from users. With Twitter, Slack can provide real-time customer support in an easily accessible and scalable way.
The best brands don’t just have social media pages for their companies, but also their events. HubSpot is a shining example of Facebook use at its finest.
The company has created a separate Facebook page solely for its annual INBOUND event. Although the event takes place in early September, the company is dedicated to building a year-long, sustainable community around it. To do so, HubSpot created an INBOUND Studio page, where it posts video interviews, “dear attendee” tips, quotes and more on a regular basis. The posts help drive engagement long after the event has ended, as well as build excitement around the following year’s event.
LinkedIn is repeatedly named the top social media platform to reach B2B buyers, and Oracle is a prime example of how to best leverage the site. The company is ranked 9th on LinkedIn’s top companies list and has amassed more than three million LinkedIn followers. Beyond just sharing content and relevant news, Oracle makes a point to connect with its followers and showcase the people behind the brand.
Earlier this month, the company opened up about losing 11 employees on 9/11. Then, in the wake of Hurricane Florence, Oracle posted a video of two employees who are delivering supplies and providing aid to those affected by the storm and urged its followers to join them in giving back. In doing so, Oracle humanizes its brand and creates a company image that people will want to support.
Instagram is quickly growing in popularity and is considered the number one platform for engagement. Nevertheless, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many B2B brands using the platform, let alone posting content on a regular basis.
Adobe, which recently acquired Marketo, has a notable Instagram presence on par with MailChimp. The Adobe Instagram feed looks like something straight out of Pinterest, with breathtaking travel photos, inspirational quotes and quirky designs. But don’t be fooled by the professional-looking photos, as they are often created by Adobe users themselves. By crowdsourcing user photos, Adobe always has a steady stream of content available and can showcase the power of its products over social media.
In the early days of demand generation, the traditional funnel excelled at helping businesses streamline their processes to move prospective customers from the top of the funnel to closed business. However, there has been a movement within the B2B marketplace toward breaking down the traditional sales funnel that the industry has come to adopt. You can see that in examples such as the #FlipMyFunnel movement and other analysts’ interpretations of the customer journey.
HubSpot has launched new Sales Hub and Service Hub offerings and updates to its Marketing Hub products, which the company has bundled into a new Enterprise Growth Suite. The company also unveiled new video creation, management and analytics features to its platform to streamline video content production.
Online communication via email and mobile devices may be on the rise, but face-to-face engagement with customers and prospects at live events is far from fading away. In fact, the 2018 Event Marketing Benchmarks and Trends report from Bizzabo reveals that more than 80% of marketers view live events as a critical factor to company success and 63% plan to hold more live events and increase budget spending in the future. Marketers from companies such as WorkWave, Marketo and HubSpot are looking ahead and investing in live events as a tool to build communities around their brands and collect better leads more quickly.
Yet, despite the growing demand for event marketing, many marketers still struggle to prove event success and calculate ROI. New research from Certain and Heinz Marketing shows that nearly half of marketers spend up to 25% of their budget on events. Another quarter said they spend between 26% and 50%. But of the marketers surveyed, only 30% said they find their spending to be effective.
“I think the disconnect is due to a lack of maturity in how companies measure and track ROI from events,” said James Huddleston, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Certain, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Because events are a physical channel, many companies don’t have the right tools or processes to convert physical buying signals from events into quantifiable ROI.”
Validar CEO Victor Kippes agrees, saying incomplete or irrelevant event data was a constant struggle in his previous marketing roles and was the reason he started Validar as an event marketing software company.
“I was on the receiving end of event data for many years and it was a big frustration of mine,” said Kippes. “When my company went to an event, they’d come back and give me 100 leads or 500 leads and say, ‘call these; there’s some good ones in there.’ I didn’t call them. You may as well have ripped six pages out of the Yellowbook. Those leads weren’t qualified or categorized at all.”
Just as content is becoming more personalized and authentic, marketers are taking their strategies up a notch by doing the same for event experiences.
WorkWave, a cloud-based field services and fleet management solutions provider, is doubling its event marketing efforts in 2018 and focusing its efforts on developing valuable events that are tailored to the target audience. According to CMO Ken Wincko, the company held less than 100 live events last year and will hold around 150 this year.
“We are trying to create exceptional experiences at our events,” said Wincko. “We are tailoring events and event content based on industry, company and role. [Attendees] are put in different rooms based on the type of company they’re in and their level of proficiency. So, we’re providing different content for the small business owner because they have different challenges than the enterprise-level companies.”
In addition to its own branded events, WorkWave does roadshows and participates in third-party sponsor events. Wincko said live events comprise between 20%-25% of the company’s marketing budget for 2018.
According to Wincko, the company conducted focus groups and surveys to better gauge what their attendees want out of events and catered their approach accordingly. As a result of this feedback, WorkWave shifted its events to focus to how to’s and product optimization which is tailored to different industries, companies and roles.
B2B companies have also found success by creating memorable event experiences and building year-long communities around the event.
“We have found that giving the attendees an experience along with information is the most successful,” said Simon McPherson, Director of Global Events at Marketo, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Our theme [this year] was ‘The Fearless Marketer.’ We used that in messaging and content, as well as in experiences at the show.”
According to McPherson, the conference included a zip line, as well as a “Swallow Your Fears” booth with scorpions and other insects. The experiences allowed attendees to fully embrace the theme of fearlessness and guaranteed that the conference would not soon be forgotten.
The INBOUND event itself is centered on the idea of communities and puts attendee needs at the forefront.
“INBOUND is not a traditional B2B conference,” said Kimberley Darling, Senior Director of INBOUND, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “We actually banned the word conference because it has that user group connotation within the B2B tech world. We think of INBOUND as a community. We want people to have a place where they believe in doing things in a better way in order to grow their business, grow their careers, grow their teams and grow themselves.”
The company aims to continue the conversation post-event via the INBOUND Studio, a series of video interviews that are published to Facebook, YouTube and Instagram throughout the year.
“We have enough content where we’re putting out videos each month,” said Darling. “Really, it comes back to how you think like a marketer. You have this property, which is your event, and you want to be able to leverage your social channels to keep the conversation going year-round.”
When done right, live events can serve as a shortcut for marketers to gather more qualified leads. In-person events give marketers a direct platform to engage with current and prospective customers, promote and demo new products, answer questions and more.
“I think in the digital age, the people-to-people aspect of marketing has become even more important,” said Wincko. “When people come to your events, they’ve committed time, so they’re more serious about it. It shows that you have more interest than just a casual exploration phase.”
But better leads are futile without the right technology to support them. Progressive marketers are turning to mobile event apps, such as Doubledutch and Attendify, to gather qualified leads and collect data for informed follow-up.
“It's all about how you collect and utilize data,” said Jared Bodnar, VP of Marketing at Attendify, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “When the technology is used correctly, it’s [also] used to enhance the attendee experience and move them through the event in a very delightful way.”
But according to the 2018 State of B2B Event Marketing report, only about 30% of marketers are using mobile event apps, which James Huddleston, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Certain, an event automation and management software provider, said is a surprising statistic.
“Given the importance and ubiquity of mobile phones, companies who are hosting events should absolutely utilize a powerful event app to foster greater engagement and provide a personalized experience for their attendees,” he said.
In addition to doubling its marketing efforts, WorkWave is prioritizing mobile event apps as a strategy for success. According to Wincko, the company recently changed its event software to Cvent, in part because it offers a mobile component.
“We’re investing more in our events and in mobile apps because that’s where everyone is,” said Wincko. “Even in events, people are sitting at a session and they’re on their mobile phones. They’re recording you, taking pictures, tweeting or they’re looking at some other content on their phone.”
In addition to collecting attendee data for lead generation and nurturing, mobile event apps can also serve as a useful tool for B2B companies to share content and connect with attendees post-event.
“Some of our clients use apps as sort of community apps throughout the year,” said Bodnar. “They don’t want the momentum to slow down after the event is over, so they use the apps throughout the year to keep people engaged, to keep people posting, to keep sharing information and sharing content.”
HubSpot unveiled a number of upgrades and new features to its platform at its recent INBOUND15 event, including an expansion of its CRM application and the addition of predictive capabilities. Demand Gen Report sat down for a one-on-one interview with new CMO Kipp Bodnar about the company’s latest offerings and the changing B2B marketing landscape.