During a time when “social distancing” has become the new norm, it’s no surprise most people are turning to social media to connect with friends, family, colleagues and buyers. The digital world has quickly become a safe alternative for B2B organizations to maintain relationships with prospects and customers alike, as in-person interactions are not an option for the time being. And while social media always has been a top channel for sales reps to engage with prospects and customers, and for businesses and individuals to share thought-leadership content with audiences, this “new reality” has shifted marketing strategies, requiring reps to rethink traditional tactics to cater to the needs and pain points of modern buyers during this unsettling time.
While the message always has been an important component for authentic engagement, it has become more critical than ever to understand what your audience is going through to better cater to their current situation in the right tone.
“Everything starts with the message … it always did, but I think the message is absolutely imperative even more now,” said Courtney Beasley, VP of Marketing at the B2B agency Walker Sands, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “So, make sure that you are meeting your audience where they are. And that might mean going back to the drawing board of understanding your personas and putting yourselves in the shoes of your customer.
Promoting Digital Communities & Education On Social Media
In a new world of canceled trade shows, as employees are forced to work from home and companies are shifting strategies to digital experiences, social media channels have become key to promoting virtual events and communicating discounts or free offers for services. B2B organizations such as Moz and Inverta are using company social channels, as well as individual employee’s social channels, to relay useful information to audiences and promote a sense of community. Social media also allows organizations to share how they are helping the greater community in their time of need.
“It's important for everyone to play their part in trying to support whoever needs it the most,” said Brendan Burns, podcast host and CEO of the coaching and consulting company Burns International. “A lot of companies are offering specials where they say, ‘Hey if you buy then we’re going to donate this percentage back to relief funds.’ Now more than ever, I think it's always important to have an element of contribution in your business and your communication strategies. And it’s really important to get those out there and share that on social because there's a lot of craziness happening in the world and while we don’t want to take advantage of the hysteria, you want to address it and try to help people and give them hope. Let them know that you're thinking about these things and doing your part as an organization to help.”
Inverta, for example, tapped into social media to promote an impromptu virtual roundtable for marketers to engage with each other to discuss strategies following the COVID-19 crisis. The company put together a Zoom meeting that was mainly promoted by the Inverta marketing team on LinkedIn, which led to more than 120 registrants for an event that didn’t require registration.
“I said this was going to be a networking lunch and I want marketers to get together and discuss how they're dealing with these event cancellations and budget reallocation, and really anything else on our minds right now,” said Ashley Schailer, VP of Marketing at Inverta. “I just put it out on LinkedIn and had some of my coworkers at Inverta also post it. We also did some highly targeted paid social through LinkedIn that was account- and title-specific.”
Moz, an SEO software provider, also turned to social media to promote free educational services in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is offering free courses within the Moz Academy and leveraging channels such as LinkedIn and Instagram to share the initiative.
“I'm seeing brands, especially in B2B, utilize their platforms a little bit differently,” said Beasley. “Moz did a really awesome ad campaign where they’re offering their training programs, which are normally around $250 a month, for free for whoever signed up. I happen to know that that was incredibly successful for them. They were running ads for that within Instagram stories since people are spending a lot more time on their phones interfacing with anything that's going to be collaborative. There's a lot of big opportunity to share those kinds of things via social ads and such.”
Making Professional & Personal Connections On Social Channels
When it comes to deciding which social channels to leverage, marketers must first understand their audience and know which platforms they frequent to make both a personal and professional connection.
To no surprise, Demand Gen Report’s 2020 Content Preferences Survey found that LinkedIn continues to be a top channel for sharing thought-leadership content, with 81% of respondents saying they share business-related content with their network. However, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are also becoming fairly common for sharing content.
Specifically, the research showed that 43% of respondents saying they share resources on Twitter, 40% share on Facebook and 22% on Instagram.
Buyers also continue to turn to social media to gain feedback and commentary on potential purchase decisions. More than half (57%) of survey respondents said they are relying on social feedback and commentary as they navigate new solutions and vendors.
“LinkedIn is still the starting point of where professional relationships begin, and often where the professional nature of relationships continues,” said Mike Orr, Founder and CEO of Grapevine6, an enterprise social and digital sales engagement platform. “We can almost think about it as a continuum. And this is probably the same for brands, where it goes from a professional realm into the personal realm. [LinkedIn] is usually the starting point for most of the social programs that we see in B2B. But then often, when you build a relationship, especially with current customers, you then would start to engage in more personal conversations that may extend into Twitter or Facebook or even Instagram, some of the more personal platforms. It really depends on the maturity of the relationship or the depth and personal element of the relationship and how that progresses to those different platforms.”
Orr noted that these more “personal” social media channels are ideal platforms to visually present company culture to a new audience, as well as promote charitable initiatives and support.
“The personal nature of the visual medium is that you can have a chance to externalize your company culture,” said Orr. “If you have a company culture that supports people internally or externally, or helps your customers do amazing things for society, you can visually represent those on social. If that's authentically part of your company culture, those platforms give you a way to externalize it.”
Amid our new reality, social media can make or break the way prospects and customers feel about your company. Taking the time to reassess what matters and what doesn’t for your audience is critical to delivering an authentic customer experience on social media.