The top 6 reasons your B2B social media strategy is failing

Social media marketers, by training and instinct, love to opt for glitzy and high-profile social media strategies. But if you’re in the B2B space, the mass-market tactics favoured by B2C experts, can sometimes be ineffective and inappropriate. Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons why your B2B social media strategy might be failing.

1. You don’t actually have a strategy!

This may sound intuitive, but the reality is that many B2B businesses – particularly smaller ones – often don’t have a social media strategy to speak of. Instead, their primary marketing and sales focus is on traditional methods, such as cold calling, participating in networking events, direct mail or getting involved in trade shows.

When they do embark on a social media journey, the rationale is that “we’d better do some social media because everyone else is doing it”. This is not a strategy! Is it merely a knee-jerk, uncoordinated, me-too reaction that is, almost certainly, doomed to failure in the longer term.

Instead, you need to think about:

  1. What you want to achieve
  2. How you plan to do it
  3. What resources you can commit to your efforts
  4. How you will monitor public reaction
  5. What would be an acceptable and realistic ROI

Once you have these answers, commit to a written B2B social media strategy. Documenting your plans keeps everyone within the organisation heading in the same direction at all times. It also helps you to adjust your strategy when you need to.

brainstorm, strat

2. You’re not consistent

Social media is a dynamic and constantly evolving environment. New networks are launched, once-established networks fade away, algorithms change, new features are introduced, and services that were once free, become paid-for. There’s also a strongly subjective element to social media and everyone seems to have an opinion (informed or otherwise) about how it should work.

If you allow yourself to be swayed by every bit of idle water-cooler talk, pub chatter, or half-baked and self-serving “social media report” that’s published, you’ll forever be chopping and changing your social media tactics and will have very little idea of what really works or doesn’t. Unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise, stick with your B2B social media strategy for a pre-determined period, and then revaluate.

As with any other aspect of marketing, social media marketing also requires that you be consistent in the frequency of your client interaction and the way that you present yourself.

  • Your organisational voice and overall brand message (the golden thread) should be consistent in each message that you post.
  • Posts must be consistent with whatever messages you portray in other aspects of your marketing, for example the messages contained in your print advertising and press releases.

3. You’re not committed

Because many B2B businesses remain sceptical of the value of social media marketing, there’s a tendency to say “let’s try it for three months and see what happens”.

Social media is already very well proven as a B2C marketing tool and there’s no reason for it not to do the same in the B2B environment. The only real question is how to make it work best for your particular business circumstances. So commit resources, commit expertise and be in it for the long haul.

As an effective B2B marketer, you’ll already know that generating leads and making sales takes time. There are typically multiple people that need to be influenced before a sale happens – ranging from the client’s CFO to the marketing director, technical director, purchasing manager and product buyers. Even once they’re all on board, it may take months for a deal to be concluded.

Given all of these realities, wouldn’t it be unrealistic to expect your B2B social media strategy to begin making a bottom-line contribution in only a few months?   

4. You’re not using the right platforms

social media

All social media platforms are not created equal, so you need to determine which platforms work best for you. In the B2B setting, the obvious default is LinkedIn. It focuses on business content, business networking and jobs. It also boasts a huge worldwide audience of 575-million businesspeople.

LinkedIn

According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute and Iron Paper Insights (2018), 97% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn as a content marketing platform. This was notably better than the other platforms, with Twitter coming in at 87%, Facebook at 86% and YouTube at 60%. Others were Instagram (30%) and Google+ (28%).

Obviously this situation changes constantly and many social media platforms are becoming more user-friendly towards businesses. They are progressively realising that there’s good money to be made helping companies achieve their marketing goals.

YouTube

If your company sells products with even marginal visual appeal, consider a YouTube presence. You can create how-to videos that explain how to fit, replace or repair your products, for example. These videos don’t need to be super-slick in look and feel, and can therefore be relatively cost-effective to produce. But you should always have minimum production standards in order to avoid damaging the brand.

Similarly, you can place interesting product photos, illustrations diagrams etc. on Pinterest or Instagram, as these platforms are primarily visual.

Facebook

Facebook, despite its reputation for being sensationalist and frivolous, can also have B2B benefits. The scale of its total worldwide audience is enormous (2.32-billion monthly active users as at the end of 2018) and if your target audience is slightly younger (e.g. product buyers or product managers) then they’re almost certainly on Facebook themselves. According to Professor Michael Goldman of the University of San Francisco, almost half of B2B buyers are now millennials – those aged 23-38. In other words, they’re a prime Facebook audience.

Twitter

If you’re in a business where there’s fast-breaking news, consider a Twitter presence. If you specialise in aviation insurance, for example, your clients may value Twitter updates about aircraft crashes, recently uncovered technical problems, or the unveiling of new aircraft models.

5. You’re not doing enough on social media

For many B2B organisations, being on social media equates to offering a very generic company profile, basic product information and contact details. Your social media presence is then little different to your website or the printed brochures that gather dust in reception.

A successful B2B social media strategy requires continual work. Update your posts frequently, although without becoming an irritant, as social media thrives on new content and the beast must be fed regularly. According to the publication Search Engine Journal, content typically only lives for about 20 minutes on Twitter and for a few hours on Facebook. LinkedIn and YouTube will have longer attention cycles, but you get the picture.

6. Your content isn’t good enough

Remember to be human and conversational. A long and convoluted extract from your annual report, that’s full of corporate-speak, does not constitute good content. Neither does an excerpt from your latest brochure or technical manual.

Leverage all your in-house resources to find new and interesting content that will be relevant to current or potential clients. Ask product managers, technical experts, in-house designers, marketing managers and executive management to all contribute content or, at the very least, provide ideas that the social media team can work with.

Consider leveraging:

  • Posts that teach something 
  • Posts that tell a story 
  • Posts that inspire 
  • Posts that announce what is happening at a company 
  • Posts that entertain 
  • Posts that showcase new products or services 

If you’re tapping into all of the above, chances are that your B2B social media strategy is well on the way to delivering long-term marketing success. 

The 7 Principles of Wildly Successful Social Media Challenges

The #tenyearchallenge swept the Internet in January 2019, clocking up 2.5 million hashtag mentions over the month as celebrities and ordinary users posted current and past pictures of themselves online.

Journalists initially explored how the challenge reached back to the dawn of social media, smart phones and the selfie. Then the media coverage evolved to include a controversial suggestion that the challenge was actually engineered by Facebook in an effort to sharpen up its facial recognition technology (which Facebook denied).

And so the challenge spread in a classic wave pattern, before fading away, as expected. But what’s really going on when a social media challenge blows up? Why do we respond so enthusiastically to some concepts, but not to others? And why do so many challenges seem to skirt the bounds of rational behaviour?

We gathered the collective insights of marketers, academics and journalists to identify seven factors that define the success of so-called Viral Challenge Memes (VCMs).

1. Successful challenges naturally accommodate incremental change

The #Neknomnation challenge started in New Zealand in late 2013, and hit the Internet in early 2014. Participants were required to film themselves downing a pint of alcoholic beverage in a single gulp. The challenge spread quickly, and is widely considered to be one of the world’s pioneering VCM’s.

top social media challenges

Crucially, each #Neknomination participant was able to add a personal, innovative touch by changing either the liquid consumed or the manner of consumption. The concept was consistent, yet open to incremental personalisation, which is one of the most important structural features required for effective viral uptake. In the first two months of 2014 alone, #neknomination was mentioned 800 000 times on the Internet.

Later in 2014 the ALS ICE Bucket Challenge arrived in our lives, and became perhaps the most widely recognised and understood social media challenge of all. Its structure was also suited to small changes by participants, but that wasn’t the only factor underpinning its success.

2. Celebrity involvement drives uptake

The ALS Ice Bucket challenge saw a stunning 19 million hashtag mentions from the beginning of July to the end of August 2014. The ALS part of the name refers to an organisation that supports research into and support services for people affected by Motor Neuron Disease. Donations resulting from the challenge are reported to have reached as much as $115 million.

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The worthiness of the cause was an important factor driving extensive celebrity involvement, and the participation of Barak Obama, Bill Gates, Rene Zellwegger and many, many more celebrity heavyweights is commonly recognised as one of the reasons the Ice Bucket Challenge just kept on going.

Other good causes have tried to replicate the Ice Bucket Challenge, with varying degrees of success, while the much more frivolous but nonetheless celebrity fuelled Kylie Jenner Challenge (which involved sucking the air from a shot glass to create friction and a Kylie Jenner-like pout) reached more than 15 million mentions in April and May 2015 alone.

Clearly, celebrity presence can add rocket fuel to the challenge fire. Sometimes a charitable structure can push celebrities to become involved, and sometimes they’ll participate off their own bat. Regardless, when the influencers accept a nomination or are involved in the concept, conditions are good for viral spread.

3. No one wants to ‘arrive late’

Social science researchers at the University of Kent explored the social media challenge phenomenon in a 2017 paper, Prestige, Performance and Social Pressure in Viral Challenge Memes, [1] which included a survey of the opinions of social media challenge participators. One of the paper’s more intriguing propositions is that once a VCM has hit full steam its popularity means nominees increasingly feel they might actually lose social credibility by participating.

Take the Kiki challenge, for example, which saw 6.2 million hashtag mentions from 1 June – 31 August 2018, at an average of roughly 2 million mentions per month. Also known as the In My Feelings Challenge, Kiki involved jumping from a moving vehicle and dancing in the road to the tune of Drake’s “In My Feelings”. It all started when American comedian Shiggy posted an Instagram video (which didn’t actually involve a car – this only became a feature of the challenge after his friend, Odell Beckham Jr, danced in front of a vehicle). With celebrity participation and the ability to add incremental changes pretty much baked into the format, #Kiki was destined to outperform 2013’s The Harlem Shake (5.5 million mentions in February / March 2013). By October 2018, however, Kiki mentions were still all the way down to 500 000, and falling.

 

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The rule is simple: as a challenge hits peak popularity we start to see participation in it as merely following the crowd – the opposite of cool. And so the wave breaks, and loses power.

4. Social groups are excited by risky behaviour

Many social media challenges involve stunts that can cause physical harm. Wired Magazine examined why physical risk can be so compelling in a 2018 article that cites Damon Centola, associate professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of How Behaviour Spreads.

“Adopting dangerous behaviours is usually triggered by emotional excitement, which is amplified in crowds,” he says. On social media, mass comments, likes and shares easily trigger this state of group excitement, encouraging participation. Thus, if a challenge has just enough risk to create emotional excitement and participation, but not enough danger to make it implausible, it is likely to tap into our group instinct to be a little thrilled by danger.

It’s no accident, then (pun intended), that many of the biggest VCMs of the recent past test the bounds of human safety. In fact, risk is part of what makes a challenge appealing to inherently excitable online groups.

5. Self identity matters more than fame

Somewhat counter intuitively, most challenge participants don’t actually want to break the Internet with incredible Harlem Shake or Kiki dance moves. Instead, our priority is more on connecting with peers by demonstrating a touch of personal style.

Prestige, Performance and Social Pressure in Viral Challenge Memes raises the idea that VCM participants feel some pressure to show their ‘skills’ by posting something ‘good enough’. This is an important notion that suggests most participants don’t want to stand out too much. Rather, they enjoy following the rules to communicate aspects of their personal identity within the social context of their peer group.

The Mannequin Challenge, which received 20 million mentions in the last two months of 2016, illustrates this dynamic. Started by students at Ed White High School in Jacksonville, USA, the challenge involved adopting sudden mannequin poses – essentially repeating the formula of the ‘Planking’ phenomenon of 2013. Sports teams and professional athletes loved the concept, and delivered a litany of Mannequin poses that reinforced fun and innovative aspects of their identity within the nuanced and localised social rituals of sport, friends and fans.

 

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