If you’d asked this question 5 years ago the answer probably would have been unanimously LinkedIn, and 94% of B2B marketers do still use LinkedIn as part of their strategy. However, with changes in the way we all consume social media, advances and specialisations in the various platforms, the answer is no longer so straightforward. The simple answer is that you need to be where your customers are and communicating with them in a way which suits your content and time/ resources. Don’t forget that your buyers are still people and when you’re using social media to reach them you’re contacting them in a very personal way, often on their own devices and in their own time. 55% of B2B buyers search for information on social media when making decisions about suppliers- by the time you’re having conversations with them they already have an impression of your business.
LinkedIn is still the powerhouse of B2B networking with over 500 million active users globally and 94% of B2B Marketers using LinkedIn to distribute content (so if you’re not there already, your competitors probably are). Company pages give an effective showcase and there’s a decent ability to advertise based on job title. There are also some really interesting things happening with personal profiles at the time of writing- topics which are conversational are getting huge amounts of interactions.
BUT Company pages have less functionality that personal profiles- you can only post, not engage or follow as your business. Advertising is a minimum of $10 per day, which is significantly more than the Facebook and Twitter minimums.
Twitter also scores highly with 87% of B2B Marketers using Twitter as part of their content strategy. There’s 100m daily users, with 33% following a brand and 79% of users likely to recommend a brand they follow. It’s a great networking tool- the open nature of the platform makes it easy to hold conversations and join relevant ones. Twitter lists give you great listening potential- you can set up private lists of customers, competitors, industry influencers and join relevant hours. It’s a great customer service tool too with large brands often setting up separate handles for this purpose.
BUT the life of a tweet is short and you need to be consistently operating at a high volume to grow your network- you can’t tweet a few times a week and be heard by your customers and prospects. There’s the opportunity to use the speed of Twitter to your advantage for customer care but it can also work to your disadvantage if you aren’t resourced appropriately.
Facebook has historically had a reputation as a B2C network- after all, it is where we all go to catch up with friends and family. However, it really shouldn’t be overlooked as a potential platform for businesses- with over 2BN users, your customers are going to be there, and with over 5 million active advertisers, your competitors probably are too.
BUT The Facebook algorithm, which protects the user experience by prioritising news from friends and family, means that just because you publish something on your business Facebook page your audience doesn’t see it. This ‘organic’ reach has been declining for years and now means 3% of your audience initially see your posts with further restrictions happening from January 2018. It’s best approached as a low cost advertising platform. The real benefit of Facebook is the advanced targeting options for advertisers- with a variety of custom audiences allowing small businesses to target not only by interest but by who has visited their website, been on their email list or even resembles people who like their page, The deep analytics which give near immediate feedback on what’s working and what’s not also allow small businesses a great insight leading to an ability to make changes.
Owned by Facebook, Instagram has 800 million active monthly users and a highly engaged audience- the average Instagram post has as an engagement rate of 3% as opposed to Facebook or Twitter account with lower engagement rates of only 0.5 – 1.0%. It’s fast growing, supported by Facebook development and investment and has access to similar tools.
BUT It works best with beautiful photos and visual assets. If your business doesn’t produce these consider whether this is the right place to spend your time and effort.
Should we be elsewhere? Key to successful social media is being consistent, present and truly social on whatever platform you choose to be on. It’s better to pick a platform and deliver well against your strategy to build an engaged audience than spread yourself too thin. You Tube, Pinterest, Snapchat, Slideshare and Google+ could all be options for your business- but the key to this is to be on the same platforms as your target customers.
As a summary, don’t assume that platforms are either B2B or B2C- be driven by your own strategic approach, your customers and the time/ resource you have available.