2020 was the year lots of B2B brands realised just how important their digital marketing efforts were.
In fact, according to Google, a whopping 45% of B2B marketers started using digital tactics for the very first time during COVID-19.
Social media specifically should hold a special place in the hearts and strategies of B2B marketers.
Luckily, B2B brands are finally starting to realise that social media isn’t just for consumer brands or consumers themselves.
Your B2B audience hangs out on social media platforms – so you should too!
B2B buyers aren’t white-collar machines who know nothing but business. They kill time scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit just like the rest of us. Shocking, I know.
Now, that’s not to say you should shove promotional content in front of their faces across every platform – far from it.
You should, however, maintain a presence with valuable content where you know your audience will see it. Here’s how B2B brands can win at social media in 2021.
Below I outline nearly two dozen strategies, tips, and best practices for B2B brands to develop a winning social media strategy in 2021.
The truth is, most B2B brands still aren’t using social media to their full potential. They still focus heavily on cold messaging, promoting, and broadcasting content. Instead, focus on the true purpose of social media: sharing valuable and interesting content to build connections with people.
Do that and you’ll slay social media for B2B brands in 2021 (and outdo the competition).
Does anyone enjoy those cold messages you get on LinkedIn? They’re almost like the unsolicited nudes of the business world. We can do better.
The thing is – social selling works.
Brands in tons of industries attribute social selling to bringing in over 50% of their revenue:
The trick is to focus more on the social part and less on the selling. People go on social media to read interesting things, have fun conversations, and meet new people. They don’t open LinkedIn and say, “Oh boy, I wonder what I can buy today.”
Instead, spend more time asking authentic questions, commenting on posts, and introducing yourself in messages without sales pitches. Case in point:
It’s smart to re-evaluate your social media goals every few months, see how you’ve done, and set new standards for yourself.
While I know you want to see more bottom-line conversions that you can attribute directly to your social media efforts, that’s not always the best goal to set.
Instead, consider goals like:
What does success look like for YOUR B2B brand on social media in 2021?
Your B2B customers and buyers don’t have a special version of the internet that can only access LinkedIn during business hours. They use other social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter just like the rest of us.
Instead of thinking “business buyer,” break your audience up into segments and consider their demographics. Based on their age and interests, what other platforms do you think they might use?
Tech companies might find their target audience on niche subreddits. Meanwhile, B2B companies with younger audiences might want to try TikTok (yes, really).
Social media platforms make it almost too easy to retarget your website visitors. Don’t just encourage your visitors to return and buy now though. The B2B buyer’s journey is as long and convoluted as it’s ever been:
Instead, consider the piece of content a visitor read or viewed on your site. Is there another piece of content you could promote to gently guide them down the sales funnel?
Use retargeting features to nurture your leads – not push them.
Show leads through retargeting why they should return to your site. Give them a good reason like a valuable guide, eBook, podcast, or something else they’d actually enjoy.
Not long ago, account-based marketing was a tactic reserved for giants like Microsoft and Amazon. Today, however, technology and tools have made it easy for businesses of all sizes to create ABM strategies.
There’s really no better place to connect with your accounts than social media. Do you have account-specific content on your blog? Run targeted ads for workers at the company promoting those blogs and the solutions you offer.
Have people on your team follow workers from your targeted accounts on social media. Engage them with authentic conversations.
Most B2B brands could stand to improve their content marketing a bit.
Buyers consume an average of 13 pieces of content about your brand during the buying process from both your website and third-party sources. Over half of that content comes from social media too.
The question is, what kind of content are you providing them?
Your buyers want transparent content like product comparisons, case studies, and testimonials. Yes, this means you’ll have to create content showing readers how you stack up against competitors. But that’s the point. Buyers need to see that you’re honest enough to admit when your product isn’t the best fit too.
This in-depth Kinsta article explaining how it stands up against WP Engine nails it:
Sometimes, saying absolutely nothing is the best course of action – just listen!
Your buyers and customers are already having in-depth conversations with each other across the internet. What are they saying? How can you use this information to create a better experience for them?
Platforms like Reddit and Quora are best for recon because most users post and comment anonymously. On Reddit, you can find completely raw opinions of your brand if you look hard enough – whether you want to or not.
You’ve got at least three subreddits dedicated to Salesforce info and support and probably dozens more where people are actively discussing the product:
Everyone loves the Wendy’s Twitter page because whoever runs it is absolutely savage. Going wild like Wendy’s probably isn’t the best course of action for your B2B brand but following their lead by developing a personality is.
But before you can write copy and comments in your personality, you’ll have to nail down what it is.
Are you funny and light-hearted? Friendly and welcoming? Stern and controversial?
Put together a set of guidelines with good and bad examples of how your brand’s personality should sound on social media.
Mailchimp’s personality is refreshingly down to earth and straightforward with a perfect dose of casual:
Why even have brand colours if you’re not going to use them?
Social media offers a perfect medium for driving your brand’s logo and style home via graphics, image filters, and videos.
Look at the Mailchimp example above. A frame in Mailchimp’s signature banana yellow surrounds the video. Such is the case for nearly every post on the Mailchimp Instagram page along with most of their Story highlights:
It looks like Mailchimp also has a pallet of pastel colours ready to go so they can break up the yellow while keeping branding consistent.
You have a few options to incorporate your customers into your B2B brand’s social media in 2021.
First, you could simply create a post with a shoutout for a specific customer thanking them for their support and highlighting the work they do. That’s what Salesforce did with their #GiveAKnit campaign, although I’m not exactly sure what the knitting has to do with it. I wish they’d explain that or provide a link for context in the posts.
You could also ask customers about the creative ways they use your product or service. Turn the best answers into videos or graphics with examples and tag your customers in the post. This puts an interesting spin on the traditional case study.
It’s all about video for B2B brands on social media in 2021. Skip the boring stuff and dive into fun video series for your social media pages.
Looking at Mailchimp again, they’ve knocked it out of the park with their videos lately. In fact, they created whole pages dedicated to their video series called Mailchimp Presents for entrepreneurs. One series called Second Act showcases stories from people who pivoted careers later in life.
Think of yourself as a media company. What kind of media would your audience want? There’s your video answer.
There’s something weird and off-putting about brands that don’t show their team’s faces on social media. It’s like either the workers aren’t proud to work there or the company is just an amorphous business machine.
The whole point of social media is to connect humans with other humans. So, why not make the humans of your company the face of your brand on social media?
HubSpot knows that as a tech company, they have to work overtime humanising their brand. And that’s exactly what they do via their HubSpot Life Instagram page: an entire page dedicated to the people and culture driving the company.
Just as you want to highlight your workers to show the humans and culture behind your company, you also want to uplift the individual pages of these folks.
Now, not everyone will be comfortable turning their personal page into an influencer page for your company. That’s okay. They can, however, create dedicated pages on various platforms to use as ambassadors.
Have your employees amplify your brand’s content marketing and create their own content for your brand on their pages.
If you’re like most B2B brands, you spend too much money on social media ads and don’t see enough results in return. It happens.
Make 2021 the year you laser focus your ad budget. Get to know those targeting features. Use Facebook Pixel to track your results. Create hyper-targeted ads for existing customers to boost loyalty.
The bottom line: Don’t waste money on ads that don’t serve your goals. These social media platforms give you the tools to reach the right people at the right time. It’s on us to know how to use them.
Here’s the truth. People don’t pick up the phone or open their email to complain or ask questions anymore. They go straight to Twitter replies, Instagram comments, and Facebook Messenger where they know they’ll get an instant response from you.
You can’t change their behaviour – so change yours. Make sure your social media channels are staffed and equipped to field customer complaints, concerns, and questions.
If you’re feeling really proactive, you could even create dedicated pages for your brand’s customer service.
This point goes hand in hand with building a personality. At the end of the day, you want people to actually like your brand.
Think about how you can enrich the lives of your followers beyond the main products or services your brand provides.
Can you be funny? Entertaining? Informative? Friendly?
Here’s the thing about being likeable that you have to accept: Not everyone will like you. But that’s the point. The Wendy’s Twitter page isn’t savage because it knows everyone will like it. It’s savage because it knows the RIGHT people will love it – and remember it.
You have to walk a fine line here to avoid wading into self-promoting and bragging territory.
Try to remember that no one wants to hear about things you should be doing anyways as a company. Instead, focus on ways you improve the world exceptionally well.
Large donations, grants, company-wide initiatives – these are the things people want to hear about that show you’re genuine about your causes.
HubSpot created a series of Instagram posts highlighting its large donation to Black communities and businesses:
Who says giveaways and contests are only for consumer brands on social media? Your B2B buyers and customers love freebies and fun just as much as anyone else.
If you can’t figure out what kind of prizes or contests they’d like, that’s a red flag you don’t understand your audience as well as you should.
Hootsuite knew a huge chunk of its audience was working remotely long before COVID-19 – and not necessarily “from home.” That’s why Hootsuite had the bright idea for the #IWorkFromHere contest where people shared their digital nomad stories for a chance to win a trip:
Podcasts are still booming and show no signs of slowing down in popularity.
Here’s the thing though. No one wants more podcasts about your company and industry.
Instead, take the route Mailchimp took with their video content where they created an entertaining series that has nothing to do with email.
What’s a topic your audience would be interested in? Small businesses overcoming challenges? Stories of diversity and inclusion – and shortcomings?
Again, think of yourself as a media company rather than a brand.
General audio content is smart too. Instagram Reels and TikTok let you upload your own original content so others can use it with credit to your page. If you can find a way to make that work, go for it!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to interact with your followers.
This is why you need a dedicated personality and voice for social media too. Otherwise, you end up replying to every comment in a bland technical tone.
Use your personality to keep the conversation going in your comments, when appropriate. Comment on posts from other users and pages. Answer your Story replies.
People are more likely to follow and engage with a page that’s interactive itself.
Speaking of broadcasters, no one likes a self-promoter either. Which non-competitor brands share your values and audience overlap? Which brands create content your audience will love?
Don’t be shy! Reach out to them and share their content.
Salesforce has an entire partner Twitter account where they share events and content on their partners:
You don’t need to make it quite this official. Brands will be happy just to see you sharing their content on your page with a tag and shoutout. That’s enough to get the ball rolling.
As for your audience, they’ll appreciate your acknowledgement that your brand isn’t the only source of truth for every topic.
I hope 2021 is the year B2B brands break out of their shell on social media and embrace it for what it is: a platform to connect.
Those who do and manage to create stellar content like videos, podcasts, and graphics are sure to succeed. Those that don’t? Well, let’s just say things won’t look good.