Article by Sam Gregory, MD B2B, Tangerine PR
Social media has made the world of B2B communication an even more interesting place. But it’s now a more complicated one too. Today, brands are able to speak to target groups in a much more personal and engaging way, using far more exciting content to get their point across and show a bit of personality.
It’s a fantastic opportunity, but still a daunting prospect for many B2B brand custodians. Leaping into the world of social media means moving from the relative safety of print and broadcast media; but get it right and the rewards are great.
There’s no secret formula to success, but there are a few key things to consider that will set you on the right path:
What do you want to achieve?
It sounds simple, but understanding what you want to get out of social media and what success looks like is really important. Is it all about thought leadership, engagement, advocacy or brand profile/credibility? Do you want to focus on individuals or the brand as a whole?
As with all communication, understand what you want to achieve and put in place KPIs and key milestones to benchmark against so you can clearly see how you’re getting on.
Once you start with social media activity, you can’t stop, so don’t underestimate the time commitment you’re signing up for. Whether you handle implementation in house or use agency support, doing social media properly needs budget and the powers that be will want to see success fast.
Start activity at a manageable level, demonstrate its value with some quick wins and build from there. You can always add more, but if you promise the Earth and don’t deliver, then the online community as well as your budget controller will quickly lose faith in what you’re doing.
Know your audience
Before you even think about what channels you’re going to use (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ etc) and what content you’re going to produce, you need to understand who you’re targeting – and there’s plenty to consider. Who are they? What do they know/think of your brand now? What do you want them to think/do? What drives their buying decisions? What influences them? What are they interested in? What channels do they use? What content do they find engaging? The list goes on.
Communication preferences, technology and channels are always changing, so it’s important to know your audiences really well and stay one step ahead of trends so you can make sure you’re focusing your efforts in the right direction and stay credible.
Content is king
If you want your target audiences to choose to listen to you rather than your competitors, not to mention the hundreds of other brands vying for their time and attention, then you have to be having relevant conversations with them. And the more relevant you are, the more you will engage them and the more influence you will have.
Once you know your audiences you’ll have a good understanding of how to create really impactful content for them. Whatever the style and type, it needs to be of perceived value – we are all time poor, so to make your content appealing, it must be useful and/or entertaining in some way.
If you get it right, you will find your content is shared – a real credibility booster – and you can improve your chances with a track record of regular good quality, easily shareable content, which will build trust over time in the brand and what it’s got to offer.
Integrate on and offline
One of the fundamental benefits of social media is that brands can use it to communicate in a much more direct, immediate and informal way. The style, type and tone of content and the manner in which brands engage needs to very different than in traditional channels, but it’s important that it stays true to a holistic communications strategy and brand positioning.
Everything you do needs to reflect the brand values and what it stands for, so it’s important to set clear ground rules in terms of your online brand personality; that way, those engaging with audiences in real time understand it – there is no time to go through the usual approvals procedure.
So while social media certainly makes B2B communications more interesting and relevant, you really need to look before you leap. But don’t let that put you off. There’s plenty of help out there and with the right planning and commitment, it’s easy to get it right and make sure your brand is communicating in the right way to the right people.