I recently wrote the 5 Must-Haves for B2B Social Media Marketing for The Social ShakeUp and while I loved the article (thanks for asking guys!) there is so much to discuss around B2B (or business-to-business) public relations.
B2B companies have a huge opportunity right now to deploy social media strategies that will move the needle – but with everyone doing it, how do you stand out in such a noisy marketplace? It all comes down to not being boring and telling a story that connects with your target audience.
Easy enough right? But most B2B marketers are not storytellers, so the content too often comes across as a sales pitch, which makes it all too easy for your customers to tune you out.
B2B Social Media Marketing
“By 2019, content marketing is expected to be a $300 billion industry and within the next 10 years, content marketing will become so infused in every marketing tactic that it will lose its meaning altogether — both overtaking and becoming marketing.” ~ Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, Gartner
To be successful and relevant, you should start your B2B social media marketing strategy with a focus on content, using a combination of websites, blogs, videos, and premium deliverables (case studies or white papers, for example). Once your tactics are defined, focus on providing a fresh approach and a new look for your product or service.
Ideally, your marketing team has an established sales funnel that works like a well-oiled machine, continuously capturing new leads and moving them further down the funnel. To increase your impact, social media marketing can help to fill your sales funnel by providing content that creates interest, awareness, engagement, and a sense of community.
Understanding your audience is key because great social media applied in the wrong place will have zero impact. LinkedIn has the capacity to ensure that you meet all of the B2B social media marketing goals, but Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram may be part of your B2B social media marketing mix. Once the right tools and platforms are in place, you need a solid B2B strategy that will help you reach your intended goals.
Ultimately, every company’s main goals are to drive revenue, and while social media is simply a stepping stone along the path to success, it is not the final destination. Just posting is simply not enough in this market. By delving into your target audiences, segmenting your topics, and creating buyer personas, you can use tailored approaches on each platform that drive interest and activity around your products and services.
Today, with the use of each platforms’ built-in analytical tools, gathering and understanding user data, engagement, and action is easy. Hence, there is no reason why you cannot be totally on point for personalization, targeting, and measuring your efforts.
B2B social media marketing in 5 easy steps:
1. Understand your audience. What platforms, publications, and channels are most relevant to them?
2. Understand your team. What resources, stories, and digital tools can you use in-house to build your B2B social media marketing plan? What activities or competencies need to be outsourced?
3. Set a well-researched strategy and use an editorial calendar to keep your content and social media frequency and freshness moving forward.
4. Review the data and use it. Understand what posts, stories, white papers, toolkits, etc. resonate with potential customers and lead to sales. Once you know what is working, you can do more of it.
5. Refresh and follow-up, making sure that your content and stories are always connecting to the brand.
And whatever you do, don’t be boring!
B2B Crisis Communication
B2B tech companies must be aware of how a crisis can affect their brand – whether it be a security or data breach, an infrastructure failure, or a negatively-viewed comment by the CEO. While focusing on sales and marketing, B2B public relations is important for managing a crisis with full attention on transparency, empathy, and resolve. Anything short of that could risk causing damage to both reputation and revenue. A company can take a major hit to its reputation by not responding quickly and thoroughly, especially in this 24/7 always-on social media world. Public Relations can provide quick thinking and the implementation of a well-crafted communications plan, keeping customers and partners updated throughout the situation. Timely, persistent, and comprehensive responses helped contain the damage and can maintain a companies reputation.
Earlier this year, marketing automation provider, Hubspot, experienced an issue with one of their critical infrastructure systems that supports many parts of the platform, apparently right after announcing upgrades to its enterprise suite. HubSpot, for those not aware, is widely credited for inventing and popularizing Inbound Marketing and creating the first scalable marketing automation platform dedicated to serving the small and mid-sized market.
Following the system-wide infrastructure failure, HubSpot immediately began communicating with customers via email and social media. The organization promised to thoroughly investigate and publish an in-depth retrospective in the following week to provide more information about the cause of this issue.
While customers posted and shared their frustration with HubSpot on social media, the organization’s crisis communications were spot on during the entire outage and beyond. With an eye towards customer perception and loyalty, the company had the essentials right: When things go wrong and clients are impacted, you should communicate with speed, empathy, and control. Their communications succeeded at doing just that.
To move the narrative away from an emotional reaction to a technology failure and focus forward during a crisis, an organization must start by expressing regret and empathy. It should also show firm resolve to fix the situation in the most timely fashion possible, even discussing how they will implement changes to avoid a repeat of the infrastructure glitch. Finally, it should offer some form of resolution. All of this must be done without any outward signs of defensiveness, nor any claims of ignorance or reassigning blame.
When reviewing and analyzing a selection of HubSpot’s communications — emails, social media interactions and even a follow-up note from the company’s Chief Operating Officer JD Sherman — it’s clear that HubSpot succeeded in effectively communicated during the crisis.
My advice for any B2B enterprise is that messaging should adhere to what is commonly known as the ‘4 R’s’ of crisis communications, which is how we present the HubSpot quotes below:
HubSpot Quote: For those affected, we’re so sorry for the impact this has had on your business. We know that the timing of this, at the end of the month and the quarter, makes this situation especially painful for some of our customers.
HubSpot Quote: As of 5:00 PM EDT, we have been able to restore the affected system and have been working throughout the day to catch up on all of the data. This process will continue until we have been able to fully restore all of the functionality and catch up with all of our systems.
HubSpot Quote: Your growth is our top priority, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure these types of issues don’t happen in the future. We’re working tirelessly to ensure that every last customer need is met.
HubSpot Quote: We have identified the root cause of the issue and are working on our end to prevent this from occurring again.
The company could have taken a major hit to its reputation by not responding quickly and thoroughly. Instead, thanks to quick thinking and what looks like the implementation of a well-crafted communications plan, customers were kept updated throughout the system outage. The timely, persistent, and comprehensive response helped contain the damage to HubSpot’s reputation. B2B tech companies would be wise to observe and emulate how HubSpot managed such a critical infrastructure failure with transparency, empathy, and resolve.
Anything short of that could risk causing damage to both reputation and revenue.