Breaking Through the Content Wall in B-to-B Marketing
When checking your Facebook analytics over the past year you may have noticed something: your organic reach has drastically decreased. Why is this? The simple answer is there is far too much content on Facebook and Facebook has taken it upon itself to decide what its users are interested.
The complicated answer: advertising revenue. Facebook is a public company now and must focus on turning a profit to keep shareholders content. What that means right now is acquisitions and monetization through targeted advertising available for purchase by businesses.
The question for businesses now becomes: Is it time to give in and begin advertising on social media? This marketer is not quite sure we’re there yet in the case of b-to-b. First of all, Facebook isn’t really a game changer for most B-to-B businesses. They don’t receive a lot of business from Facebook, unlike retail, SaaS or media companies which can see serious profit from marketing and advertising on Facebook. To sink advertising dollars into Facebook might yield engagement, but little return is likely.
For many B-to-B businesses the decision comes down to numbers. If there are over 1 billion users on a social network, you should probably maintain at least some presence on that network. Especially with tools that allow you to automate posting and centralize analytics for multiple social networks, to the point where you don’t even have to visit your actual Facebook page that often. You would be remiss to close off an audience of that size.
So where to spend your time on social media? In order: LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook.
Let’s come back to LinkedIn in a moment. Why Twitter and Google+?
Twitter is an engagement-focused, high-frequency, easy-to-use micro-blogging platform. As a business you’re unlikely to realize upfront revenue from Twitter. However Twitter is great to reach a younger audience, to keep up on competitor marketing activities, and to increase reach of yourmessages. It’s easy to directly and
publicly engage with other businesses and potential customers using handles, as well as make your messages easily searchable with the use of hashtags. If you use Twitter correctly you can easily establish a large following and authority in the industry in which your business operates.
Google+ is important for a different reason: SEO. Few people make phone calls anymore. When your consumers recognize a need they first go to Google. If it’s not true yet, it certainly will be the future and it would be prudent to start preparing for the shift now.
If you maintain an active Google+ page and use hashtags on important keywords when you post, then Google will rank your posts in searchable results related to your postings. Further if you create this content yourself and then distribute with Google+ (and other social media) it adds to your authority on Google and to your authority in your business expertise (one of the main ranking factors for search engines is “authority”). All of this makes you easier to find and educates your audience on your business and your products/services.
The LinkedIn Advantage
If your business and its members are not active on LinkedIn you are seriously missing the boat. This is where your audience is: LinkedIn in used by business professionals to communicate about their expertise, where they work and, whether directly or indirectly, their needs. It started out as a way to find jobs and prospect, and LinkedIn still has those uses, but has evolved into an effective content distribution platform.
LinkedIn has two types of pages: personal profiles and company pages. Company pages are important, but have minimal functionality. You can’t act as your company page and engage with other pages and individuals (like you can with Facebook). They are more for listing information about your company and publishing content with the hope of gaining followers.
Personal profiles have far more marketing significance on LinkedIn, particularly for the small and mid-sized business. Unhindered by posting restrictions and censorship typical of large organizations, smaller businesses can use the personal profiles of company members to publish content and vastly increase reach to targeted audiences. Even more important is that if you do this this correctly, you don’t have to pay for it.
Using LinkedIn Personal Profiles in Content Marketing
Personal profiles have excellent features for marketing on LinkedIn. First you can customize them to represent a consistent brand image across many individuals in your company. This is an important first step in marketing on LinkedIn. Further, your personal profile links to your company page which is helpful in building that following.
Second, on your personal profile you can choose to connect with whoever you want. Granted you should know them first and probably do some research, perhaps interacting with them in a group, but when you’re ready you can build out your network as you see fit.
Third, you can join up to 50 groups with your personal profile, and even more with a paid account. This opens up tremendous opportunity in terms of reach. Many groups are targeted towards certain industries or business. Some of them are even targeted further with geographic definition. At this point on LinkedIn there are groups for almost anything, many of them with large audiences numbering in the thousands. Once you know the type(s) of persons you want to be in front of, you can bet you’ll have access to them in at least one group. No targeted advertising necessary.
Sounds too good to be true, right? It is, in a sense. LinkedIn will penalize you if you misuse your personal profile, and group administrators won’t think twice about removing you from a group. You have to put time and effort into developing a network and leveraging it correctly. The business development will come, but not before you begin to produce and distribute good content and engage appropriately. Self-promotion and selling on social media is not rewarded. Social media is supposed to be social. If you cultivate relationships and build goodwill
then business will follow.
See what constitutes good content and engaging appropriately in our next article.
The day where advertising becomes a necessity for b-to-b still lies ahead, but it’s not here yet. Advertising is still largely ineffective without significant investment upfront. Even then, Facebook maybe the only cost effective option – which does no good for a majority of b-to-b.
Rather than jump ship to fend for yourself in the murky and uncertain waters of advertising, first take the time to properly use social media for business. Identify which networks your target audience is on and appropriate marketing resources accordingly. Then maintain a consistent and proactive content marketing program by creating and curating high quality, thoughtful content, using calls-to-action, measuring performance, and making changes accordingly. The business will come.