It’s Time for B2B to Take Social Media Seriously (Part 1)

It’s no secret that the B2B world has had a tougher time than your grandpa adapting to social media. Traditionally a focus of consumer brands in search of that magical Millennial market share, social media initiatives are often left out of B2B marketing plans. However, as Bob Dylan keeps telling us, “The times they are a changin’.” A recent Google study revealed a few surprising myths regarding B2B marketing. Since 2002, there’s been a dramatic shift in the demographics of B2B decision makers—most notably a 70% rise in researchers ages 18 – 34. It’s also no surprise that a whopping 42% of them are using mobile devices to explore new B2B opportunities. This seismic shift in those who determine how B2B dollars are spent has left some marketers scratching their heads. But marketing is a strategic mix of communication platforms, and social media is fast becoming the key ingredient. To begin our short series on social marketing, we’ve selected a few B2B brands that are leading the social media charge. MAERSK_pexels-photo-104346 Courtesy of Pexels Maersk Sails the Social Media Seas with Ease The Maersk Group first braved the stormy seas of social media back in 2011—and never looked back. With the full support of senior staff, the Danish firm experimented extensively with a number of social platforms before building a popular, brand-forward ecosystem made up of over 30 global and local social media channels. Expertly utilizing each platform to its individual strength, Maersk has been able to tailor unique experiences on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more social channels. For example, Twitter has become a cornerstone in Maersk’s media relation’s strategy by displaying external Tweets on Maersk’s intranet. However, the company’s real ace in the hole has come from connecting with seafarers and shipping aficionados (or “container spotters”) through Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Creating conversations about shipping issues has turned Maersk into the industry’s thought leader, while allowing its brand to find valuable new audiences in uncharted waters. Cisco_AU40015 Courtesy of Cisco Cisco Shakes Off Its Stuffy Shackles A problem many brands face when creating social campaigns is producing original, shareable, and relevant content to complement their campaigns. But this is definitely something Cisco doesn’t worry about. Turning advanced industrial tech into a comment-worthy commodity is a walk in the park for their creative department. For example, the company’s YouTube account is jam-packed with cool content, ranging from detailed descriptions of their Data Center & Cloud to an entertaining show called TechWiseTV. Cisco’s real social strength, though, comes from regular staff updates highlighting life in “The Human Network”. The company’s Instagram feed is full of creative images, memes, and short videos highlighting Cisco’s place within the Internet of Things, while a second Instagram feed with the hashtag #WeAreCisco highlights unique employee personalities. It’s bright, beautiful, personal, and has helped Cisco genuinely humanize its brand.  _Salesforce_FAN9019367 Courtesy of Salesforce Salesforce Soars with Social Media The market leader in cloud-based CRM solutions, Salesforce has taken to social media like a grounded teenager. While many brands simply try to sell their products through social platforms, Salesforce is much more of a branding juggernaut, focusing more on who they are rather than what they do. They regularly salute employees online, showing potential and current clients that they stand by their teams. Salesforce has also positioned itself as an industry expert thanks to events like #SalesforceChat, a Twitter-based event in which anyone can question executives during an online conversation. Another notable social success for Salesforce has been the personal relationships the company has forged through LinkedIn. The company has really managed to cultivate healthy (and valuable) conversations with business owners and employees while building a solid cache of trust along the way. GE_pen-idea-bulb-paper Courtesy of Pexels General Electric Brings the Old School to New Media Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? General Electric may be 124 years old, but its effortless mastery of new media shows it can still teach the younger companies how it’s done. Creatively posting relevant messaging on social media has been a great success for the industry giant; content is not only tailored around what the company does, but it also manages to communicate why it all matters. GE’s award-winning social media team helps humanize their brand on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Facebook, and Tumblr, actively changing the public’s perception of the industrial giant. One of the many ingenious social marketing methods they employed was joining forces with the National Science Foundation to develop an emoji-based science curriculum on Snapchat. Teachers could download and work on experiments with students anywhere and then share their results with GE. This direct interaction with the public has fostered a large, active community of like-minded people—all helping GE transform its once-stuffy image into a more human and approachable brand. intel_office-notes-notepad-entrepreneur-38556 Courtesy of Pexels Intel Inside® Your Facebook Feed With more than 10 million followers across 36 pages in almost 50 countries, Intel has managed to build an incredible reach through its social media strategy. And to think they manage all of those Facebook pages (along with their Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn accounts) from one central department known as the Social Media Center of Excellence. According to Intel’s social media strategists, Ekaterina Walter, when speaking with Contently, this helps the company “create unified branding and presence and then scale it globally.” But there is much more to Intel’s social strategy than clever in-house brand management. A huge number of social media followers is a good thing, but if they’re not engaged with the brand, they’re just pixels on a screen. By using each social platform to their individual strengths and engaging audiences in focused forums, Intel managed to improve its entire product development process. Using a variety of social platforms, the company expanded upon its traditional (and expensive) focus groups with a series of never-ending online community chats. Not only did this create endless development discussions, it also helped the company seize great, local ideas and scale them rapidly. For example, Intel’s recent ”The Museum of Me” application was developed for the Asian market but went viral without any media support. Summary If we take one lesson from the world of B2B social marketing, it should be that the people and tools behind the scenes are changing rapidly. The guidelines we all followed when marketing an industrial Ethernet switch, as opposed to a cup of coffee, are now beginning to blur. Sure, the target demographics remain unique in their needs and intentions, but the methods of reaching those audiences are becoming more similar. The traditional nature of pre-prepared marketing communications is being sidelined for a more fluid and continual conversation. A brave new social media world is evolving, which, if understood properly, can propel a B2B brand further than ever before. Look out for part 2 of this series on improving your B2B social marketing.  

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