Social media, B2B, and content marketing have never been in such a perfect alignment before. Content marketing is now synonymous to SEO. At the same time, social media is consuming conventional SEO techniques and B2Bs are looking forward to increasing online marketing spending.
Let’s connect all the dots and see what we can derive:
The B2B marketing comfort zone
B2B brands are getting out of their comfort zone i.e. LinkedIn and a handful of other networks. The received wisdom was B2B niche areas are boring and mainstream social channels are not suitable for them.
But it’s a sheer myth. A Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company called Novartis, operating in the B2B domain used Instagram, a visual social network to expand its reach among people. See the image below:
Novartis has adopted a great strategy – offering non-profit medical help to ordinary people. This strategy is perfectly in sync with the industry ethics.
As the definition of the B2B comfort zone is changing, the content marketing-social media combo is gaining importance among B2B brands. B2B content marketing is no longer restricted to case studies and whitepapers. It now includes images (in the example above), podcasts and videos. B2Bs are now hooked to the kind of content that goes viral on social media, akin to their B2C counterparts.
Debunking B2B comfort zone is the single biggest contribution of the previously mentioned alignment.
And there’s more
The two infographics below show where B2B-centric content marketing stands:
This infographic shows 44% B2B marketers feel their content marketing techniques are moderately effective. The next infographic runs parallel to this narrative. Here it is:
It shows 32% are very satisfied with existing content optimization strategies, and a fraction of 29% are seeing early signs of success.
One of the reasons content marketing is working out for these brands is they are throwing social media into the mix. Microblogs, pinboards, animated employee avatars, and slides are ubiquitous across B2B content nowadays.
Hence if we analyze the two back-to-back infographics above, it becomes clear that the secret sauce in the B2B recipe is content tailor-made for social media.
As B2B is becoming engagement-focused, it’s started to rely on offbeat marketing types. Among such types is webinar marketing. B2Bs harness webinars to form and maintain networking ties. The content marketing-social media marriage has a lot to offer them.
They can tinker with webinar quality, format, and marketing methods. How about a real-time webinar with a free live webcast for interns? Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? For its implementation, apps like Google Hangout or social platforms like YouTube is essential. And since engagement is in their mind, special attention needs to be given to the content quality.
Experimental content formats
The marriage produces experimental content formats. Explainer video is one such format. Explainer videos increase conversion, facilitate information sharing and educational outreach for brands. These videos are produced keeping end-users in mind, so the content is crisp and attention-grabbing.
This and several other radical content formats are a primer on the growing acceptance of infotainment in the B2B sphere. These content formats put equal importance on content and social virality score. This leads to a better brand image.
Seemingly crucial, it is a cursory benefit if you look at the big picture. Experimental content formats give B2B brands better visibility to multichannel marketing and customer service – it’s a growing trend and rapidly gaining traction.
The success of multichannel customer service largely depends on the alignment between content marketing and social customer service. Social content, born out of the fusion and circulated across multiple communication channels that support variegated formats can engage business clients and ordinary users alike.
The engagement factor
Luckily, the engagement bottlenecks that apply to social content are ineffective in the B2B platform.
For example, B2Cs fear negative feedback posted on their social media fan page can malign their reputation because negative perception often creates a snowballing effect. For a B2B brand, it’s not much of a concern because their clients are key business decision makers, who don’t take unsubstantiated social media feedback seriously.
User apathy and opt-in offer blindness are also less likely because business people scrutinize every email from verified addresses. Hence, B2B marketers need to squeeze social content as hard as they can.
The major social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube are all leveraged by B2Bs. A 2015 industry report shows 88% of them use Facebook, 83% use Twitter, 61% use Google and more than 50% use YouTube. These are top networks for brand engagement and armed with social content, B2Bs can make excellent use of them.
The millennial factor
Millennials are changing the B2B vertical. According to Pew Research, millennials are the largest generation in US labor force. For example, sites like Glassdoor are frequented by millennials.
They form opinions about B2B firms from Glassdoor reviews. Glassdoor is a social network and persuasive reviews, even if fake and in favor of a company, can bolster the prospect of those firms.
Millennial B2B buyers don’t hide their preferences. They prefer unification of customer experience, digital sales pitches, and audio-visual content. Here’s a breakdown of how they view individual social media platforms for their product/service needs:
Many of them use handheld devices and stay on social media 24/7, which further necessitates the need for easy-to-access, concise and to-the-point content – the kind of content, we find on social media.
Because social and content marketing have come close, there’s an increased demand for meaningful content. Millennials love this sort of content. The marriage turns delivering such content into a B2B firm’s priority.
B2Bs are not entirely separated from B2C businesses. For example, a business insurance provider may operate in the B2B spectrum, having retailers as its clients. Hence, it’s necessary for B2B companies to keep millennials at their marketing focal point.
Summing up implications for B2B marketing
So far, B2Bs have recognized marketing as forging a relationship with industry insiders, closed door meetings and visiting c-suite professionals. But the discussion above shows the copybook techniques are changing. Going digital is imperative and clinging to the social media-content marketing marriage is the immediate next step.