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Approaching Social Strategy for B2B Brands

Written by Callum McCahon - Mar 21 2017
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about social media for B2B brands. It’s rare that you see it done really well, and I don’t think that’s right. I’ve personally worked with closely with quite a few of these businesses on their social media output — and here’s the key things I’ve learned. Hopefully some of you will find this useful!

Don’t think about ‘B2B’

My first piece of advice is to refrain from even thinking about the term ‘B2B’. It tends to stifle your creativity. It can lead to less ambitious work. Don’t fall into that trap.

The key issue with the term is that it depersonalises. Remember that even when you technically are a business to business brand, you aren’t trying to engage a faceless company. You are trying to engage a human being within a business — a stakeholder, an internal influencer, a decision maker.

When you think about it this way, social media strategy for B2B brands shouldn’t be approached in a massively different way from normal consumer facing brands. Don’t impose mental barriers that will lend themselves to less innovative output.

I see great social media for B2B brands as communicating two things to a very high standard: thought leadership and company culture.

Thought Leadership

We hear this word a lot. But what does it actually mean? It basically boils down to showcasing expertise. You are showing your target audience that your business has real knowledge on the specific area that you want to be known for — you are the authority.

And why is this valuable to your business? Because people buy into expertise.

What does this thought leadership look like on social? It’s original thinking. It’s a clear vision of where the industry is heading in the future. It’s supplying people with information they don’t already have.

Many B2B brands have a wealth of marketing and press resources — they will be publishing reports, writing articles, producing infographics. Social media needs to be about communicating these resources in the most effective way possible.

What that doesn’t mean is that you just post a link to their webpage with a screenshot. Your job is to turn the resource into engaging and effective social content.

Push the people who create the resources within your (or your client’s) business to create assets that you know will go down well on social. This isn’t a one-way process — use your social insights to inform wider asset creation.

This principle also applies to how you measure the success of your content. If you’re creating great thought leadership content that is native to social media, you shouldn’t be measuring the success of it based on how much traffic it drives to your website. You should be looking at the level of engagement on the social post itself as your key metric.

Here’s an example of this theory in practice:

A client is creating a report that focuses on wellbeing in the workplace. Their report includes five methods for improving the collective wellbeing of your workforce. They brief in their social agency to create a campaign to launch this report.

The easy thing to do would be to just design up the 5 methods and accompany each with a link to the report — but that wouldn’t be great social content.

Instead, we go build from the ground up and create a campaign from scratch. We collaborate with five influencers in the wellbeing space, who each give one tip for reducing stress through a small video — with a link back to the landing page for the report. We supplement this with an outreach campaign, using social listening tools to look for people who are talking about stress at work. We offer them legitimate and useful advice, using the campaign hashtag. We take care of the bulk of the lead generation through paid spend, and our organic activity serves to spread the word about the campaign.

This is thought leadership, done socially.

Company Culture

Company culture is the other half of the recipe for B2B brands on social. The gold standard for a business Instagram account is that someone who has never heard of the company before could flick through it and get a real sense of what the culture is and what it would be like to work there.

Here are three examples of companies that I think do this really well:

mother london instagram

  • Mother do something cool with their Instagram where they just rotate the account through their employees — a series of internal Instagram takeovers. This creates a presence that showcases the culture of the company and the type of people who work there really effectively.
  • Wolff Olinsare also very good at showcasing company culture. Their Instagram is really slick and gives a real insight into the day to day life at the agency.
  • I also think the Born Social Instagram is pretty great, but I would say that wouldn’t I.
What common theme is there in all of these examples? They are all image-led. Images convey culture above all else.

If you think about what you’re trying to do with a B2B account — shine the company in a great light to people who might want to work with them in whatever capacity — showcasing the culture is ultimate way to do this.

Who would you be more interested in — a company that posts links to their blog the whole time, or a company that has mastered the art of employer branding?

In summary: don’t limit yourself by thinking about B2B as a different beast to B2C — it depersonalises it and stifles creativity. Make sure you have a strong balance between thought leadership and company culture — these are the two things a B2B account should do very well on social.