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5 (Relatively Simple) Steps To B2B Social Media Marketing Success

The business to business world has been a bit slow to buy into social media marketing, but that's changing quickly. Invest in your online presence with these five tips for B2B marketing success.

There are plenty of well-documented social media stories in the business to consumer world, such as JCPenney's recent Super Bowl "Mitten" tweets.

However, the business to business world has been a bit slower to buy into social media marketing, but that's changing quickly in 2014. From General Electric to Maersk, there are a growing number of B2B companies starting to take social seriously in an effort to build brand awareness, to generate leads, and to recruit employees.

As an AdAge survey recently revealed, 80% of B2B marketers plan to increase digital spending next year (up from 67% last year). With a significant percentage of this spending going towards social media marketing, here are a few things every B2B marketer should do.

1. Invest in a Strategic Plan

It's tempting to dive head first right into social, but it's important to take the time to think about your strategic goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics. Once you define your overall social media marketing goals (e.g. increase sales) and determine specific objectives (e.g. grow LinkedIn connections), focusing on your core strategy (e.g. create thought leadership content) and tactics (e.g. post new content once a day, Monday through Friday) will help you to succeed. Remember, not every platform is right for every business, and in this case, every industry. More on this in the Tools section.

2. Build the Right Team

Put the right people in charge. While your daughter's boyfriend might be a computer whiz, that doesn't mean that he is the right person for the social media marketing job. There are plenty of examples in the digital space of junior employees (some senior too!) or interns who lack the skills and experience to build and protect your company's reputation online. The person posting on your behalf should always know your plan, know your voice, and know how to effectively escalate issues that get out of hand. This free social media policy generator is a quick way to figure out what type of policies you should have in place for your social media team and beyond.

3. Select the Right Tools

All tools are not created equal. Traditionally, LinkedIn is one of the top B2B social media marketing tools. It's a great place to establish yourself (or company) as a thought leader and to connect with potential sales leads. However, there are plenty of other places to market online. With image-based social media marketing on the rise, investing time on platforms such as Pinterest might make sense for your company.

For example, whether they're sharing photos "From the Factory Floor" or showcasing "Badass Machines," General Electric does a great job on Pinterest. When it comes to images, Maersk is leading the B2B pack on Instagram.

Finally, we know that search engines dominate first phase research. More specifically, according to Pardot's 2013 State of Demand Generation Report, 72% of product research for a future business purchase begins on Google. This means participating on Google+, which can positively affect your search rankings, is increasingly becoming a priority.

4. Include Content Marketing

Content marketing should be an important part of your overall strategy. This includes creating blogs, photos, videos, and other content to promote what you do. In fact, promote might be the wrong word; educate is probably more precise. According to a recent IDG Connect B2B study, 89% of IT buyers want educational content. This same study notes that, "IT buyers will soon look to social media as the single most important content source to inform their buying decisions."

Whether you're creating short YouTube videos demonstrating how to use products or hosting live Twitter chats, the goal should be to educate buyers. Perhaps your core audience aren't avid social media users, but if your content is exceptional, they will find you, remember you, and hopefully work with you.

5. Embrace Partner Amplification

Every business has partners. Whether these are people who work within your company or organizations outside your company, work to build them into your social media marketing plan. Connect with all your partners who regularly engage online. Share their posts. Like their photos. Leave them comments. Put the spotlight on them. Your partners can help you to reach new audiences within your own industry. Partner amplification should be an ongoing priority.

While those of us in the social media marketing world might argue over B2C versus B2B needs, there is a new buzzword that is getting some traction online: H2H. Human-to-human marketing is really nothing new, but it does force us to remember that at the core of all social media marketing we are quite simply people talking to people. With a solid plan in place, some creative ideas lined up, and the right team and partners at the helm, every B2B company has the chance to shine bright in this space.

Image: Shutterstock

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  • Some great suggestions - especially #4 and #5. I have some thoughts to add:

    (#4) Content Marketing - Essential. Without content, it's very hard to engage your audience, develop your relationship & position yourself as a leader.

    (#5) Partner Amplification - This is so true. I'm not sure on the rules here in respect to URLs, but we recently produced a social media infographic that highlights a lot of your tips (especially tip #5) for the channel partner community -

    Other suggestions:

    • Don't open a account with every social media website: If you lack resources, as many SMBs do, you don't want to have to monitor 10 social accounts. Focus on 3-4 & share, engage & monitor.

    • Make it human: Try & be authentic. Who wants to engage with a someone who takes themselves so seriously? Share pics from your office & events.

    Alex Pethick Zift Solutions

  • Great article - thanks! Do you happen to know of any law firms with great websites and that are using social marketing well? I'd love to see some examples.

  • Great article :-) Nice to see someone embracing 'partner amplification'! We have many customers who, thanks to our platform - socialondemand - now amplify their brand/ product messages through sales employees, sales partners (resellers, dealers, distributors, retailers, etc.) and through other influencers and brand advocates. The results? Clicks (to links/ content) at $0.19... much better than Google Adwords :-) ... that's a piece of ROI for you.

  • Do you know of any good references for HOW to actually engage on Google+ (and personal account vs business account)? It's a very confusing platform compared to the straightforward Twitter.

  • These are some great points - especially in regards to defining the plan and bringing in the right people. Too many organizations just sign-up because they think that's where the people are, don't have a plan and more importantly have no way to measure results. What's the result? They just add to the noise and quit after a few months because they think it doesn't work.

  • There are some articles screaming that social media for business is dead, people aren't engaging, they can't track ROI, there is no ROI, the ROI isn't worth the time or trouble. I can't agree with the naysayers - social is where people are hanging out. It's like you say - selecting the right tools - the right platforms - can make or break your social marketing plan. In providing social media solutions for real estate professionals, one of the hardest parts of my job is getting them to understand the engagement metric involved. You can't post anywhere, and you can't post just anything. Find where your audience is spending their time. Find what interests them. Initiate or join the conversation, then engage - socially. :o)

  • Kat Hudson

    Wonderful, brief article. So many businesses shun social media or just don't know how to use it to their highest benefit. It doesn't take much work once you get it all set up. Still, you need to know the best approach for your company and which social media networks will be most-effective for your business.

    On a side-note: business-owners, please stop treating your social media concerns as an afterthought. Hire a person to do this for you, not just an intern, but someone who can demonstrate social media savvy. Alternately, hire a company like mine to manage it for you. Don't waste your time and money on social media if you're not going to do it right!