Posting on social media is an excellent way to engage with a B2B audience.
This is what marketers have been told ever since social arrived on the digital scene, but marketers will never get the most out of social media unless they learn to master the art of the social media conversation.
Conversations Require People
Marketers should be using the social channels most likely to be populated by hungry decision makers. According to a report from Regalix, 91 percent and 94 percent of B2B organizations are active on LinkedIn and Twitter, respectively. SproutSocial points to YouTube as the third most used social channel by B2Bs.
However, this information is best used as a guide. No one can truly know where an audience resides without proper research. Visiting each social channel and searching for industry-related keywords can tell a marketer how much of an audience each channel has to offer. An event planning B2B might have a substantial Pinterest-using base, for example.
The brand should have a central figure who becomes known to the audience and who will be the facilitator of that side of the conversation. The more details that are released about this individual, the more decision makers will feel compelled to respond. After all, It's much easier to rebuff an impersonal, faceless, and nameless social media poster than it is a real-life person.
Post Thought-Provoking Content
To get the conversations started, marketers should leverage copywriting, market research, and analytics data to determine the topics of focus. While it is acceptable to test the limits, so to speak, to see what an audience will most respond to, marketers would be better served by researching what the competition is posting to get an idea of how a particular audience responds.
This is the time to cultivate and reshare other brands' posts (as long as the competition isn't mentioned). User-generated content can also give a brand more conversational material to work with. These straight-from-the-user posts, images and videos don't have to be product or service-centric. They can be lighthearted fare, such as where users plan to vacation during the summer, or what books they're currently reading. This keeps the social atmosphere fun and unpredictable, which helps to improve social engagement.
Other ideas for enticing conversations include testing images and asking users to vote on the best ones, hijacking conversations where the brand is mentioned, and using polls and surveys.
Open-Ended Posts Work Best
When posting content, whether from the brand or a third-party, accompany the post with a question or conversation prompt that encourages people to respond. "What do you think about this study?" one post might ask. Another might argue, "This tactic has never worked for us. Have you ever tried X?"
Identify Expert Opportunities
Marketers would do well to pass the occasional social post around the office and ask experts to identify where they can lend their two cents. For instance, if a post is about how to engage a customer in the field, a salesperson from the company can jump into the conversation to give their take.
Social Media Conversation Calendar
The best-case scenario would see the brand develop a social media calendar that focuses on open-ended posts and conversation engagement. The calendar should incorporate hot trends and the latest stories that are specific to the industry. This will help to establish the brand as the go-to leader for intelligent social discussion.
Use Insights as a Guide
When marketers find themselves clueless as to what to post, they should turn to analytics and social insights. Focus not only on likes and engagement, but reshares (or retweets) and where (and when) individuals jump into the conversations. Marketers can use this information to make their posts extra conversation-worthy.
Not Every User Will Respond
Many business-focused audiences can be challenging to engage with on social because they tend to lurk rather than participate. The key is to post with predictable regularity and not give up. If someone responds to a post, ask them a follow-up question. Keep the conversation going. If the person doesn't post back, thank them for their time. Tell them to get back to you when they can, which removes all the pressure. That individual may end up engaging with the brand in a future discussion simply based on how the previous rebuffing was handled.
As a side note, whenever a brand is engaging with someone, it should be assumed that the whole world is watching and taking note. Never be rude, always be lighthearted and take criticism constructively, even from trolls.
Be sure to thank everyone who engages with the brand for sharing a portion of their day, their feedback and insights. This validates users' input and shows, most importantly, that the brand is listening.
About the Author
Scott Miraglia is the President of Elevation Marketing, a B2B marketing agency. Scott has a successful track record of corporate turnarounds, revitalization and growth in disruptive markets over a 25-year career. He brings a unique, 360-degree perspective that integrates his experience in advertising, marketing and event planning for medium and large brands. Join the conversation on Twitter at @elevationb2b.