How to make social media work for B2B businesses

Social media is a big part of many businesses marketing strategy, and it can be really effective if used well. But if it isn’t, it can be a huge drain on time and resources with minimal return.

Screen shot of LinkedIn Live session. Ayo Abbas, Stacey Meadwell and Emma Drake are on screen. Banner across the stop says It's a B2B comms thing - How to make social media work in '22

In the latest It’s a B2B comms thing LinkedIn Live with fellow B2B comms professionals Ayo Abbas and Emma Drake, we discussed using social media for B2B business, what’s hot, what’s not and how to use it effectively.

Here are some edited highlights, and you’ll find a link to the full discussion, which includes audience questions at the bottom of the post.

Why are you and your business on social media?

Emma: I see lots of businesses chasing social media accounts with no real idea of what they’ll share or are trying to achieve. I use LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

I use LinkedIn for finding interesting people and engaging with them, connecting after or before meetings and events, and keeping in touch – it is really good for that.

Twitter I use pretty much solely for [promoting] podcast content, and I’m a bit more cheeky on there. I think we all feel we have to be a bit better behaved on LinkedIn for some reason.

But it’s completely different people engaging on there, and it’s good for generating traffic to my podcast.

I do have a Facebook page for the podcast, and their analytics are really good for directly targeting people.

Me: I only use LinkedIn for business. I have a work Twitter account as a hangover of my days as a journalist, but I don’t really use it.

I’ve fallen out of love with Twitter over the last few years. And if I’m going to be on there, I need to invest a lot of time, and I’ve just not got the time or energy.

I use LinkedIn for networking, for having conversations. I think it’s great for that. And I use it to build visibility and try out different content. It’s a good platform for trying different things; you can do videos, presentations, Lives…

And it’s interesting what you say, Emma, about tone and how you are on Twitter versus LinkedIn. I’ve got a lot more relaxed on LinkedIn and more chatty.

When I first started, I felt I had to be a certain way, but I learned to treat it like a place to chat with people and be more conversational and human. That was more effective.

Ayo: I would add that for me, it’s about connection and staying front of mind. I started my business just before lockdown, so it was my way of connecting with people and building relationships. That’s how I met you guys.

You can start those relationships online and then take them offline, so that’s how I’ve been using social media, and it’s such a key part of what we do.

The It's a B2B comms thing art work - blue banner with How to make social media work for you and your business in '22 above head shots of Ayo Abbas, Emma Drake and Stacey Meadwell.

What’s hot and what’s not on social media?

Ayo: This year is all about collaboration and partnering. You see it in the architectural world and bid teams; you work together as part of a team. And on social media, that’s how you get a lot more of an impact.

I’ve got a concrete panels company I do work for, and on social media, we always tag their partners. Why? Because you might get a reshare which helps your engagement, posts and reach. Your post gets in front of new people. Their highest [performing] post was reshared by the MD of one of their clients.

You can also collaborate in ways like we’re doing here with LinkedIn Lives because then I access your network and vice versa and spread the word.

What’s not hot? Moaning on LinkedIn. I hate when people moan. There’s a lot of moaning, such as: ‘this isn’t Facebook’.

Emma: What’s hot: Personality will become even hotter in 2022. We hear a lot about authenticity. And that doesn’t mean baring your soul, you can do that if that’s what you need to do to make your day better, but you don’t have to.

But it can be hard, especially if you work in a company, and you have to have sign-off on your content, and people are a little bit more guarded about showing personality.

An easy way to do this is to think about what sort of stuff you like. If you’re starting from scratch as a business and before you get strategic, what is it you like, what you don’t like? What do you think is good, what’s worked incredibly well in your opinion? And have you got an opinion on things that you don’t like?

Not so hot? Inane polls. So these are the sorts of polls that are designed to chase the algorithm, for example, people randomly talking about COVID and whether we should wear masks or not. If it’s working for you, then great, but my advice would be don’t just do what others are doing.

It comes back to purpose and why you’re on there in the first place.

Now some people are very good at polls. Stacey is one of them. They show personality, and Stacey interacts with everyone’s comments afterwards which is great.

But creating awareness is not a thing for the sake of it.

Me: I was doing polls early on before they became a thing. And I’ve backed off from doing polls a bit because there’s a backlash about them.

What’s hot is the quality rather than quantity, which comes back to the first question about the purpose. If your purpose is to get 1000s of views, then fine, but if your purpose is to get quality leads or make quality connections, then are you doing the right thing? Are you creating the right content for that?

And the ‘not’, and nobody who’s seen any of my posts will be surprised about this, is don’t say you’re ‘delighted’ about stuff.

It’s just such an opportunity missed to say something interesting, and nobody is surprised that you’re delighted. You’d probably get more attention if you said you were absolutely livid about something.

How do you get the best out of social media in 2022?

Ayo: One of the key things is engaging with others. If you don’t feel confident enough yet to post, go and see what others are doing: support them, give an opinion or comment.

Start small and just get out there and try, experiment and learn how to use social media channels.

Even if you don’t post, there are great communities, start to connect and engage. That’s my biggest tip for how to get the most out of it.

Stacey: The most common mistake I see is people using social media purely as a broadcast to talk about what they’re up to and what they’re doing. It’s about being social and chatting.

And commenting is content. If you’re commenting on other content that’s giving you visibility. It’s an opportunity to showcase your expertise, your knowledge, and an opportunity to make connections to build those relationships.

If you’re commenting and engaging with other content on the platform, LinkedIn likes it, and it’s going to give your posts a lot more visibility.

So the most effective use of social media is to use it as a networking event, as a chat, as an opportunity to talk to people, not just talk about and broadcast what you’re up to.

Emma: Yeah, it’s not sell, sell, sell; it’s making sure that it’s balanced.

There’s the 4-1-1 rule for marketers. For every six posts, only one should be a sales or promotional post about your business. One should be an update from another source, but four should be written content by other people.

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You can watch the full discussion here on LinkedIn which includes more chat on using social media effectively for B2B businesses. Plus, questions from the audience on using Instagram for B2B business, our experience using LinkedIn Live and building an audience, and whether lifestyle/personal content has a place outside of platforms like Instagram.

The next It’s A B2B comms thing will be on February 4; follow me on LinkedIn to see posts about what we’ll be talking about and how to attend.

Previously on It’s a B2B comms thing…

B2B content: What to focus on in 2022

How to talk about going green.

Should I start a podcast as part of B2B content strategy?

3 thoughts on “How to make social media work for B2B businesses

    1. Thanks, Tony. Really glad you found it useful.

      Given the last one we had to record behind closed doors because a technical glitch with the platform meant we couldn’t go live, I’m happy with a couple of interruptions.

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