Is social media a waste of time for B2B business?

Anyone involved in comms and marketing will be spending a chunk of time on social media but, with mysterious algorithms to contend with, it can be a frustrating and unpredictable strategy.

Ayo Abbas, Emma Drake and I discussed whether social media is a waste of time for B2B businesses in a LinkedIn live stream

So is it worth the time spent? This is what Ayo Abbas, Emma Drake and I discussed on a LinkedIn Live stream recently, and these are some highlights from that conversation.

If you want to watch the video of the full discussion, including audience questions, scroll to the bottom of the post.

Is social media all it’s cracked up to be?

Emma: I think people don’t often get a lot from it because they’re perhaps not using it well or effectively.

And the algorithm makes no sense, it’s not one thing you can solve. It is continually changing and morphing, and that is a huge challenge.

So anyone who tells you that they understand the algorithm on a social media platform is lying.

I had a post on LinkedIn that had multiple likes and shares, but it got under 300 impressions. I’ve had a post that had two likes and got over 2000. Go figure.

Social media can be really useful, but you need to have a plan.

Me: Yes, you are at the whim of the algorithm. Some platforms are ‘pay to play’, and they’re promoting content that has been paid for.

So you have to go in with your eyes open and realise there’s no silver bullet with social media.

But whether it’s a waste of time depends on your reason for being on it. It’s easy to get focused on specifics like getting business leads, but actually, there’s a whole load of other value you can get from social media: Networking, personal visibility, knowledge and learning.

It’s a waste of time if it isn’t delivering on your goals.

Ayo: I’m similarly sitting on the fence. It was easier to get followers and get more traction a few years ago. It’s getting harder and harder because of ‘pay to play’.

But also more people are using it, that’s what we’ve all got to deal with. Yeah, it’s there, it’s free, and there’s loads of great stuff, but it’s going to take more to get traction; you need to add paid or change how you approach it.

Emma: I think having paid is almost becoming fundamental. I don’t think you can’t really have an organic strategy without a paid strategy – if you’re a business. If you’re an individual, it’s slightly different.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

How do you know you are getting value from social media?

Ayo: Getting value from social is about having a clear understanding of why you’re there. Are you there for research? Are you there for leads? Are you there for connections? Are you there for visibility?

Have that in the back of your mind and make that drive how you use the platform.

Not everything has to be about posts, you could have a strategy of ‘I want to connect with the main thought leaders in the built environment’.

And that’s what you do; you engage, you comment, and you don’t even post. It’s about understanding why you’re there, so you get the most value out of it.

And numbers aren’t everything, there is also the anecdotal [value]. So, for example, I’ve been to a number of events in the last couple of weeks, and people come up to me and say ‘Hi’ because they’ve seen my stuff online. It builds the ‘know like and trust’.

They might not even be a follower but have seen a post or been forwarded it or heard someone talking about it, and that isn’t going to show up on a metric.

Emma: You can have a concerted effort around particular events, and I did this recently for a fairly unknown body. We increased page followers through social media throughout the event. That was one of our aims.

It can still be really useful when you make it very purposeful.

I changed my strategy four or five months ago from posting on lots of different things to much more personal posts. So it’s more about people getting to know me.

When I talk to people now, they want to talk about swimming or my dog.

People do business with people, not brands, and I think it’s helped people get to know me.

There are lots of people doing what I do [for work], so talking about what I do could be a bit dull. But talking about a swim I did or how ridiculously dumb my dog is, is quite a good leveller.

Me: I was at a round table this morning, and someone came up to me and said that they liked what I was posting on LinkedIn.

It shows that it is working, that people are noticing, and they appreciate what I’m posting.

I’ve been asked to be a guest on two different podcasts as a result of posting on LinkedIn. Would I have been asked if I wasn’t writing on LinkedIn about topics they were interested in talking about?

So it is thinking about the less tangible value as well as how many leads you got, how many of those have converted, how many followers and the vanity metrics.

Rob Mayhew did a brilliant TikTok skit about a client who wants to organically grow their followers on Instagram by 30,000 in a ridiculously short period of time. It was about him trying to explain that it’s impossible.

So it’s also being realistic about your goals and making sure you put in the time and effort to deliver those goals.

Don’t think, ‘Oh, I’ve posted twice, and I haven’t got 10,000 followers, therefore, it’s all been a monumental failure’.

Emma: You can spend a lot of time and effort and feel like you’re not getting anywhere. And that can be demoralising.

Ayo: We’ve been posting regularly for a long time, so it’s consistency. It’s not a fly-by-night, it’s suddenly gonna change but a long-term play.

What will you be doing differently going forward?

Ayo: The main thing for me is trying some of the newer features on platforms and using that as a strategy; see what reach and impact they have. Such as doing these lives and LinkedIn newsletters, which have really good reach at the moment.

We know that social media platforms favour their new concepts. And I like new stuff and learning new things, so it works for me.

And just trying to keep going and not burning out, even if it’s not posting every day, it’ll be three times a week.

Outside of social media, I’m going out and meeting people face to face as we can now and having those types of conversations is ultimately where work is going to come from.

Social media is there as a piece of noise and consistency for me, but those direct one-to-ones and going out to talk to people is bringing the work in.

Me: I have scaled back how frequently I post; I’m still being consistent, but I’ve gone from posting five days a week religiously to posting three or four days a week, and I don’t beat myself up about it.

And it hasn’t seemed to have any impact on my stats and the value.

The live audio that LinkedIn is going to be rolling out could be quite interesting, depending on what you can do with it.

I’m experimenting with using pictures more because I noticed when I scroll through my feed, I tend to stop more when there’s a picture or a video.

And I want to get back into making videos again. I’ve got some ideas for some short, pithy social videos.

Outside of the platform, I’m going to be launching a newsletter and podcast (as I’ve said before). I want to have that control and reach a different audience.

Like Ayo, I’m going out and about more and talking to people. But I’m not giving LinkedIn up, I’m just adjusting what I’m doing.

Emma: Getting out and about more is a common theme.

Twitter and LinkedIn have always been very good to me and work for my business. One of my goals is to get more podcast listeners and people onto my email list.

And with some social posts being more personal, letting people get to know me a bit more.

Secondly, I’m working on extending my networks through joining with other people like you and partnerships.

It’s amazing how many more views on social media you get and people looking you up because you’ve been to an event or had a collaboration.

Ayo: Partnerships and collaborations are key ways for growth. It’s a much more sustainable way, especially if you’re connecting with like-minded people who have similar audiences. I do think that’s the way forward.

Hope you’ve found this interesting and useful. What is your view on using social media for B2B, has your strategy has changed?

Watch the full discussion, including audience questions on persuading clients to ‘pay to play’ and the effectiveness of lead generation:

Video replay of ‘is social media a waste of time for B2B businesses’

Some other episodes of It’s A B2B Comms Thing LinkedIn Live chats:

How to get value from entering industry awards even if you don’t win

Should you use LinkedIn Live streams as part of your content strategy?

How to get comms value out of trade shows

Repurposing: How to make the most of your content

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