When most marketers think of social media, they think of B2C sales. From targeted advertising on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to direct follower engagement, social media is a useful tool that allows brands to communicate with and convert new consumers.
When it comes to B2B marketing, though, social media is seen as less of an asset—at least initially. After all, most of us think of social media as something that we aren’t supposed to be spending our time on at work. Are brand decision makers going to be hanging out on social sites every day? And of those decision-makers, how many of them are going to make big B2B buying decisions based on social media advertising or communication?
Here’s the thing, though: businesses and decision-makers are on social media. Just about every company these days has a goal that social media can help with—whether the goal involves reaching new customers or becoming an influencer in a high-profile field. As a result, not only are the businesses on your target list probably active online, but so are the stakeholders, executives, and decision makers you are trying to reach.
In other words, the potential is there. From research to communication, social media can help you drive your account-based marketing efforts and close more B2B deals. The question is how? Below, we’ve outlined a few of the strategies you should use to put social platforms at the center of your ABM efforts.
One of the reasons why many marketers assume social media as useless for B2B marketing and sales is because social media version of cold calling doesn’t work. You aren’t going to close a deal by sending a Tweet or typing out a Facebook message. Businesses don’t pay much attention to the unsolicited messages they get from B2B marketers on social media. And can you blame them? In a more traditional ABM strategy, you wouldn’t assume that a single email or phone call to a prospect was going to win you a big sale. You shouldn’t make a comparable assumption with social media, where communication can feel even more impersonal and irrelevant.
Instead, you need to do what you would do in any other ABM situation: do your homework, establish the relationship, and work toward the pitch. On social media, that starts by finding the right accounts to follow. Obviously, you will want to start with the official business accounts, but that may not be enough. Some businesses are more active than others on social platforms, and most won’t talk about the things you want to know about—such as pain points, product, and service needs, and other similar issues.
A better strategy is to find the accounts for key stakeholders and decision makers. Three to five individuals typically make each purchase decision in the B2B realm. Each person has his or her perspective, pain points, and priorities. Not every decision maker will disclose that kind of information on social media, but some will. Connecting with these individuals on LinkedIn and Twitter might give insight into what they are looking for and whether your product or service fits the bill. Twitter is especially useful because you can build lists of your key prospects and then use those lists to view only tweets from those accounts.
Following your key prospects on Twitter and LinkedIn might be an efficient way to learn about their pain points and such. However, even stakeholders who don’t discuss such business matters online — and some won’t, especially if their work is of a “confidential” variety—you can learn things from their social media accounts.
For instance, following decision makers on social media can tell you whether they will be attending key industry conferences or conventions. This information can tell you where you need to have a presence and where you might be able to make an introduction to key prospects (or other prospects like them). You can also keep an eye on the kind of content your prospects are sharing, retweeting, liking, or commenting on, which can help you decide what your content marketing plan needs to be.
What makes social media such a useful tool for ABM is that it puts listening, research, and communication in the same place. Instead of digging around the internet for potentially outdated information about your prospects, you can get real-time updates from them on social networks. Instead of needling them with emails or phone calls to learn more about their wants and needs, to determine those details online in a more passive and less intrusive fashion. And, when you decide to reach out, you can do it right there on Twitter or LinkedIn, building a connection organically instead of dropping an email in someone’s inbox right unexpectedly.
To make the connection, start small. Start liking posts or tweets from decision makers’ accounts, or commenting on the things they say or share. If you want to know more about your prospect’s pain points or desired solutions, start a conversation. If you have a piece of content that you think might be relevant to the person—or that you curated specifically to be relevant to that person—share it with them on a social platform.
Ultimately, introducing your product or service into the conversation is going to be somewhat clunky whether you do it via email, telephone, or social media. The advantage with something like Twitter, though, is the absence of saturation. Unless your prospect is a big-deal influencer with a blue check mark next to his or her name, reaching out on Twitter is more likely to yield a response. These people get dozens or hundreds of emails a day, but their social mentions are probably less crowded. Most people also still get notifications for Twitter mentions, which means that your influencers will be more likely to see your comments or content shares right away.
Starting organic conversations with your prospects on social media is a smart way to position yourself and your business as a source for help and advice. However, if you want to drive the point home further, you can do so by investing in some micro-targeted advertising on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. All three sites let you create sponsored posts and target them toward specific audiences. This strategy can put your product or service in the newsfeeds of your influencers, reminding them about your brand and hopefully encouraging them to consider the product or service you have to offer.
LinkedIn even offers a dedicated ABM tool to help businesses reach prospects. This tool—called LinkedIn Account Targeting—lets you target not just specific types of companies, but also the people in specific roles at those companies. This strategy can be especially helpful if your ABM audience is a bit on the wider end of the spectrum, or if you aren’t clear on who the decision makers at some of your target companies are. LinkedIn Account Targeting gets your messaging in front of relevant people, thereby helping you find and forge connections with influencers that might benefit from the solution you are offering. LinkedIn has recently launched a feature where it allows companies to upload a list of their target accounts and contacts. The platform matches the list with their inventory and enables you to display targeted ads to them. There is also an option of Audience Match where LinkedIn matches the uploaded list to build a list of similar audience based on similar attributes – you can run campaigns for them too. These unique features make LinkedIn one of the most important B2B marketing tools for companies.
While social media is a suitable place to build relationships with your prospects, it’s probably not going to be the place where you close your deals. If you have a few positive back-and-forths with prospective clients, try to get a phone number or email address. You want a place where you can have more in-depth conversations than Twitter's 140-character limit will allow. Sending an email or trying to set up a meeting after you’ve already built a relationship, founded on social media, is a lot more likely to succeed than cold calling. Then, you can use those more traditional communication channels to move toward a real conversion.
Get Started Today
If used correctly, social media can be the ultimate tool for B2B marketing. Whether you are trying to close deals shortly or just want to build connections that might lead to future revenue possibilities, social media is a surprisingly good place to start. If you are like most B2B marketers, though, your business isn’t yet using sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to drive your account-based marketing efforts.
Luckily, getting started isn’t difficult. Simply by identifying your prospects, finding them on social media, and following them, you can begin laying the groundwork. As both a listening channel and a communication method, social media can give you everything you need to establish a positive relationship with a brand influencer or decision maker. By following the strategies discussed above, you should be able to foster those relationships and turn them into revenue—all while also learning more about what your target customers want and need.