Each year, we’ve seen social media hailed as “here to stay” and “essential” but that doesn’t stop some B2B marketing budgets only being able to pay lip-service to it because it's its critical importance is still dismissed. Now, its impossible to ignore:
In Hubspot’s 2021 Not Another State of Marketing Report, marketers say social media is their primary approach to marketing - by a significant landslide, too, not a few indiscernible percentage points.
70% of marketers said that social media is their primary approach to marketing, with SEO trailing behind in second place at 40%. Over 80% of companies now use social media - beating even ‘websites’, which were in first place last year.
If you’re wondering how we’ve arrived at a place where social media has surpassed websites as a marketing channel and outstripped SEO then you’re not alone.
In this blog I’ll set out the why. But most importantly, I’ll give a glimpse into how you can give social media the attention it deserves within your marketing strategies, even if the board is unwilling to increase the budget.
Why Social Media Has Become The Primary Approach To Marketing
It would be easy to dismiss social media’s top spot status as a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic and that we may return to the “norm”. But it’s clear that it’s simply accelerated the digitisation of the B2B buying journey.
Buying Habits Were Already Becoming Digital And Social
The seeds of change in the buyer journey were planted way before the pandemic, not just within B2C but within B2B:
- B2B buying habits have long been moving to a digital-first approach. Depending on which industry study you read, up to 90% of the buyer journey is carried out online, without any contact with sales.
- B2B buyers have been craving a more personalised approach of the type they’ve become accustomed to in B2C.
- A brand’s ethical stance has been growing in importance, especially with millennials. They prefer to do business with brands with pro-social messages, sustainable manufacturing methods and ethical business standards.
- B2B buyers and customers have also increasingly placed values and a company’s culture first. Culture, purpose and values are the biggest influences on the group’s choice of vendor for the majority (65%) according to research by Gyro. And 83% of said they’re more likely to buy from a business whose culture matched their own.
- Influencer marketing has been growing in importance in B2B, not just B2C. 43% of B2B buyers said their consumption habits have changed to prefer credible content from industry influencers, according to DemandGen 2020 Content Preferences Study
The Pandemic Forced Companies To Act Differently
With events cancelled and budgets cut, B2B marketers turned to social media to connect with prospects and customers to help build their brand awareness and build the human-to-human connection that we’ve come to value more than ever.
And with the economy so fragile and many made redundant or furloughed, three out of four marketers said that they experienced budget cuts - forcing a more strategic and considered approach. Social media was the answer for many as it not only helps build targeted brand awareness but with social listening brands can stay relevant to what their customers are thinking, want and need right now - and adapt quickly.
The growth of digital channels and social media won’t be a flash in the pan: 89% of organisations feel that COVID 19 has permanently changed the way that we interact and do business with prospects and customers.
How To Put Social Media Campaigns First On A Limited Budget
It’s clear that companies can no longer afford not to be on social media but that doesn’t mean that the budget is there to present. Just yet.
So how can you help maximise your impact on limited social budgets?
Invest In Employee Advocacy
With employees having on average a 10x greater reach than brands alone and more influence, it can help you harness the power of social media at a fraction of the cost.
- Everyone Social’s recent 2020 Paid Advertising and Employee Advocacy insights estimate that 100 employees can easily generate 650 clicks a month which would cost $2,047 conservatively on paid social ads.
- Leads generated by employee advocacy convert 7x higher than any other source. Buyers crave authenticity and your employees’s insights about their areas of expertise are perceived to be more credible than content shared via company channels. Employees’ social posts are also more personal and authentic, and as we know, the relationship driven approach is a key catalyst for influencing B2B buyers’ purchase decisions make their purchase
- 28% of organisations say that employee advocacy increases the reach of their messages without having to use social media ads. (Source: The Social Transformation Report 2020, Hootsuite & Altimeter)
Encourage Employee Generated Content
Social media campaigns can quickly become all-consuming. Social requires an constant stream of quality content and as shown by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs’ recent report 50% of B2B content marketers say they struggle to create content consistently.
Giving your team time to focus on the strategic content direction by supporting them to generate their own content is invaluable. Not only is it more authentic (we can all spot marketing messages versus posts with typos written in haste by employee posts), they're much more likely to be able to create messages that speak directly to their audience’s needs.
Leverage Social Listening
You can make your social media budget stretch much further by investing some of your budget into social listening, rather than just focusing on brand and competitor monitoring.
Social media gives you one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to quickly answer the following:
- What are your customers and prospects talking about?
- What are your competitors talking about?
- What topics matter to them?
- What hashtags and keywords do they use?
- Which groups do they belong to?
Sales Team Enablement
Your sales teams are likely to be the most motivated to embrace social and employee generated content to hit targets and overcome the challenges they’re facing with modern sales - so long as you can show them what they stand to gain from it.
For help on getting your sales teams on board with social selling and employee generated content, these resources may help:
- 10 Reasons Social Selling Teams Should Fully Embrace Employee Generated Content
- Why Social Selling is the Key to Successful Sales
- How to overcome employee rejections to using social media
Despite the fact that 70% of marketers have said that their primary channel is now social media, it’s never too late to dip your toes in and start reaping the many benefits of social. Especially if you’re in an industry where it might be slower to adapt to changes required to adapt to the digital buyer journey.
Alternatively, you can connect with me on LinkedIn and send me any questions you might have.