For a couple of years now, B2B marketers have been hearing the “social selling” buzzword, and there are some convincing social media statistics regarding sales through social channels. Just about every marketer has heard that salespeople who use social outsell 78 percent of their non-social peers, and that leads developed and nurtured via social networking are seven times more likely to close than other types of leads. In 2014, Ifbyphone conducted a Marketing Measurement Report that showed social media as one of the top three preferred channels for marketers for mid-to-bottom funnel lead conversion (right up there with email marketing and SEO/PPC—see the chart below). However, creating and delivering social content is a big challenge for many B2Bs.
The Missing Link: A Cohesive Social Content Strategy
If you’re one of the companies that is still having trouble converting through social channels, you’re not alone. The B2B Content Marketing 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs shows that although social is the top content marketing tactic for B2B companies (93%), only 32% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, and only 24% say that their content strategy is effective (or 5% very effective). This is a pretty big gap, which indicates that something fundamental is missing—a clear plan and a map. Here are three tips that will help you develop the bones of a good content marketing plan via social:
1. The Right Content in the Right Channel
Let’s say you have some great lead generating content pieces. You’ve developed helpful articles on your blog, some whitepapers and ad e-book or two. If your first instinct is to clone the same update on all your social channels with a link to your content, you’ll need a different strategy. People visit different social sites for different reasons and at different times. Your LinkedIn audience may be online in the morning or at noon, and your Facebook and Twitter audiences in the evening. The users of one platform like to read and others prefer video. You’ll need to know when your audience frequents each channel and what kind of content they like to interact with, and you might have to re-purpose your content pieces to appeal to various audiences.You’ll also have to carefully craft social update messages that are interesting and “fit” each platform in a native way. In other words, it should be adapted to the language, culture and style of each platform. Understanding each channel’s audience and their preferences will help you plan your social content calendars to make the right fit, so ask yourself the following questions when planning your posts:
- What’s the optimum character length for this channel?
- What language does my audience speak (tech, all-business, informal)?
- Are hashtags (or other proprietary characters like @) appropriate for this audience?
- Will this information be considered helpful or promotional?
Paying more attention to how your content is shared as well as the format styles that attract your audience types things will make the difference in the “sticking” factor of your content, and how well it converts.
2. The Power of Visual Social Content
Another thing that will help your content convert better is adding a visual component. A few years ago, studies showed that we receive approximately 174 newspapers worth of information every day, compared to the equivalent of 40 newspapers worth in 1986. That’s a lot of content. And humans deal with this massive influx of information by tuning a lot of it out. Instead of taking the time to absorb lengthy text blocks, we tend to be attracted more to images—especially when they tell a story. That doesn’t mean that text-based content is going to go away; it’s always going to be an integral part of marketing. However, we’re seeing that visual content is playing an increasingly pivotal role in marketing efforts on social channels.
The draw to visual content isn’t just about social platforms, however. Research from 2008 indicates that people only read about 20% of the text on an average web page. Eye tracking studies show that we pay more attention to headlines and images online, which is why infographics (like the snippet from Ethos3 pictured here) are so popular. It also explains the increasing popularity of visual social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, as well as more emphasis placed on images by the “Big 3,” Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Statistics bear this out. Information from eMarketer indicates that Facebook posts from brands that included images earned 87 percent of all engagements in 2014. In 2013, Buffer reported that Tweets with images earned up to 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites, and 150 percent more retweets.
It’s important to keep this trend toward visual content in mind when planning your content strategy. You’ll need to use imagery in your social updates to capture attention, and each channel differs in how they display images, so it can pay to have a cheat sheet handy for sizing.
Don’t Overlook Video! In addition to still images, video (especially viewed on mobile devices) is playing a key role in engagement and should be well represented in your content marketing strategy. According to data from a 2014 IDG Global Solutions study, “More than half of B2B buyers now use mobile devices to make purchase decision research,” and 48% watch videos from their mobile devices.
Conversion rates for video content are quite high. According to The Adobe 2014 video conversion playbook, engagement with company content can generate a conversion uplift of up to 90% when video content is used (over when it’s not used). If you’re marketing to executive decision makers, keep in mind that the majority of senior executives (92%) own a smartphone used for business, with 77% reporting they use their smartphone to research a product or service for their business (from the IDG study).
3. Measure Everything
A content strategy without measurement is about as valuable as throwing spaghetti on the wall, but there are lots of software solutions for marketing automation that can help you measure the success of your content. You’re probably already tracking registrations for content downloads, webinar registrations and other online lead generation form completions, but don’t forget to track conversion from social posts. At the very least, you’ll want to know which platforms your website traffic is coming from, but placing UTM (Urchin Tracking Monitor) codes on your links and tracking them through Google Analytics can be an affordable way to measure how well each social campaign is performing. For more on analytics, check out Paul Mosenson’s latest e-book, Measuring Lead Generation with Google Analytics.
In my opinion, incorporating these three criteria in a formal content strategy for social is a crucial part of content marketing as a whole. However, it’s also important to stay on top of why your audience frequents specific platforms. Social channels are constantly in flux and audience demographics shift, so keep checking them. Are they there to learn, to share or to have fun and be inspired? Have they moved away from a channel because they’re not getting the same benefit from it (such as LinkedIn groups)? Knowing your audience and their preferences will help you choose which content to share on each channel, but content is only part of the equation. Just remember that people are on social platforms to connect with other people, and they respond to posts that are helpful, honest and above all, human. Building and nurturing relationships is the ultimate goal, so how you respond to people who show an interest in your content, share it or make comments will determine your true success.