Content and Its Role in Social Media for B2B Industrial and Manufacturing Marketers
To social or not to social? If you’re on a small industrial marketing team with limited time and resources, you might be evaluating whether it’s worthwhile to spend a lot of time on social media efforts.
Or perhaps you’re ready to dial up your marketing because you’ve heard a lot about social selling, and you’re worried that you’re already behind.
Should the average mid-sized B2B technical, manufacturing, engineering, or industrial company be using social media for marketing purposes? If so, when, how much and how often?
You’ll have to consider a number of factors. Weighing most heavily among them: How well-honed are your website and other marketing activities? How much useful content are you generating on an ongoing basis? Also not to be discounted, how much time do you have available and how disciplined can you be on the platforms? They were built to keep people engaged for as long as possible, and even the act of using them for industrial social media marketing can inadvertently turn into more time spent scrolling than you’d intended. In this article, we’ll discuss:
- When should B2B industrial marketers use social media marketing?
- What social media channels are relevant to industrial marketing?
- How do I get started promoting my industrial or manufacturing business on social media?
- What content do I need to support a social media strategy?
- How do I find customers on social media?
- How can I utilize social media without spending all day on it?
- What is the ROI of social media marketing and advertising for B2B technical industries?
When should B2B industrial marketers use social media marketing?
Social media marketing and social selling are talked about a great deal on, well, social media. It’s easy to get caught up in the buzz of it all and assume that’s where you should focus most of your attention.
The truth is, for industrial, manufacturing, and technical B2B businesses, it’s an important piece of the puzzle, but it layers onto the other, more foundational aspects of your marketing strategy. For instance, if you started doing aggressive outreach, marketing, advertising, and posting on LinkedIn, any interested party who saw your activities would then want to go to your website next to learn more about what you do. However, if your website isn’t representing your company well or clearly conveying what you do, then all of that activity on LinkedIn was, at least in part, a wasted effort. To get your marketing flywheel turning at optimum efficiency, we recommend that you first make sure your website meets certain minimum standards:
- Clear positioning statement on your homepage
- User-friendly navigation and content strategy
- Fast load times
- All features working properly
- Clear content about key products and services
- Clear CTAs for sales inquiries (SQLs)
Until your website is performing well, we recommend putting most of your (likely limited) time and attention into improving the website, as it really is the hub of all marketing initiatives. Once your website is shipshape, or at least 80% there, it’s a good time to begin experimenting with layering on social media activities.
What social media channels are relevant to industrial marketing?
While social media was once a new thing, there are now many different social media channels out there. There’s value in claiming your business profile on the most common platforms if only to prevent someone with a similar business name from doing so, but you don’t need to have an active presence on all of them, or even more than one or two.
Start with the platform most likely to result in meaningful links back to your website and engagement with your target audience. Get a good presence going there, and then see if it makes sense to branch out or test other platforms. Here are the top platforms to start with, and I’d heavily weigh the first two over the others for businesses with a technical industry focus:
- LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an (almost) purely business-focused channel. It’s your best opportunity to connect with C-level business leaders and their sales departments. Engineers aren’t as active on this network, but there is still value in connecting with other LinkedIn members at their companies. For the greatest reach, your marketing and sales teams should share content from their own LinkedIn profiles, as well as from your company profile. In addition to sharing content and creating awareness, LinkedIn can be a good tool for targeted sales outreach and networking.
- YouTube. Manufacturing and industrial businesses typically involve complex processes, systems and products. YouTube, as a video sharing platform, gives industrial manufacturers an opportunity to make the complexities of their processes more accessible. Videos can be posted first to the channel, and then easily embedded in your website, making them easy to find and pull into product demos, how-tos, technical support, and other forms of content.
- Twitter. Twitter tends to draw a younger, more technology-savvy audience. It can be a good place to build brand awareness and engage with influencers in your industry, but like all other platforms, it should be tested for your specific niche to gauge audience representation. Twitter can be useful for interacting with relevant news channels, publications, and event organizers that serve your niche audience.
- Facebook. Facebook is one of the most widely used social networks in the world. It’s a good place to start for most B2C social plans, but trickier to make good use of in the B2B realm. It can be useful to test out for retargeting, but only after getting well-established in other channels. Facebook tends to be best for sharing information with employees, job seekers, and the local community.
- Instagram and Pinterest. Both Instagram and Pinterest can be good for companies that focus on product creation and other visually based businesses, but they’re usually not a great match for most industrial social media marketing efforts.
How do I get started promoting my industrial or manufacturing business on social media?
As noted above, it’s always a good idea to make sure that the basics are in place before engaging in a lot of outreach via social media. Before posting, make sure that your company profile is up to date and professional looking. The same applies to the personal profiles of any sales reps or marketing team members who will be doing outreach.
Since LinkedIn is first on our list, we recommend reading our article on getting up and running with LinkedIn. It goes deep into LinkedIn’s capabilities. At first, though, you’ll want to fine-tune your company profile page for performance after you’ve claimed it. In addition to including your tagline and logo, you’ll want to use your positioning statement in the description, and include the website URL, location, industry, company size, and services, which LinkedIn calls “specialties.”
Imagery is also important. You’ll have the opportunity to upload a cover image. It should be branded to your company, contain your logo and positioning statement or services, and look good on both desktop and mobile views, without cutting off text or having it fall behind the logo. Use this same cover image on your individual profile page and have your employees use it on their profile pages. You’ll also want to make sure the CTA drives people to your company website.
After this, you can begin building connections and posting. While posting to social media can seem daunting at first, you can start small and test the waters, listen to others, and see what works. On platforms like LinkedIn you’ll always be able to see stats for the reach of each post, so you can start to detect patterns, such as what times of day or types of content perform the best.
- Listen to what your target audience is saying. Before you begin posting, listen to see what your target audience is already posting and interacting with. This will give you a good baseline of ideas for posting in the future.
- Start by posting relevant content from your own website. Rather than spending a lot of time creating original content that will only exist as a post or an image, use social media to augment and syndicate the content that you’re already posting to your website. This way you’ll create more links back to your website, and allow that content you’re creating to do double duty. Just posted a new case study? That’s a great thing to share on social media—as long as you’re making it a relevant resource for others, not just a self-promotional piece.
- Don’t post only original content. Share content and posts created by others, too, while adding your own point of view. The creation of original content is important, but it’s unrealistic to expect to have new content to share every day. When you’re not posting original content, you can focus on sharing content that would be useful for your target audiences, such as trade show or event notices, insightful articles written by others, and new product information.
What content do I need to support a social media strategy?
As noted above, content is one of the primary building blocks for a targeted social media strategy for B2B technical industries. Your customers are smart and they don’t want to be “marketed to,” per se. They are, however, interested in useful information that helps them do their jobs better and grow in their careers.
One misstep many marketers make when dipping their toes into social media for the first time is to focus on holidays and events. While Thanksgiving messages, holiday well-wishes, company picnic announcements, and similar content can be nice when done well and sprinkled in sparingly, they’re not enough to hinge a marketing strategy around.
If you’re already generating content on an ongoing basis, you’ll be well-positioned to start using LinkedIn, and potentially other platforms, as a way to broaden the reach of that content. If not, read our article on How to Get Started with Content Creation, and while you get the content generation flywheel going, evaluate what “share-worthy” content you might already have on your website.
Build a social posting calendar that balances the frequency of your posts with the amount of new and existing high-quality content that you have available to share. Evaluate your ICP and key personas, and share only content that is highly relevant to your primary audiences. One way to think of this is to ask yourself, “What conversation do we want to be known for on LinkedIn?” and pick out content (or plan to generate content) that supports the answer.
Once you’ve made a shortlist of existing and planned content, pull this into a spreadsheet with a link to the content as it exists on your website. Each piece of content should have a relevant “featured image” to accompany it, as well as a short introduction that you can use for the “post” section of your social media post, while you link to the full article/content on your website.
If your shortlist is very short, plan your frequency accordingly. If you have four articles worthy of posting, you can start by posting once a week, while you begin building out your content generation flywheel.
Once you’ve been posting new content for a while on social platforms, you can begin re-posting older (but still relevant) content interspersed with new content. This might get you to a twice-weekly frequency. Plan to also promote any marketing-relevant happenings, like webinars and live events, either in place of your weekly post (if you don’t have much content to work with yet), or layered between your other posts. Only after your social media marketing and content generation is a well-oiled machine that’s proving value in bringing in leads and customers should you be thinking about posting daily or more frequently (and especially then, continue to evaluate the ROI of your efforts—more on that later in this article).
How do I find customers on social media?
In addition to posting content and creating awareness for your brand, LinkedIn and other social channels can be used as outreach tools. Finding customers is a bit of an art and a science, but here are some good starting points:
- Determine the goals of your social media plan. Are you more interested in higher funnel pieces like awareness, engagement with your content, and attracting attendees to webinars? Or are you seeking direct sales opportunities? Figure out what you want most for your business, first, and when in doubt, choose connecting over selling. Most people, even if they are sales-ready, will prefer being contacted in the capacity of being offered helpful information (articles, webinars, white papers) vs. going right for the sales pitch.
- Choose your target audience. Are you most interested in reaching out to engineers? C-level executives? Office workers? On-the-job factory foremen? Determine the criteria for sourcing potential prospects — for instance, on LinkedIn Sales Navigator you can filter by company size (headcount), industry, job title, seniority, geography, and keywords. For any particular audience, what are their typical pain points and interests? What problems are they trying to solve that you can help with? Once you decide who you want to reach, you’ll be able to determine which platform and messaging strategy to focus on.
- Write a script that you can customize for each potential prospect, and focus on offering helpful content that meets their needs. Include links to one or two recent and useful articles, resources, or tools on your website.
- Create a schedule and accountabilities that you can make continuous progress toward, blocking out time daily or weekly for outreach. Be sure to be highly targeted, selective, and helpful instead of salesey in any outreach activities so that you’re not violating any terms of service or, even worse, turning off potential future customers.
If you’re ready to start using LinkedIn for building an audience and connections read more in our article How to Use LinkedIn in B2B and Industrial Marketing.
How can I utilize social media without spending all day on it?
Simple: schedule blocks of time. Plan your posts in advance, based on new content that you’re generating and old content that you’ll be re-posting. Set a time block to post your content, share/comment on other relevant posts, and then get out!
Don’t forget to copy a link to your most recent post and ask coworkers to like/comment/share it. Better yet, if your post is relevant to other individuals or companies, tag them in it to encourage engagement. If you have a lot of followers and tend to get good engagement on your posts, plan to swoop back in a few times throughout the day to like and respond to any comments. But having a plan for when you do and don’t spend time on social media is critical to ensuring that it doesn’t become a time-suck that takes up more of your time than it should.
We strongly recommend that you NOT plan to post content daily when you’re just getting started. Begin by promoting existing and new content from your website once a week, making sure that you and people on your team comment and like it, and then work up from there. If you’re doing outreach activities to grow your followers, the content that you publish will begin to reach more people as well. If you’re finding that you’re reaching a lot of the right types of people on LinkedIn or another platform, experiment with boosting posts and/or display advertising to increase your reach. It’s easy to spend money with these tools, so we recommend enlisting an experienced paid search specialist to help set up and monitor any paid campaigns on social platforms.
What is the ROI of social media marketing and advertising for B2B technical industries?
It’s true that, compared with other marketing efforts, it can be more difficult to calculate the ROI of social media marketing. A single post, comment, or outreach activity can lead to a wide number of outcomes, with some paths harder to follow than others.
One way to track your social media ROI is to review the impact of your increased audience reach, clicks, engagement, and conversion. Are you able to track any social activities back to deals that made it into your pipeline, or to increased engagement with prospects and existing customers that may have led to a higher likelihood of the initial deal closing or repeat sales? Look at the time and dollars spent creating these plans and compare it to the return. On average, with a properly targeted and implemented plan like the ones listed above, businesses can see marked returns.
Regular review of data will also give you the tools you need to increase your returns. For example, if activity on LinkedIn is 50% more fruitful than activity on Facebook, you can shift your efforts to take advantage of this. If you’re not able to recognize any meaningful ROI yet, evaluate the following:
- Your targeting—Is it tight and specific enough?
- Your messaging—Is it hitting the pain points and needs of a highly targeted audience?
- Your platform(s)—Are they finding your target audience “where they live”?
- Your tactics—Are you trying to sell ahead of making relationships? Are you coming on too strong, or not doing enough?
Also evaluate, through Google Analytics, whether you are seeing enough traffic from social platforms coming to your website. Can you determine your social marketing activities are a relevant and targeted source of qualified traffic? Ultimately, like any marketing activity, social media activities must be proven fruitful in order to be worth the time and effort.
Social media can be a valid marketing tool for mid-sized B2B technical, manufacturing, engineering, and industrial companies. We recommend getting your website into good shape first, then taking a slow and steady approach, using one or two platforms and tracking your results as much as possible. Balanced with the time and effort required for social media marketing activities, you can determine how much makes sense for your business going forward.