Humanizing B2B brands

How social media helps B2B marketers connect.

Even B2B marketers aren’t immune to the cultural impact of TiKTok. 

Those who associate the platform with quirky dance moves, makeup tips and Ratatouille the Musical can learn a thing or two from financial advisor Humphrey Yang. Yang offers peppy TikTok videos on how credit scores, Bitcoin and franchise businesses work, among other financial topics. Known as @HumphreyTalks, he’s racked up more than 2.1 million followers.

Then there’s Dave Jorgenson, The Washington Post’s TikTok guy. The young video producer, editor and writer has helped expose the publisher to younger readers — and probably ad buyers — through engaging TikTok videos that mix facts and farce.

Jorgenson taps into trending content quickly. For example, during the week of the 2020 election, he created a video that repeated the title line from the Teo Domani song “I remember when,” while headlines from the 2000 election flashed across the screen. This unconventional approach is paying off: since its launch in May 2019, the account has attracted more than 929,000 followers — and lots of attention. 

@washingtonpost

That presidential election wasn’t decided until December 13th, 2000. #ElectionWeek

♬ I remember when - Teo Domani

For B2B marketers, using social media presents some challenges. Not every platform is right for every marketer. We’re taking a “wait-and-see” approach to Clubhouse because it has accessibility limitations across devices and for hearing-impaired users. Most CEOs and CFOs are more inclined to spend money with traditional media they are familiar with, denying B2B marketers the budgets they need to explore social media.

But by avoiding social media, B2B marketers are missing an opportunity to connect with audiences in new ways and efficiently increase their share of voice. As far as budgets go, B2B brands could benefit from experimenting on social channels, which are relatively affordable compared to other media.

Social media moves quickly and there’s a learning curve. But where there are risks, there are also rewards. Some tips for B2B marketers willing to take the plunge: 

1. Blur the lines between education and entertainment.

Just like campaigns for beer or cars, B2B messaging can entertain and inform. 

NASA uses a range of social media to promote its missions and programs. The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover has been tweeting to its 2.7 million followers from the Red Planet. (Hobbies listed in its account bio: “Photography, collecting rocks, off-roading.”) Another 4.1 million-plus Instagram users follow the official Hubble Space Telescope account, which shares stunning photos and trivia. NASA's official Twitch channel broadcasts space walks and rocket launches. 

2. Bring mainstream influencers and passion points into webinars. 

Influencers, which are increasingly being tapped by B2B marketers, provide natural social media content fodder. 

Many of UPS’s small business clients were probably surprised to see the organization promoting a webinar on YouTube in April featuring actress Eva Longoria. With her own production company and foundation, Longoria was brought in to talk to UPS CMO Kevin Warren about her role as a business owner, champion of inclusion — and user of UPS small business resources. 

Salesforce promoted a concert featuring Grammy-Award winner singer/songwriter Maren Morris on Facebook and Twitter, part of its weekly virtual event series intended to help companies manage through crisis. Viewers who tuned in heard Morris speak about using her platform as a white woman in country music to champion Black women performers.

3. Drive intimacy by expanding LinkedIn use

LinkedIn is the obvious social media platform for B2B-only marketers. But LinkedIn isn’t limited to thought leadership and job openings. 

B2B marketers can create highly specialized, targeted newsletters on LinkedIn. These can come from a top executive and cover all aspects of the company’s industry, products and services. For instance, Josh Turner, CEO at sales and automation tool Connect 365, writes a newsletter called “The Marketing Minute” on LinkedIn. It’s an efficient way to distribute a newsletter while avoiding clogged email inboxes.

Direct messages on LinkedIn are another great alternative. Marketers can engage in personalized, direct communications and incorporate public conversations or comments within a direct message stream. This lets B2B marketers easily share articles, research studies and screen-grabbable insights, which can strengthen relationships with clients. Who doesn’t appreciate quick insights from a trusted source?

The rules have changed for B2B marketers, and it’s time for social media to be a more substantive part of the toolkit. Consider this an invitation. You might just come out on the other side more informed and with better finances. 

Lauren Silverman is strategy director at Omnicom’s B2B agency Doremus.

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