People often ask me: “Does social media marketing really lead to sales?” My answer always starts with this: “Yes, you can make sales directly from social media if you are selling a business-to-consumer (B2C) product or service. But if you are selling a business-to-business (B2B) product or service, it plays a completely different role in the buying process.”
Before we look at those two situations, let’s look at what they have in common, and what you have to do to get the best results, regardless of what you’re selling.
Your site should have social icons leading to your social channels, in your footer or up in the header of your site. People should be able to use those to see your various social feeds.
You should know who “owns” your social media accounts, and, in fact, it should be you. Almost every client we have taken on has left the ownership and administration to an outside agency, which is a big mistake, especially if and when you fire that agency.
You need to have full control over all your social accounts. You need to know how to get in there, how to assign or delete users, and check it for any problems. The backend of social platforms can be confusing, and they all behave a little differently. You have to get to know how they work and be able to make changes.
One of our clients had her Facebook account taken over by some bad players in Russia selling candy online. Not only did they post terrible “buy this terrible candy” posts on her site, but she had so much trouble convincing Facebook management that SHE wasn’t the scammer (because the hackers had done such a good job of taking over the account) that she had to close out the entire account.
One of the problems is that Facebook and other channels will engage you in lengthy chat conversations with a “helpful person” who, it turns out, is not a person but a bot. You can’t actually reason with a bot.
These are real-life horror stories, and they can happen to anyone, including intelligent business owners like our client. You definitely have to take this stuff seriously.
Recency, frequency, and relevancy.
These three words also play a major role in your SEO, so it’s good to remember them.
Recency: The main thing here is that, when someone goes to your feed, the most recent post isn’t from two months ago. If they see this, they will assume you are not paying attention, and if you’re not paying attention to this, what else are you not paying attention to? It will raise a red flag in the mind of your potential buyer, who may go to your site and your social feeds, find too many disturbing characteristics, and never contact you or buy from you. They will have come and gone, and you won’t even know what you did to lose their interest.
Frequency: Some companies need to post daily—such as e-commerce companies selling directly online, using their social media marketing to engage their audience with great stories and to announce special deals. Other companies, in the B2B space, can get away with posting two or three times a week. Whatever you do, be serious about the schedule. Don’t just give it to some junior person and walk away. This person will be responsible for presenting you to your prospective buyers and giving them an idea of who you are. If you come across as silly or self-absorbed, your social feeds will un-sell you.
Relevancy: Yes, you need to be recent and frequent. But if your social feed is not interesting or helpful, it won’t really matter how often you post. Relevancy is king. What you offer up should make the person scrolling through your feed feel that you actually do care about what they care about, and you are working on making things better for them. You’re offering content, products, and services that they find attractive, and you are treating each customer courteously and conscientiously. This is what they should come away with after looking at your posts.
Social, done right, requires attention, care, and a budget. People really do use social media in the course of their buying process, and yours will either attract or repel customers.
Now that we’ve seen what B2C and B2B social has in common, let’s look at the differences. You will want to read your section carefully, but also skim through the “other” section, as you may find an idea there that you could apply to your type of company.
How to make social work for your B2C company
If you’re selling online, you can be forgiven for shameless self-promotion, as long as that isn’t all you do. Whatever you post should always be beneficial to the customer.
Posts can include:
Announcements of sales. You can post about a special sale. This is beneficial for anyone who likes what you sell; they’ll check in and see if the items they were considering are now on sale. Customers I’ve interviewed say they don’t mind that kind of information as long as it isn’t overdone.
Announcements of customer-centric changes. Did you come out with a new product or an improvement to a product? Are you offering a new service? Is something possible that wasn’t possible before, such as the ability to ship to a new location, or the ability to ship faster? Have you opened a new store (assuming you are both digital and brick and mortar)? All of these make great social fodder.
Stories. Has anyone on your staff helped someone recently? Was there an order that went awry, but you made it right? Did someone post a positive review? Did someone on your staff do something particularly wonderful or have something wonderful happen to them? We have been very successful getting rough notes from our clients as they interact with customers, rewriting them, and posting them on their social channels. We have even created a new page on their sites showcasing these posts. More about this in the B2B section, but suffice to say that when customers see these types of stories, they begin to like who you are and how you behave, which makes them think that you won’t let you down when they order from you. Note that the posts we write for our clients are written by professional writers, who set just the right tone in each post.
Details about one of your products or services. You’ve probably been producing your product or service for a long time. So many things that you do every day seem normal to you, so it doesn’t occur to you to feature a story on some aspect of your product or service. How it came into being, why you decided to do what you did, how it turned out, what customers said about it. You get the idea.
“You asked for it, we did it!” These posts feature some aspect of your product or service that you created simply because your customers asked for it. These are a super way to prove to customers that you listen and you respond.
Staff spotlights. You’ve got some great people, and they do great things every day. Why not feature them in your social media? In everything I’ve mentioned so far, you could blog about the person, product, change, etc., and have your social posts link back to that article.
Articles. Speaking of articles, whenever you publish a blog, you should socialize it. We tend to socialize it on the day it was published, then 3, 10, and 24 days later, then once a month for six months. This gives you optimal leverage out of each article. You’ll want to use a social media scheduling app, such as SEMRush, to set up the posting dates.
Now, some of you might be thinking, “What about all those celebrities who post only about themselves, and all those people on OnlyFans who charge for people to see them half-naked?” Well, yes, that is a real thing. But it’s not your thing, unless you are one of those people. Just because it’s out there doesn’t mean it is right for you. If you are selling something to people, they want to know how you are going to take care of them, not what you wore (or didn’t wear) that day.
How to make social work for your B2B company
Just about everything I wrote for the B2C company applies, but for different reasons and in different ways.
First of all, with B2B, and especially with high-scrutiny B2B products and services, your customers are not going to your social feed to buy from you as a result. They are going to your social feed to see if they want to do business with you.
What do you care about in your social feed? Are you always talking about things that help customers, or just boasting all the time? Are your posts boringly corporate and dry, or are they warm with caring? Are they designed to help people understand more about what you do, or are you “too busy” or simply not focused on sharing useful information? Do you provide proof of your helpfulness?
Your social feed gives potential customers a chance to check out who you really are without actually engaging with you, like scoping out a possible romantic interest from afar. They want to see what you’re made of.
One of the biggest questions you need to answer, particularly when selling high-scrutiny products and services, is “What’s going to happen to me after I buy?” It’s rather amazing how few companies answer that question in their online content. Think about this when you decide what to socialize. How can you pull back the curtain on the positive experiences that people have had with your products and services? How have you helped? What were the steps that they followed afterwards to ensure success?
One of the “hidden costs” of social is that you want to be able to post about content that you have on your site. You’ll want your social media posts to lead to something—such as an article, a guide, a story, or a video. So there is a constant stream of content that you have to be creating that is worth socializing.
If you don’t have enough to post weekly, consider a stop-gap measure: finding useful articles from other online publications, and writing a short summary about them that includes a link to the article. This at least gives you some content to link back to from your post, and you will be linking out to some high-domain-authority sites as you do this, which will increase your SEO juice. But it is not as impactful as writing original content that features your own philosophy, customer care, products and services, and passion.
Can you afford to ignore social?
Nope. It is one of those “baseline” things. People expect to be able to find you out there, and if you’re not, that’s another red flag.
Which channels should you be using?
The ones where your buyers would expect you to be. They don’t expect a high-scrutiny B2B product or service to be on Instagram, but they would expect to find you on LinkedIn. They don’t expect a consumer product to be on LinkedIn necessarily, but they would expect you to be on Instagram or Facebook. Of course, Twitter is in turmoil right now; we’ll have to see where it ends up. But again, if you ask your customers where they’d expect to find you, they will tell you, and that’s where you should be.