Think of REI’s social media. You’re bound to see pictures of real humans using their gear on real mountains, in a way that shows a (hopefully) enjoyable experience. What they’re sharing is not just pictures of their products on a white background – they’re sharing an experience that’s designed to connect with audiences on a deeper level.
Consider a competing retailer to REI, who only posts those boring product photos on a white background, complete with a price tag and an inspiring CTA to Buy Now! The results would be terrible, with few followers, low engagement, and commensurately little to no sales from social media. The company’s leadership would deem their social media experiment as a failure and it would probably go dormant. Does this sound like your company’s social media account?
My experience working with businesses – both B2B and B2C – have brought to light a few commonalities that can help spark reengagement on social media. And, while it might be easy to think that consumer brands have all the visual fun and “have it easy” on social media, I’ve found it’s quite the opposite.
To illustrate, I’ll take on the challenge of dissecting a couple of inherently boring B2B SaaS marketing automation tools, HubSpot and Pardot, on what’s commonly known as a “tough” B2B channel, Instagram, to find some insights that will help your company’s social media channel un-stagnate.
HubSpot and Pardot tell two different stories. While they’re both competing products that do much of the same things, one is a clear victor on social media. An unknowing user might not even realize they’re competing products. HubSpot, with its over quarter-million follower count shares the experience of running marketing with their software. Posts are on-brand and include motivational snippets, tips for marketers, customer stories, and insightful business data. These all help share an experience of software that’s built around helping you market better and connect with your customers.
Pardot, on the other hand, is often what we see when a social media account runs stagnant. A follower count barely over 2,000 and a mix of content that’s far off-brand, consisting of some uninspired group and live-event photos, some lead magnets, and a few testimonials interspersed.
You can almost imagine the sole social media person pinging the various offices over Slack for some event photos and hounding the creative team to design some graphics. Case in point, they haven’t posted in almost a year – likely because the engagement was flat, and the leads were few. In the end, Pardot does not paint a picture of an exciting experience with the software.
So, start by brainstorming some ideas on what stories you can tell and experiences you can share with your service or product. While we don’t advocate for vanity metrics, like followers, being less boring and gets you well on the way of a more engaging channel – which proves far more value over time.
Reevaluate Your Goals
The truth of social media – regardless of whether B2B or B2C – is that awareness comes first, and sales or leads are the byproducts of a well-run social media channel. When a “social media initiative” is kicked off with a goal of “measurably increasing leads and revenue in Q1,” it’s already failed. Prioritizing engagement, like HubSpot has when they pose questions and post discussion-worthy data in their posts, is how relationships start to form. Pardot, with images of conferences and tradeshow booths, isn’t going to spark an engaging conversation and definitely won’t build a relationship with audiences.
In the world of expensive B2B software, this relationship can prove crucial to conversion down the line as audiences have developed a far higher affinity and trust. In terms of consumer products, this relationship translates to attributed sales. Going back to the reality that awareness comes before conversion makes sense when you consider that very few people will purchase something the first time that they hear about it – especially expensive business software.
When we engage with a new client, we start digging – deeply, and so should you. While Pardot’s profile might look like a failure, there are some valuable insights in there that can be used to spark a quicker reengagement. Review old posts, comments, shares, direct messages, and more. Are people commenting or asking questions and not being responded to? Social media is a two-way communication channel, and this is the easiest way to start building a relationship.
Then categorize your content into clear buckets. For Pardot, clearly distinguishable buckets can be seen in areas of live-event photos, lead magnets, testimonials, comedic promo videos, and so on. Identify the engagement in terms of likes, shares, comments, and other metrics to find out which themes are outperforming others. There can be some great insights here, too.
Other sources of insight can come from other marketing domains, too. Google Search Console and PPC campaigns can help you find out what users are searching for and want to know more about, related to your products and services. If you’ve been running content marketing campaigns and SEO strategies, these can all feed into social media (but don’t just let your social media channel be a blog promotion outlet). Of course, you’ll want to look at the competition and see what they’re doing, which we’ve done earlier with HubSpot.
These data and insights, alongside some creative brainstorming on not being boring, from earlier, will give you a clear outline of where to direct your social media content.
Craft Your Strategy
Though you’ve got an understanding of what’s worked somewhat-well in the past, what the competition is doing in terms of content, and you’ve reframed your goals, there’s still more to be done. Simply copying what your competitors are doing isn’t going to win – nor is saying, “We’re going to post 3 times a week and respond to our followers’ comments within 8 hours,” and calling the strategy “done.”
Your strategy should, of course, have a schedule and cadence, but approaching from a standpoint of doing the minimum necessary isn’t going to achieve growth.
Other components of your strategy should include:
- Defining your target audience and personas. Know who you’re talking to!
- Determining the platforms that you’ll use – and when you’ll evaluate not using certain ones. Tiktok probably won’t be my first choice to market enterprise software (but feel free to experiment!).
- Clear goals centered around engagement as an indirect path to leads or sales, such as organic reach, clicks, comments, and ultimately conversions. Think in the long-term here.
- Continual reviews of content and data. In the same vein as digging for insights early on, continually reviewing what’s working versus what’s not as you go will help steer towards growth.
Alongside a continual review of the data, encompass continuing research on your audiences, as maybe you discover that people from an entirely new persona are interested in what you’re sharing. For example, a niche company that makes accessories for pilots to prevent their electronics from overheating could learn that boaters might also be interested – opening an entirely new audience and market that traditional analytics wouldn’t uncover.
Execute and Experiment
Getting started is as easy as posting some content according to your plan, but you might also find it’s better to do a complete refresh, as Constant Contact looks like they’ve done on their Instagram. Having only 72 posts since July 2019, yet a fair number of followers and engagement showed that a full restart occurred. This gets the social media channel back in line with their brand and shows complete cohesion. To their success since then, they’ve stayed on-brand and developed content like “Pro Advice” that’s performing well with their audiences.
Experimenting with different types of posts, such as giveaways, infographics, news, competitions, and so on are great ways to keep content fresh and engaging – just be sure to review the data!