Social media marketing has been embraced by the marketing world and B2B marketing spend has increased by 10% over last year to incorporate social strategy. Forrester asks marketers what their preferred tactics and channels are and how heavily they will be investing in these in 2014.

Preferred Marketing Tactics

  1. Ratings and reviews are by far the most rewarding of social media tactics but this is heavily outweighed by the amount of budget needed to invest to incorporate this into brand websites. Fewer than half of B2B marketers are using this tactic.
  2. Branded blogs received second highest satisfaction score and continue to be used by more than half of marketers studied.
  3. Branded communities comes in third for satisfaction and typically requires a significant budget, time and staff. The rewards are reaped through customer loyalty and ease of influencing prospects for lead generation.
  4. More than 70% of marketers use branded Facebook pages but this tactic receives the lowest satisfaction score as does promoted Facebook posts. People feel like it is harder to target prospective buyers because of low potential reach. Only 9% plan to increase use of this tactic in 2014.

It’s no wonder that customer ratings have the highest satisfaction, who do customers trust more; brands or other customers? The key when investing in reviews is to have a strategy from the beginning, make sure you have chosen a good review platform that sits well on your website and you introduce review strategies in your email campaigns throughout the year. Sometimes all you have to do is ask for a review!

Branded blogs came in second, followed by branded communities. Both are similar in that people are searching and exchanging information with each other. You can find a community for everything online and many companies are leveraging the power of communities by creating their own. A good place to start is by participating in a LinkedIn group and seeing how quickly you meet people who are interested in what you’re saying. These may be potential customers or people who have a large influence in your target market.

Facebook pages are on the drop this year with people having less trust in Facebook reach and promotional tools. It’s not a hidden fact that Facebook has become a ‘pay to play’ environment but on top of this, the B2B market find it much harder to influence their prospects on this platform. While business owners are using Facebook they don’t use it to make purchasing decisions as much as platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.

Preferred Social Media Channels

  1. LinkedIn is the most popular social platform, almost 60% of those surveyed are using it and it has the highest satisfaction score.
  2. 60% of B2b marketers use Twitter primarily to drive awareness; however twitters marketing solutions are less favoured as they fail to capture full potential reach.
  3. One third of B2B marketers are using Google Plus because there is an added ability to reach a B2B audience and segment audience through the use of ‘circles’. Marketers are also using it because of its ability to be found in search rankings.
  4. YouTube comes in last but as a social platform with high potential reach, (over 1 billion unique monthly users) marketers are unsure about how to set about a strategy in video marketing and most are hesitant to add this to their marketing budgets.

So LinkedIn is top trumps social channel for B2B marketers this year. I’m also loving this platform and notice that when I’m using it conjunction with Twitter and Google plus I can get insight into the decision makers working at my target businesses. LinkedIn now has the added feature of having its own publishing platform; this has quickly become a way for marketers to own their influence.

Twitter comes in second for its organic features but marketers are not as convinced with paid advertising features on Twitter saying that reach isn’t as powerful. Also as Twitter allows you to have multiple accounts it’s difficult to tell who is real and who is fake now on this platform. We use the Chrome Extension Riffle to see who we would be most able to engage with

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Google Plus comes in third as B2B marketers are recognising it for its reach into B2B audiences. While Google does not use Plus signals to rank you on the web, your posts can still be found on search. It’s definitely a growing platform and worth including in your strategy this year.

YouTube came in fourth for satisfaction rating. It’s certainly difficult for a B2B company to take the plunge into a YouTube strategy when video marketing has such high budgets, but YouTube boasts over 1 billion unique users a month. The potential of this platform is high and shouldn’t be ignored.

Where do I go from here?

No need to worry, you’re marketing isn’t failing if you aren’t taking up all these factors. It’s important to remember that all your social media marketing can be categorised by content, contacts and conversation -just follow these next steps and you should be able to improve your social media marketing efforts this year.

Content

This is the stage where you take into consideration your business goals and value proposition and create a content marketing strategy and editorial calendar for at most six months ahead. Base this around themes and campaigns coinciding with dates of the year and try and guide your prospects through the sales cycle with your writing.

Contacts

This stage you need to find your audience. We normally split these into four groups; customers, prospects, influencers and associates. First decide how you will qualify these and then segment your contact database into these four groups as well. (You can further segment based on lead scoring or other criteria your company may have.)

Conversation

Now you know who your audience are you can find them in groups and communities online. Share your content with them, comment on their content and network with them. Remember that this is not a space for sales, be authentic and show your personality.