How To… Social media in business

In this first How to... guide to using social media as a sales and marketing tool, Jennifer Rae Schulman takes a look at Facebook and Instagram and what they can offer to businesses.

Social Media. It can be argued that it is the most powerful of all forms of online marketing. After all, it is essentially word-of-mouth marketing, conducted online. And what is the strongest form of all marketing? Word-of-mouth, of course. 

All too often, arguments are made against social media. However, it has become a staple of our existence, an easily accessible extension of our arm as we unlock our phones to post a status or check updates. 

As the new year starts getting into gear, we can expect to see numerous trends, advances in marketing techniques and a definite increase in numbers regarding the usage of social networks. Consider this: 

  • In 2019, it is estimated that there will be around 2.77 billion social media users around the globe, up from 2.46 billion in 2017. 
  • 81% of all small and medium businesses use social media platforms.
  • More than 56% of ‘online’ adults, aged 16-64, use more than one social media platform.

Despite these statistics, most B2B organisations fail to recognise the value of most social media channels, typically stating that “it is not where the buyers are”. That’s just simply not true. It’s more likely that organisations struggle to measure the ROI and brand awareness coming from social media marketing efforts. In fact, according to a recent study by Immediate Future, 58% of B2B brands surveyed fail to measure social media efforts well. 

So how can you harness the power of social media as a sales and marketing tool, let alone measure its success? The first trick is to just get started – you can’t accomplish anything if you simply do nothing at all. 

Facebook

Despite growing numbers on other channels such as Snapchat and Instagram, Facebook is still the most widely used social network and it is the one where organisations should get started as they dive deeper into social media. 

In order to use Facebook as a sales and marketing tool, you should focus on three core principles to start with: content, audience and advertising. 

Content

Be real. Cater not to B2B (or even B2C) marketing techniques, cater to the person-to-person (P2P) and human-to-human (H2H) elements. Reinvent your marketing message when it comes to social media and engage audiences on a personal level. People do not like content that is not relevant to them. Even when you are marketing a traditional B2B business, you need to engage with your targeted audience differently on social media.

  • Use videos and strong imagery that people can relate to. Try ‘Facebook Live’.
  • Create content that answers questions on a relatable and easily understood basis. 
  • Humanise your brand as much as possible with staff photos or pictures of events. 
  • Use a storytelling approach and narrate your story/content in a way your users will understand it best.
  • Engage with your audience. ‘Like’ or comment on posts, share comments and tag them when appropriate. 

Posts that cater to the P2P aspect have much higher engagement and click-through rates (see Yuletide Office Solutions post, right). Product or ‘offer’ type of posts tend to perform much worse than content that is relatable and shareable.

That said, you are an expert at what you do. Make sure you sprinkle in posts that emphasise your subject matter expertise. An easy way to do this is by blogging about products and services you offer and then promoting that blog post on social media channels. Posts like the one from Source One Office Products (see right) tend to perform well too. 

Audience

The number one rule of marketing is “never to implement what you cannot measure”. The second rule should easily be “know your audience”. You’d be surprised at how many organisations do not have full personas mapped out for their buyers. 

But how should you get started? Ideally, you should be creating buyer personas for each type of potential customer your organisation is targeting. According to HubSpot, which is an excellent resource to learn about buyer personas and buyer journeys, the former is: “A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations and goals.”

All of this is often easier said than done. How do we have time to create buyer personas when we don’t even have time to use Facebook to its full potential? Well, start by looking at your Audience Insights within Facebook. There is no doubt that the more customer data (or insights) you have, the better you will be equipped to deliver the right messages to the right people. Facebook Audience Insights helps marketers learn more about their target audiences, including aggregate information about geography, demographics, purchase behaviour and more. 

The following information explains the type of data you can extract for your given Facebook audience. 

  • Demographics: age and gender, lifestyle, education, relationship status, job role and household size
  • Page likes: the top pages people like in different categories
  • Location and language 
  • Facebook usage and device information
  • Purchase activity: past buying behaviour and purchasing methods 

You can view this information for three different groups of people: people on Facebook, ie the general Facebook audience; people connected to your page or event; and people in Custom Audiences you’ve already created (such as an audience made up of your current customers).

There is a plethora of audience and engagement data waiting for you inside Facebook, and it just takes a few minutes each week to take a look and learn something new or to make sure you are hitting the right audience targets. 

Advertising

Advertising is essential to a successful Facebook strategy. Several years ago, Facebook dropped the visibility of posts coming from brand and company pages. It meant that only about 1-2% of the followers of a brand’s page saw the content they were posting. 

With Facebook Ads, the content you put on your page can go much further. Yes, it costs money. Yes, Facebook did monetise its channel by doing so. However, Facebook Ads remain one of the most cost-effective, highly-targeted and successful ways to grow your brand and generate leads, as well as sales, on social media. To get started, you must be an administrator of your company page. From there you can navigate to the ‘Ads Manager’ section of the page to move on. 

Keep in mind that with Facebook’s wealth of information when it comes to audience statistics, you can have access to Audience Insights which can help you target your ad very specifically. You can target by age, gender, income, interests, location and even followers of a specific page (as long as they have enough followers to actually define a decent-sized audience segment). You can also run ads on any budget. I believe that a little will go a long way when it comes to Facebook Ads. 

There are several ad formats and types of campaigns Facebook offers as well. You can run a ‘web clicks’ campaign if you have a goal to drive people to your website and convert (purchase, fill out a form, etc). Or you can run a ‘like’ campaign that will gain brand awareness for your organisation by showing your posts within your target audience’s news feed, with the hope they like your page, thereby increasing your following and of course your brand awareness. 

When it comes to ad formats, here are a few favourites that will gain attention:

  • Photo ads (do not use too much text in your image)
  • Video ads (these work extremely well)
  • Carousel ads (show multiple videos or images in one ad)
  • Collection (tells a story with a single image that showcases your products)

Once an ad runs (you can set start and end dates as well), do not forget to go back and look at the data to see how your ad has performed. Facebook makes this easy with the reports available within Ad Manager. You will be able to view the reach, engagement, clicks, likes, etc, that your ad received. 

Instagram

Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion in 2012. Ever since then, this image-sharing social networking app has been on the rise. The statistics are perhaps a little surprising from a business point of view:

  • 80% of Instagrammers follow a business on Instagram.
  • 400 million+ people worldwide use Instagram every day.
  • 60% of people say they discover new products on Instagram.
  • 75% of Instagrammers take action after being inspired by a post.
  • 33% of the most viewed stories are from businesses.

With an Instagram Business Account, you can not only showcase your brand but obtain real-time metrics on how your stories and promoted posts perform as well as insights into your followers and how they interact with your posts.

When creating an account or posting, be sure to follow several best practices:

  • Add pertinent business information like address, phone number, URL and hours of operation
  • Add captions, locations and hashtags to enhance the post
  • Make sure hashtags are relevant to your post
  • Set up a main company hashtag (#yourbrandname)
  • Use between 3-5 #hashtags per post, despite the fact you can add 30
  • Frontload the important stuff
  • Include a call-to-action
  • Ask a question
  • Direct people to the link in your bio
  • Invite users to tag others

As we look at 2018 social media trends, we are going to see a very sharp rise in engagement metrics for ephemeral content. Such content on social media is short-lived and the longest it can last is 24 hours. After that, it disappears forever. Think Snapchat. This might sound extremely scary to marketers, but when you consider that content which is short-lived is thought to be much more authentic than ads, coupled with the fact that ephemeral content piques the FOMO (fear of missing out) factor, it makes sense to incorporate it into your strategy. 

If you want to give ephemeral content a try on Instagram, take a look at Instagram Stories – it’s a perfect example of ephemeral content and a great place to get started. 

Don’t miss out

Whether you’re just getting started or looking to enhance your strategy, small steps can bring big gains. The truth is that B2B buyers are indeed on social media, multiple times a day, whether it is for personal or professional reasons. If you are not being an advocate for your brand in the social realm, you are missing out on a large opportunity to get in front of the right audience a majority of the time.

Jennifer Rae Schulman is President of Fortune Web Marketing, an online marketing agency with an extensive team of experts in the area of search engine marketing, content writers, link builders, social media gurus and creative masters ready to help businesses create and execute a digital strategy.