We can say with absolute confidence that most of the decision-makers at the businesses you want to sell to will use social media for both personal and professional use. What this means is that B2B brands stand to gain valuable exposure from spreading the net wide and marketing themselves across a range of social platforms.
We’ve picked out three very different examples to show how brands are using social to market themselves. We hope these examples will inspire you with your own social media activity.
IBM’s Instagram is a high-end B2B brochure
There all sorts of ways to use an Instagram profile to promote your business, from networking to content promotion. IBM has elected to turn their Instagram profile into a kind of hyper-glossy brochure for their brand and its B2B products – and the result is impressive.
Showcasing flagship products
A B2B Instagram profile that’s heavy on the product can make for dull viewing. IBM have avoided this potential pitfall with aplomb – product posts are relatively sporadic, and understated. Take this post on the IBM Z mainframe for example:
The product isn’t so much sold to the viewer as it is showcased. There’s no need for IBM to spell out its selling points, as the people commenting on the post are happy to do that for them. The only clear(ish) signal that the product is available for purchase is the part of the description that tells the reader they can find out more via a link on the brand’s Instagram profile. It’s the softest of sells.
Note that while an IBM Z Mainframe is a pretty exclusive product (prices start around $75k), IBM shows itself to be open and accessible by responding to customer questions:
Our more cynical side says this could have something to do with the fact you never really know who’s commenting on your content. If it’s someone with interest in mainframes, there’s a good chance that person has a professional interest in IT, and they may well be involved in high-level buying decisions.
Colourful, eye-catching insights into processes
If like IBM, your organization gets up to some interesting stuff, you will likely have at your disposal a veritable goldmine of prospective Instagram content. At a glance, we can see several posts on IBM’s profile that showcase the visually intriguing and impressive aspects of the company’s work. There’s a post on IBM’s tech at Wimbledon, there’s one on how IBM Watson is helping tourists experience an iconic coastal drive, and there’s another featuring an IBM research scientist holding a computer chip packed with 5nm transistors.
If you read our article on Moore’s Law a few months back, you’ll be just as impressed as we are by the latter.
These posts are perfectly matched for the medium, insofar as they provide the viewer with digestible bursts of colorful, stimulating content. They’re built to catch the eye, and to raise a smile or an eyebrow as you scroll by.
Consider the processes that make your organisation attractive – the behind-the-scenes activities that people on the outside never get to see. If you can identify a process that matches your brand and reflects well on your company, there you’ll have an exceptional candidate for your next Instagram post.
Establishing strategic position
IBM’s Instagram forms the impression – and by extension, the B2B proposition – that the company is an important part of what makes society tick, from the fine-yet-fundamental details to the grandest spectacles.
We see a post that tells us how IBM invented the barcode, and then there’s another showing the IBM logo reflected in a Wimbledon trophy. The viewer sees the great and the small, side-by-side, linked by their relationships with IBM.
Moz uses Twitter to deliver its content marketing strategy effectively.
If you’ve ever done much reading on SEO, you’ve almost certainly encountered this company. Moz’s content on search is vastly popular, and one of the reasons for this – aside from the fact it is dependably excellent – is their distribution on social media.
Take a look at Moz’s Twitter profile. Their tweets are relatively infrequent, with just a few posted on an average day. You’ll see some which relate to conferences and other events – but for the most part, it’s all about content distribution.
Here’s what makes Moz’s content distribution tweets work.
If we examine Moz’s content shared tweets, we can identify several elements which all contribute to their effectiveness.
Let’s break down the building blocks of a particularly strong example:-
“SEO Best Practices for Canonical URLs + the Rel=Canonical Tag” – how better to sum up a piece of content in a tweet than to use the content’s title? This approach carries the added benefit of increasing the likelihood of the linked content matching the user’s expectations, which will likely improve their experience and boost the page’s average dwell time. This, in turn, may improve the content’s search rankings and viral reach.
Image – while the featured image gives us the clear impression that we’re going to see a man standing in front of a whiteboard and talking about canonical URLs, it also raises the question: What do they mean by “canonical cannonsicles”? It is at once descriptive and playfully cryptic – a combination that attracts clicks, without resorting to baser “click bait” tactics.
Whiteboard Friday – publishing on a regular basis is a highly effective means of securing repeat engagement and building the profile of your content. Just as you might love to tune into Game of Thrones, or Mrs. Brown’s Boys, or whatever it is you like at the same time every week, so too do digital audiences enjoy a weekly/regular fixture. Target Internet’s equivalent would be our weekly Digital Marketing Podcast.
Shortened link – keeps things neat.
Video camera emoji – if not quite 1,000 words, this little picture speaks at least five: “this content is a video”. Emojis often come in handy on Twitter, as they can signify all sorts of things despite taking up just one character each (unless we’re talking flag emojis). In Moz’s case, emojis are also perfectly on-brand.
“By @randfish” – by this simple effort to build up the profile of its content producers, Moz adds to its own identity as a publisher. Your brand’s presenters or writers may have started out as relative unknowns – but if you work to turn them into influencers, you will likely share the benefits of an expanded and more engaged audience.
“The Drunk Cold Email that Changed My Life”
And now for something completely different…
Copywriter Jon Buchan has developed something of a specialism for using quirky copy to market himself to corporate decision-makers. Cleverly, he has marketed himself to another audience segment – copywriters like himself – by spelling out his left-field approach in a post on Reddit (just skip to the bottom if you don’t want to read the whole thing):
Phew, that’s quite enough quirkiness for us.
For those of you who didn’t read it, Buchan’s post kicks off with an anecdote on how he once wrote some cold email copy while drunk, decided to send it, and ended up getting some positive responses from senior decision-makers. He then goes on to set out his general approach to copywriting, before finishing off with a few links.
The post has a Reddit score of over 800 (calculated by subtracting the number of people who “downvote” it from the number who “upvote” it). For a self-promotional post on a famously anti-marketing social platform, that’s remarkable – especially considering the fact it contains a link to Buchan’s Facebook group, ‘Charm Offensive’. Here’s how the post pulls it off:
It tells a personal story
Perhaps the most important rule to self-promotion on Reddit is that personal stories have a fair chance of a good reception, whereas corporate communications do not.
You wouldn’t have seen Jon’s post racking up hundreds of points if it hadn’t rung true as one man’s tale of success through unlikely means.
It provides value.
The more value a business-related post provides, the likelier Redditors are to accept it. There’s a kind of trade-off at play here – we know you’re promoting yourself with this post, but because you’ve given us enough useful information, we’ll let you off.
Jon’s post doesn’t just describe the story of his success; it thoroughly explains the process that helped him achieve it, and even includes a cold copy template. The reader might hope to use these resources to further their careers (though with all respect, this copywriting would quickly lose its charm if everyone started doing it).
It provides evidence
One of the significant problems with marketing on Reddit – and as you may have gathered, there are a few of these – is that users tend to be highly sceptical. If you’re going to make a claim here, you had better be able to evidence it beyond all reasonable doubt.
Jon Buchan does this in his post by providing photos of his cold marketing letters. This may sound a fairly run-of-the-mill approach, but there’s a guileful twist to it: the photo links are from the Twitter accounts of people who have received Jon’s letters. They don’t just provide visual evidence – they provide social proof.
We all know how important it is to stand out from the crowd – as brands, as service providers, as professionals. This post manages to stand out from its peers on Reddit through its title alone: “The Drunk Cold Email that Changed My Life”. Where else have you read about somebody sending a drunk cold email?
There must be plenty of posts about equally effective cold email methods out there that get lost in the social noise, simply because they don’t have a point of difference that grabs readers’ attention.
It converts – subtly
While writing a well-received Reddit post is an achievement in itself, it might not be especially useful unless you have a plan for how that post (or your broader activity on the platform) is going to convert.
Subtlety is the key here, and Jon’s conversion tactic has that in spades.
The only obvious conversion in the post that leads away from Reddit is a link to Jon’s copywriting Facebook group – a gentle step that’s not directly related to sales.
However, when a person applies to join the group, they are asked to respond to three questions (this is a new Facebook feature). The third of these questions is optional, and it asks the user whether they’d like to submit their email address to Jon’s mailing list. This oh-so-subtle mechanism allows Jon to build a valuable email marketing list, without pushing Redditors’ anti-corporate buttons.
The case studies we’ve discussed in this article may seem utterly different, but what unites all three is that they are clearly the result of careful planning and ongoing optimisation.
There are innumerable variables about any one social post, profile or campaign that will affect the results you see. Your job as a social marketer is to keep testing different ways to improve your social campaigns, and iteratively align your output more-and-more closely with your audience and objectives. Think incredibly carefully to devise your ideal social output – and keep working to improve it from there on out.