Which social network is the best for B2B marketing? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube each offer B2B marketers value. Let's review these top sites from a B2B social marketing perspective so we can crown an undisputed champion.
The Keys to Social B2B Victory
When it comes to using social media as a marketing tool for B2B organizations, which have an end goal of qualified lead generation, the underlying key to success is to drive thought-leadership and credibility around a desired market position that will yield target engagement. To do so, a B2B organization must first have a solid social media plan that defines the market position and a review of the online competition.
The online brand that will be delivered in social must align with a B2B organization's brand promise, mission, and value proposition. Choosing the appropriate channel(s) depends on a number of factors including:
- Audience breakdown of network.
- Target audience types.
- Content types by audience.
- Purpose of social network.
- Tone of network.
- Engagement levels of network.
Google+ is becoming the next big social network for business. As of March 2013, Google+ had 350 million active users. That is more than on LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.
When your content is placed on Google+ it has the chance to rank higher because the content is fed into the personal search results of your Google+ circles. And content that is feature-rich, like online video (YouTube – a Google product) and images supported with text gains ultimately more exposure.
Feeding content to Google+ from a YouTube channel or Pinterest board is a good idea. Google+, as a Google product, means it will undoubtedly be integrated into other developing applications supporting content marketing and organic search. Social signals are the gold piece for any B2B marketer.
With Google+, you can have a business page as well. This means that a person can follow and engage with your business on a personal level, creating opportunities for relationship building. Relationship development is what B2B sales is all about.
The Google+ Hangout real-time video application is another major bonus to Google+ as a B2B social network. All you need is a webcam and an audience and you can run video conferencing within the tool. This keeps business professionals talking on Google+. Further that those Hangouts can be published directly to YouTube.
On the negative side, Google+ is a platform for content delivery more than a way to “business network.” Conversations on Google+ can get out of hand and can be a turn off in the same way that too many emails can do to a B2B prospect.
Finally, Google+ for business users and business pages are still an area lacking in terms of overall B2B adoption. For Google+ to win here, Google will need to invest in marketing that feature.
LinkedIn makes it easy to build relationships with your target prospects. LinkedIn was born and bred to create and develop business relationships, and has grown to have 225 million active users in more than 200 countries.
The obvious opportunities in using LinkedIn as a marketing tool include personal branding for executives, sales development for business development professionals and marketing opportunities via LinkedIn targeted, real-time lead gen advertising.
The key to winning on LinkedIn, as it were, is to use LinkedIn on a daily basis to provide valuable support to your connections and Groups.
Marketing on LinkedIn is sophisticated. A marketer can run a targeted ad by location, industry, title, company and other specific demographics. Further, those ads can capture leads on the fly (a great feature).
On a company level, LinkedIn provides businesses with opportunities to engage with company followers on a one on one level. LinkedIn is the ultimate social networking tool for business professionals. Real networking happens in Groups and in the context of comments and status engagement.
LinkedIn also provides multiple paid opportunities to use the tool as more of a CRM with features like Lead Builder and Profile Organizer.
The most compelling feature of LinkedIn, in general, for anyone in B2B sales is the ability to learn everything, on a professional level, about a target prospect. Further, find appropriate ways for warm introductions.
On the negative side, LinkedIn as a website, has multiple user experience and functional issues. In the haste to make LinkedIn feature-rich, at any time, issues may arise from unnecessary messages, pop-ups and disabled links.
LinkedIn networking and marketing doesn’t necessary work on its own. This is why it is crucial to take your LinkedIn developed relationships offline, whether on the phone or in person to close the deal.
Twitter is, for busy business professionals, marketers and CEOs, the easiest way to get the message out, so to speak. A microblogging tool that forces copy-like conversations, Twitter enables quick information to link backs to important web pages of conversion (i.e., your website and your blog.
Twitter is a great place for B2B marketers to find and engage with, via Twitter private lists, for example, targeted media.
B2B marketing on the Internet is all about three key components: Online reputation, Thought-leadership and a Strong Online Brand. Twitter can be very useful in addressing these areas.
The mobile app for Twitter and ability to tweet 24/7, as many social media marketers do, is easy to do.
Twitter is where the news breaks. Twitter is where real-time conversations are happening. Twitter is the best social media tool for covering events and running events live.
Event marketing of conferences, workshops and seminars are crucial to the success of any B2B organization these days. Twitter’s search algorithm and use of hashtags makes it easy for reporters to find interview subjects and speakers.
On the negative side, because of Google’s ownership of Google+ however, any article shared on Twitter will become visible in organic Google results after the same on Google+. Also, Twitter yes makes it easy for you to reach out to reporters and business professionals you do not know, but this does not mean you will get a reply.
Twitter followers are nowhere near as substantial as a LinkedIn connect whom you have, if you're doing LinkedIn marketing correctly, developed a relationship.
Online video, done correctly, meaning with the brand in mind and well thought out for target engagement needs to be a crucial component of any online marketer’s social media marketing program.
YouTube, as a Google product and video-serving platform, in itself is an opportunity for B2B social networking. Most videos when made compelling and shared appropriately can certainly serve to drive qualified inbound leads.
YouTube links of videos can be embedded and shared on websites, such as SlideShare, another necessary B2B online marketing tool. In doing so, these videos can then become visible to target connections on important B2B social networking sites like Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
As a standalone B2B social network, YouTube isn't truly where the lead capture happens or where relationships are developed.
Facebook, the 800-pound gorilla, is certainly the number one B2C social media network. As a B2B social media tool, Facebook does serve to deliver client services, online promotions and event announcements primarily.
Another important B2B feature provided by Facebook is the ability to gain opt-ins for e-mail marketing on a business page.
B2B marketers who turn to Facebook as a social media tool need to heavily engage in target and organizational groups and pages.
Creating direct B2B sales relationships from Facebook is certainly done, but not at the level of a LinkedIn or even Twitter.
And the Top B2B Social Network Is…
Hands down, LinkedIn is the best social network for B2B marketing. LinkedIn is the only real B2B social network that was developed purely to develop direct B2B sales relationships for B2B marketers.
The other social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube – all should be in the toolbox of any serious B2B marketer. But if you're on limited time and resources and looking to greatly increase your bottom line, you should invest wholly in LinkedIn.