How top B2B brands create effective Facebook content
B2B marketing on social media is all about efficacy. It's not about cluttering your audience’s newsfeeds with things that don't interest them or produce stellar content and have it go by unnoticed.
The biggest challenge B2B brands face when marketing on Facebook can also work out to be their biggest strength. While a lot of B2C brands enjoy the luxury of having a wide audience that cuts across different demographic and interest categories, B2B brands have a smaller, far more concentrated number of people to target.
While this makes engagement metrics looks diminutive in comparison, it also allows brands to create content that is most relevant to their niche audience.
I've looked at data from the top 20 B2B brands (based on this list). These include Accenture, Citi, Cisco, DHL, Exxon Mobil, FedEx, GE, HP, HSBC, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Shell, Siemens, Sinopec, UPS and Wells Fargo.
Here’s what I found:
- There's no point in over-posting. In fact, the engagement and the number of posts show a fairly negative correlation to the engagement score. This is a proprietary measurement of engagement that a particular post receives that takes into account engagement markers including likes, comments, and shares and accounts for the audience it receives.
- Most of the posts by brands studied here contained photos.
- However, posts that carried links to owned webpages and external sources engaged the best.
Yet, there's no one-size-fits-all solution here. While these trends are visible across the board, they're by no means a set of rules your brand should follow religiously. It's very important you're aware of the goals your brand is seeking to achieve on social media and plan your content accordingly.
To understand this better, let's take a closer look at two of these brands – Citi and Microsoft. While Citi engaged the best with their audience, Microsoft took the lead in shares per post. In the era of plummeting organic reach, I cannot stress enough how important shareable content is.
Citi posted only 19 times during the first quarter of 2017. However, this has fetched the brand around 1.4 million likes and over 4000 shares. These posts enjoyed an estimated reach of over 10 million Facebook users.
A key element of Citi's social media strategy was through its promotion. Rather than fill its audience’s feed with content, Citi ensured the quality content they promoted reached the maximum number of people.
Promoted posts received more than 600 times the number of interactions per post compared to organic versions. The dividend on reach was just as rich – a piece of promoted content reached an estimated audience size that was about 70 times larger than that of an organic post.
While you're probably already sold on the benefits of promoting your Facebook content, getting inspired by Citi’s promotion strategy is more than boosting a chunk of your posts. It involves carefully determining which posts to promote.
Most of the promoted content revolved around initiatives by Citi and other company news. The brand hasn't compromised on the variety of content types. Of these 11 Posts, two contained photos, three were videos and six carried links. Supporting text updates and links with photos ensured Citi's audience engaged with company updates and the like. See its most liked post, for instance:
Citi was able to leverage the power of video content. This format makes it easier for the brand to share more in-depth information with the audience without losing their interest. As videos usually incur considerable expenditure, boosting them allows these efforts to find fruition.
In this video, the brand is able to communicate visually what its initiative ‘Pathways to Progress’ is all about. Set within the context of youth unemployment and focusing on the people who stand to benefit from it, the video successfully infuses the power of story-telling into social media content, paving the way for higher levels of engagement.
If you scroll through Citi’s Facebook page, you’ll see that most of its content revolves around company updates and initiatives. Considering the heavy promotion along with that makes it safe to wager that their main goal is to let their audience in on what is happening. The brand uses Facebook as an important tool in its quest to bolster their public persona.
For any brand with such a goal, reach will take precedence as the key metric. This implies that marketers will have to put thought into chalking out an efficient promotion strategy, including native video content, which is another great way to achieve better reach.
But B2B brands cannot solely create videos regularly. Links are a very important content type in terms of getting people to visit your webpage and sign up for your various products and services. Along with promoting content that carries these links, the text that describes it and the featured image are crucial in determining whether your audiences click through. Analyze the success of your posts in order to nail down the optimal length of the text, image and tone.
Just focusing on reach as a KPI shouldn't mean overlooking the importance of creating engaging content. If your content reaches a wider audience but fails to capture their interest and attention, it's going to do your brand more harm than good.
While Citi went with a ‘less is more’ strategy, Microsoft posted 61 times during the three-month period I analyzed. But, even a quick look at the brand's Facebook content will reveal how wonderfully diverse the topics and the formats are. Science and innovation are at the heart of most of every post. Some showcase how Microsoft’s technology has been put to various ends by customers, while others focus on the company’s efforts to further scientific innovation.
Type of content
In contrast to Citi's approach (and the accepted norm), Microsoft published quite a few videos: of the 61 posts, 27 were videos. These brought in more than 84% of all the interactions the brand received during this time period.
Engaging videos could be one of the main reasons making Microsoft’s content so shareable. More than 90% of all the shares that Microsoft received owed to video content. While the sven videos that were promoted were responsible to a certain extent, there are other factors that make Microsoft’s videos such an engaging medium.
Even within videos, there's a striking variety in what the technology giant has done. In addition to using innovative formats like 360 and live streaming, these videos deal with a variety of subjects. Moreover, the content presented in these makes full use of the capabilities offered by the video format. By harnessing the power of visual storytelling, the brand reaches its audience with clarity and precision.
Top content and strategy
Take a look at their most shared piece of content:
While most of us are aware of the strikingly low representation of women in the STEM field, seeing kids refuse to take that fact lying down is heartening. It also drives the person watching the video to contribute to the effort. Thereby, the video addresses the core belief and the driving force behind Microsoft’s initiative ‘#MakeWhatsNext’.
Through story-telling, the campaign’s intention to make more women stay on in STEM is communicated to the audience. Of the 5 Posts that made up this campaign on Facebook, 4 were videos. These employ an extremely powerful shift in perspective.
By showing us how children react to the hard facts as it were makes us question our own biases while underlining the need for change. Check out the Post that kicked off this campaign
Apart from videos around such initiatives, Microsoft leverages the power of the video format to illustrate how exceptional their products are.
What strikes me about Microsoft’s videos is their focus on people. Here, it is not a rundown of what all Microsoft Surface’s features are, but what real people use this product for in order to achieve their goals.
Videos suit this approach by enabling Facebook users to see the difference Microsoft’s products make. Often with B2B marketing, the basic fact that you are still appealing to a human being gets forgotten.
Another valuable takeaway from Microsoft’s strategy is how they leverage associations and influencers. Your clients’ Facebook following as well as their status as key players in their industry can be used to your advantage.
Instead of case studies that very few people bother to read unless they visit your webpage with the intention of buying your product (or something similar), videos can be easily consumed without much effort on part of the audience.
By tagging them in your Posts and showing how they use your product to excel, you reach a wider audience while also clearly demonstrating the value addition your product brings. In addition to featuring clients (including Real Madrid C.F, Carlsberg etc.) Microsoft also tied up with M83, the band to re-imagine a track for a video they did. They also feature partnerships and associations with National Geographic, Special Olympics etc.
Microsoft’s goal on Facebook appears to be focused on getting their updates across to a wider audience. Quite like Citi, reach will be the metric that their marketers prioritize. Along with a balanced promotion strategy that gives a boost to the reach, shareable, quality content ensures that their messages get through to a wide audience.
A thumb-rule for any B2B brand that wants to get more out of Facebook is to have a clear picture of what you want out of it and then take data-backed decisions on how to achieve these goals. Facebook provides you with rich data on your past performance, including reach, engagement etc.
This way you can tell which of your Posts have resonated well with your audience. Coupling this with a thorough knowledge of industry trends and what your peers are up to, there will be no stopping you.