2016 has been a significant year for B2B social media marketing. As a serious outlet for marketers to take advantage of, social media has grown in acceptance and implementation by leaps and bounds.
But all of that development is simply paving the way for things to come in 2017 for B2B social. Social media initiatives will need to become more sophisticated and nuanced, new technologies will be front-and-center for achieving brand recognition and better lead generation, and audiences will expect much more from the brands they interact with via social media.
Here’s a rundown of the 5 biggest B2B social media trends to expect in 2017:
1. A Laser-Focus on Superior Customer Experience
Customer experience (CX) is the cornerstone of successful B2B social initiatives. However, in 2016 only 23% of B2B marketers claim to have a customer-centric organizational structure. That’s why in 2017, companies will need to do a better job at providing a seamless experience that supports customers at every stage of the journey.
Prospective customers, even more than in 2016, will expect to be treated as individuals. They will also want to see consistent brand messaging and intuitive interactions whenever they encounter your brand online, consider making a purchase, or decide to learn more from your company.
Excellent CXM in 2017 will involve strong investments in a stable and synonymous brand presence across channels. Whether it’s your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles, your corporate website, blog, or YouTube channel, prospects will expect a consistent tone and rhythm of marketing messages, as well as easy-to-use web properties and very clear calls-to-actions.
CX also needs to be prioritized across devices. Expect your users in 2017 to interact more with your content via mobile and tablet versus desktop. In fact, 2016 is the year when 48% of customers followed your company on their mobiles. So B2B marketers will need to focus on branding and content that’s both optimized for smartphones and tablets and coherent across all devices the reader might use.
How to get ready: Revise your current CX initiatives. Ask yourself: how do your current customers feel about their experience interacting with your brand on social media? Does the experience extend to all platforms, and is it optimized for all devices? Is it perhaps time to invest in mobile app development as well (depending on your products and market segmentation)? Review patterns in your CRM and social media management platform to get both objective and subjective insights on CX.
2. Much More Visual and Interactive Content
In 2017, we’ll see more and more B2B companies taking steps to infiltrate the “real world” with highly engaging and interactive content. This might put a greater emphasis on content forms like video blogging and live-streaming of events such as product demos, Q&A sessions, and webinars. And, a lot of the content distribution will take place via social media.
A whopping 96% of consumers report that videos are helpful in making purchasing decisions. Because of this, in 2017 you should connect with prospects more strongly through visual content. It will be extremely important to identify opportunities via social media listening for sharing visual media and invite the most engaged prospects and customers to participate in webinars, video podcasts, video case studies and other high-value visual marketing events before your competitors steal those opportunities from you.
How to get ready: Assess how much video content you currently use, and the ROI of past video marketing initiatives. If you haven’t done enough, it’s time to increase focus and promote video content via social whenever you can. Use the word “video” and “live” or other related hashtags to get people’s attention. Experiment with different lengths and subjects for your videos as well.
3. Qualifying all Social Leads
In 2017, it’s only going to get more and more important to convert your social leads and assess social ROI. A 2015 Simply Measured research found that 60% of companies are unable to tie social media initiatives to ROI and 64% reported that their most-used analytics tools are those offered natively in social media networks.
In 2017, it will be absolutely essential for B2B companies to understand how their social media marketing efforts translate into leads, conversions, and revenue. As more and more focus is put on social, you’ll have to invest in the outlet more than ever before, applying analytics and a well-informed strategy to everything you do on social networks.
How to get ready: Focus on which networks are most important for your business. Whichever ones you find have given you the greatest ROI, you should absolutely be sure to have a fully-fleshed out presence on LinkedIn. Consider dropping the networks that aren’t up to the job for lead generation and brand awareness, or at least reduce focus on the less promising ones. Finally, make sure you’re using a social media marketing platform with analytics and reporting capabilities so that you’ll have no problems assessing ROI of all social channels going forward.
4. New Trends in Social Ads and Tools
In 2017, it won’t be enough to simply “target” your social media ads. They will really have to stand out and command attention from your followers. New advances in social ads will allow the smartest B2B companies to gather a lion’s share of their respective industry markets.
For example, Twitter has recently launched the ‘Moments’ tab, which gives B2B marketers an additional way to use their Tweets to tell a richer story. In the near future, LinkedIn is also launching a new Company Page with a much cleaner design, helping companies better promote themselves and build relationships with prospects. B2B marketers can use a social media marketing tool like Oktopost to keep track of real-time, industry-relevant happenings and create social media content and touchpoints around them.
In addition, Facebook’s newer advertising options, such as carousel ads and dynamic ads, will be on the rise in 2017. Both formats increase the quality of the user experience across devices. Respectively, each option gives users greater immediate choice and a more integrated UX as they interact with your website and consider purchasing a variety of products from your company.
How to get ready: Review your current social ad strategy. If inbound content marketing plus social is mostly what you’re relying on in the digital space, it might be time to add some punch to your marketing strategy with social ads. Stay up-to-date with social media instruments such as Twitter Moments and LinkedIn’s new Company Page format and prepare your content for them to ensure that you’re ahead of the game and that your audience is engaged.
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5. Real-Time Responsiveness
If there’s anything the biggest B2C brands have proven themselves to be good at, it’s capitalizing on big pop culture moments. B2B marketers should be no less enterprising on social media. In 2017, it will be essential for B2B brands to create immediate touchpoints—be they about huge pop culture movements, or more likely, big shifts in whatever industry they’re in. As part of the seamless and intuitive CX, it’s up to you as a B2B marketer to understand prospects’ needs, reach out to them in a timely manner, and make the first move to build relationships.
How to get ready: Make sure that your social media monitoring procedures are up-to-task. Keep an eye on points where you can have an impact by implementing a social listening tool to track relevant hashtags, keywords, and mentions of your brand or your company’s products across social media outlets. Maintain a flexible editorial calendar for creating content around those moments as well.
Is your B2B marketing approach ready for 2017?
While you might have made a foray into social media marketing in the past year, you’ll almost certainly reap the rewards of powerful brand presence, conversions, and ROI if you step up your game in 2017. Let us know how you plan to do so in the comments!