There are so many reports, studies, surveys and statistics put out by companies as content to attract prospects that marketers start to question both the quality and the validity of the results. To keep up with the latest in the industry we turn over our email addresses in exchange for yet another fancy PDF with a smattering of data. Oh well, just signed myself up for another email list for nothing.
But sometimes I get surprised. And today was one of those days.
TrackMaven is a competitive intelligence company that I’ve been familiar with for quite some time (Disclosure: just starting to use it at work), and have liked some of their data reports. But I opened up this latest one and I was blown away. There is so much great data in here, especially for specific B2B industries, I almost didn’t know where to start.
The report analyzes “12 months of content from 316 leading B2B brands on five key social networks to understand how the best B2B marketers move the needle with social media.” This is great for B2B marketers in all those industries, who have never seen this kind of detail about their social media peers. I’ve picked some data to share, but you really should head over to TrackMaven and download this report for yourself. It is worth your email address.
One of the primary datapoints the report shows is size of audience. The industry with the largest following across the five social media sites measured (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) was Professional Services. The one with the smallest following was Wholesalers. And LinkedIn is the social network with the largest number of followers of B2B companies.
The other thing the report tracks is engagement rate. This is calculated as the the average number of interactions per post per 1,000 followers. Here are the average rates by platform for all B2B companies tracked. Below you will find a breakdown by industry. You can compare your engagement rates to these averages or look at the numbers for your specific industry.
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 142,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 28.10
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: Textron 43.58
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 96,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Facebook 46.97
Company with Audience on Facebook: Merck 36,000
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 54,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 29.25
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: Monsanto 80.94
Ed Note: Lots of negative engagement here
Largest Median Social Media Audience: Facebook 1,217,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 24.69
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on : Fujitsu (Germany) 33.27
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 120,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 24.69
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: Centex 24.88
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 124,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 18.31
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: ABB 48.32
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 48,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 29.38
Sector with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: Oil & Gas 33.07
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 185,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 44.13
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on : ch2m
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 240,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Pinterest 69.92
Sector with Highest Engagement Rate on Pinterest: Commercial Banking 76.44
Largest Median Social Media Audience: Facebook 41,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 22.73
Sector with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: Rail & Freight 29.21
Largest Median Social Media Audience: Facebook 183,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 25.14
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: John Deere 29.97
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 203,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 21.47
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: Medtronic 27.98
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 148,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 25.44
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: Ford
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 464,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 20.70
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: Bayer 32.59
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 1,154,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 10.61
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: Cisco averages 620 engagements per post
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 284,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 13.38
Company with Highest Engagement Rate on Instagram: IBM 12.67
Largest Median Social Media Audience: LinkedIn 25,000
Network with Largest Average Engagement Rate: Instagram 21.38
Sector with Highest Engagement Rate on : Electronics & Office Equipment 33.56
B2B social media continues to be driven by content, and this report shows that if you are looking for engagement, Instagram is the platform for most industries. Even though this report is full of great data to benchmark against, remember that nobody knows your audience better than you do, and make sure you are measuring your success against the right goals.
The best opportunity to grow your B2B business with customer service is to engage with your “onstage haters,” or customers who complain in public forums. And the best opportunity to engage with your onstage haters isn‘t in social media (yet).
According to the study I conducted with Edison Research for my new book, the increase in customer advocacy that results from answering a customer complaint is greater on discussion boards than anywhere else. That may be because so few companies choose to engage in this places – the original social media.
Patrick O‘Keefe is a discussion board expert and the author of Managing Online Communities. He believes all companies (B2B and B2C) should be monitoring and participating in relevant forums. “I really encourage brands to participate in forums because it‘s where the most passionate customers hang out . . . It‘s so powerful to go into forums and answer questions because becoming a part of the community helps the members of that community see you in a more favorable light. If the company is participating in the forum, and they offer a service and you eventually want that service, the company is going to be top of mind.”
He acknowledges that many businesses choose to not answer questions and complaints in forums because they can be niche and insular, BUT THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT!
“Why I think a lot of companies are reluctant to participate is because it‘s harder to track,” he says. “You don‘t own that community. You don‘t have access to the database.”
But in forums, like in all public, digital venues the potential audience is potentially much larger than the one customer or prospect you are ostensibly addressing. “I always tell people, when you respond in a forum, don‘t respond to the person who posted, respond to everyone who will ever read that conversation,” O’Keefe advises.Your Answers are Recorded for Perpetuity
And that conversation could be read much, much later. Many online communities last for a long time, and they typically have high rankings in Google and other search engines, due to their topical authority and specificity. So if someone searches for your business name or the name of one of your products, a question asked three years ago in a forum might appear on the first page of search results. Isn‘t that a question you‘d want to have answered?
Forums are often detailed repositories of information. As a result, they are most likely to be consulted when people are ready to make a purchase (and thus are using very specific search queries), or have already purchased (and have very specific questions about the product or service).
Because of the nearly infinite digital shelf-life of forums, the value of replying may persist indefinitely, you should still respond quickly, ideally within one week, with 24 to 48-hour response times a worthy objective.Keep a Consistent, Personal Presence on Forums
Since discussion boards and forums are often true communities, with a core cadre of members participating with consistency, it is ideal if you can have the same person within your business—maybe even yourself— engage in a particular forum every time. This builds recognition and trust that can boost advocacy, and benefit of the doubt as well.Give Forums a Personal Touch in B2B
Discussion boards and forums – and having a consistent, human presence there – is also important in the B2B economy. One of the largest of these is Spiceworks, a comprehensive online community for technology professionals that bills itself as “Where IT goes to work.”
When B2B technology companies want to participate in the Spiceworks community, they nominate individual team members to do so. Spiceworks provides training materials on the best ways to interact with IT end-users on the platform, and each participant receives points and recognition based on their contributions.
Once that participant reaches a threshold that indicates he or she is a trusted member of the Spiceworks community, they are given the label of Green Guy or Green Gal, marking them as official representatives of their company on the platform.
This personal touch matters, according to Spiceworks‘ Executive Director of Marketing Communication, Jen Slaski: “The more companies can make customers feel heard, the more they can explain something, the more people can see you‘re taking feedback and you‘re trying to make a difference, that goes a long way.” She says that customer complaints change, and their overall ire diminishes when they realize they are talking to a real person; a representative of the company instead of “the company” as a faceless entity.A Model to Consider: Priscilla @ HP
Priscilla Jones is one of the faces of Hewlett-Packard on Spiceworks. Her official title is HP Social Media Ambassador, and she represents the massive company in a large and important online venue. It‘s a busy job. As of September 2015, she has written 1,935 posts on Spiceworks, and her contributions have been named “best answers” 118 times. She‘s also authored 102 replies tagged as “helpful posts” by the Spiceworks community. Priscilla is also a member of 64 groups within the platform, including the virtualization group, the Oakland, California group, the motorcycle group, and the women in IT group.
One of her “best answers” on Spiceworks, and a good example of the potential impact of participating in forums occurred when she answered a question about a HP printer from “ChrisJG” in May 2015.
Hi All, I have a P4515X printer that shows that it is a P4014n printer on the configuration page printout.
It‘s never been used outside of trying to set it up and test. The person before I took over said he was having issues with the networking part of the printer, but he left this position before resolving the issue. I‘ve updated the firmware to the latest, 04.221.6, on the HP website, but that didn‘t resolve anything (not that I really thought it would). I‘ve tried resetting the printer to factory settings, and working with PJL files, but I can never get them to update identity of the printer. I‘ve read that in situations like this, you need a “multibyte file” from HP Support, but since this printer is no longer under warranty, I‘m not sure I would be able to get a file. I would really appreciate any suggestions as I am completely stumped at this point. Thanks!
Priscilla replied one hour and 16 minutes later, including links to specific resources:
@ChrisjG, you may have noticed in your research of your issue that replacing parts, especially the formatter, can cause a printer to have “an identity issue.” You may have also noticed this post in which @dicka confirms that the “multibyte file” has to be obtained from Tech Support and @dicka gives very detailed instructions on how to use the file. Click here. You will observe in this post that @dicka gives the names of staff to whom to send the information for the file. Click here. If this is old information, please call Tech Support at 800 334-5144 to request the file. If you encounter problems please ping me. I see that this is your first post. Welcome to Spiceworks!
Thanks for the info Priscilla. I did come across those linked posts and was able to create and send the PJL file to the printer to update the serial number and model number, but the problem still remains. I‘ll ping Tech Support Monday morning to see if they can assist. Will I still be able to get a file even though the printer is no longer under warranty? Thanks!
Hello ChrisJG, Thanks very much for the update. I felt that perhaps you had already seen those posts. Let me ping you regarding your Tech Support call.
Note that after this message, Priscilla contacted Chris in private, using the messaging function of Spiceworks.
Chris then replied:
Thanks for all your help Priscilla. HP support came through with the multibyte file. My printer has been cured. Thanks!
And Priscilla wrapped it up beautifully:
Hello Chris, thanks very much for the positive update. Wonderful news! Your update has made my afternoon. Please let me know whenever your products need ‘curing.’ Enjoy the holiday break.
It‘s not difficult to provide great support in the hidden lairs of your most passionate customers. But you do need to devote knowledgeable people to it, and give them the opportunity to make themselves human and approachable.
Drawn from Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, about which Guy Kawasaki says: “This is a landmark book in the history of customer service.” Written by Jay Baer, Hug Your Haters is the first customer service and customer experience book written for the modern, mobile era and is based on proprietary research and more than 70 exclusive interviews.
Facebook updated their like buttons to now include five more emotions, so instead of just liking your B2B posts, your customers and prospects can more fully express themselves. Without words. They call these animated emoji reactions.
While this certainly works on the web version of Facebook, the definitely feels like a mobile-centric update. That’s not surprising when more than half of Facebook’s monthly active users only access the platform on a mobile device. It provides more engagement on posts, that’s quicker and easier.
But what does this mean for B2B companies? Let’s look at each one of the reactions.
This is the traditional like button and many B2B companies have been struggling to get likes for years. They have struggled to get people to like their pages, and once organic search declined, they struggled to even get people to see their posts. This has caused many B2B companies to even question if Facebook was the social network for them. This is the default behavior that you should still be trying to get if your audience is connecting with you on Facebook. Relevant posts are things that they can like. If they see them.
Do your customers love you? If so, they finally have a one-touch way to express that love. One of the goals of a customer-centric organization, after retention of course, is advocacy. Your customers are so happy with your products or services that they are happy to tell people. They write about you. They answer questions on social networks, which happens to be the best way to express their advocacy. They speak about you at events. They even do reference calls to support your sales process. And now they can love you on Facebook.
Is there a place for humor in B2B marketing? Of course there is. My friend Tim Washer has been a master of it for years. If you truly understand your business and your customers, you can find the comedy in situations. Expect this reaction if you are posting content to Facebook that is supposed to make people laugh, even though it seems to represent more of a guffaw than a chuckle. Things could get awkward if prospects use this on things that are not meant to be funny.
Expect to see some of these if you announce something truly remarkable or post something that looks amazing. So many B2B marketers can’t really find their way out from behind a boring product or service to create content that really connects with their prospects and customers. You can use this reaction as goal for your next post on Facebook. Strive to get a wow.
This is where it gets hard to conceive of B2B posts on Facebook getting this reaction. Well, except in an ironic, “Dude, that’s just sad” kind of way. When you are trying to connect with prospects and customers and engage with them on a platform where you are already competing with their family and friends for attention, making them sad may not be the best approach. Even if you are sharing heartwarming stories about charitable activities or community involvement, sad in not the reaction you want.
And finally we come to angry. Should you make your customers angry? It happens all the time, but you should work to solve that. Not encourage their anger and get them to acknowledge it on a Facebook post. An angry prospect is unlikely to become a customer. It’s not part of the know, like and trust progression. There is plenty of anger and strong positions on Facebook, but encouraging this reaction may not be the best approach for your B2B company.
Will the availability of these new reactions change what your B2B company posts on Facebook? Will it change how you interact with other B2B companies? Thoughts are appreciated below or on Twitter. Or how about a reaction on Facebook?
Native advertising is one of the more popular marketing terms today. The concept behind native advertising isn’t anything new. According to Digiday, advertorial content has been around since the late 19th century.
But the continued rise of social platforms, digital distribution of content, video networks, and generally all digital media has made the idea popular once again. In fact, eMarketer reported that native spending on social media alone would increase to $5 Billion in 2017, while closing the gap on display spending.
This is all well and good, so let’s talk about some different forms of native advertising. More importantly, let’s look at some of the more effective ways that B2B companies can use native advertising.What is native advertising?
Here is the Wikipedia definition: “Native advertising is a type of advertising, usually online but feasibly elsewhere, that matches the form and function of the platform upon which it appears.”
But here’s another way to look at it. Native advertising is a type of advertising that attempts to trick a consumer, hoping the consumer consumes the advertisement without realizing it is an advertisement.
That was too harsh. How about this one? Native advertising is a type of advertising that, if done well, people don’t realize is an advertisement. The key phrase being, if done well.Why You Should Consider Native Ads for B2B
Native advertising provides an alternative to running display ads, the bane of the internet. Over time, people have trained themselves to completely ignore display ads. According to Smart Insights, average click through rate on display ads is 0.06%. That number can’t go much lower. Native advertisements intend to increase viewership and engagement from readers by either fitting into the experience of the platform or actually adding value to it. And usually, it works. According to sharethrough.com, 25% more viewers were measured to look at in-feed ad placements more than standard banners, and native ads registered 18% higher lift in purchase intent than banner ads.B2B Companies Need to Engage
For B2B advertisers, there are some real benefits. Many B2B buying decisions are not made spur of the moment. Due to this, banner ads are typically ineffective. Native ad placements give these businesses a chance to engage with their prospects by adding value through conversation. Here are a few examples of effective native advertisements from B2B companies.Sponsored Content on Industry Publications
Written content is a popular format among B2B companies. In the below example, the advertiser (disclosure: I work with the advertiser, Cincom) buys the top spot on an outgoing newsletter. This advertiser promotes valuable content to the audience, while attempting to resemble the format of the organic content in the newsletter. The advertiser is essentially saying you typically click on one of the news stories below, but maybe this article would interest you instead. As you can see, the purpose behind this ad is very different than a highly branded, product focused display ad.In-feed Ads on LinkedIn
Social media feeds are popular outlets for native advertisements. LinkedIn is a go-to network for many B2B advertisers. In the example below, HubSpot sponsors content right on the LinkedIn timeline. This sponsored post is just like an organic post, but they have paid to expand the reach beyond their followers. This increases the chances that prospects will read and engage. Also, HubSpot attempts social media lead generation with an article on social media lead generation.Sponsored Listings on Aggregator Sites
Here’s one more example of a sponsored listing. A sponsored listing is similar in theory to a paid search ad. The example below shows an aggregator site that offers sponsored listings. Vendors interested in advertising bid their way to the top of the category. In this format, site visitors search the aggregator site for a product type, such as CRM Software. The aggregator site is fulfilling the needs of their visitors by offering many options for CRM software, while listed results are a mix of paid and organic. Many visitors may not even notice a difference between the sponsored listings at the top and the organic listings that fall underneath.Create a Positive Feeling
All of these formats, and many others, can be effective techniques to add to your arsenal. Well done native advertisements create a positive feeling in your prospects. A feeling that you are trying to help them or give them value, instead of asking them to buy things all the time (I’m looking at you retargeting ads). In most cases, you should already be testing out some native advertising formats, and replacing some of your outdated methods. Advertising to prospects in ways that they appreciate is just good advertising. And the world will be a better place when a few native ads on a page is the norm, rather than pop-ups and takeover ads.
Personas are the way that B2B marketers have identified their buyers for years. Whether you use them for demand gen, email campaigns, social media, content marketing or even deciding what trade shows to attend, you are probably not getting the full benefit from them. It is now time to think differently about your personas.
Katie Martell is the co-founder and CMO of Cintell, a customer intelligence platform that enables companies to better understand their buyers. I had the chance to ask her some questions about the state of B2B buyer personas.1. How are B2B buyer personas changing?
Personas have been traditionally used as a mechanism for identifying buyers, but unfortunately putting them to work has remained a challenge for many organizations. We’re all probably familiar with the smiling stock photos with a cute name like “Sally the Senior VP” hung on the wall of the office, or hiding somewhere on a company intranet. These important strategy tools are often trapped in what I call “PDF Purgatory” unused and quickly becoming irrelevant to the modern marketing and sales process.
However, in a world where B2B buyers expect a new level of relevance and a buying experience to match, high-performing organizations are figuring out how to embed personas into their workflows. In a recent benchmark study we conducted, for example, organizations who exceeded lead and revenue goal were 2.4X more likely to be effective or very effective at putting personas to work in their organizations.
They’re most commonly used to guide messaging, content marketing, and tone of voice, and companies who are able to use personas to guide demand generation activities were 2.4X as likely to exceed lead and revenue goals.2. How has technology enabled personas to become the core of customer intelligence?
The landscape of customer intelligence solutions has always been focused on how to aggregate the right information about customers to make informed, relevant decisions across their lifecycle. Personas, however, have traditionally been considered a departure from customer intelligence efforts, as they are often constructed without any real intelligence (unfortunately many companies still use internal assumptions about buyers to construct personas) and live in static, disconnected formats such as a Powerpoint or PDF.
The rise of technology in the marketing industry has led to an explosion of information available to marketers about their buyers. We are sitting on gold mines of behavioral data in our marketing automation systems, for example, that can be used to validate some of these assumptions we’ve made about our personas. Data providers track immense amounts of highly actionable information about buyers across the web, including what they’re reading and downloading, what technologies they’re using, what’s happening in their industry and more. This information can be used to enhance our understanding of target audiences and in a real-time way so that personas are not only valid, they are maintained and kept up-to-date with our changing buyers.3. What role do social media and content marketing play?
One external source of insights we’re seeing as very helpful in maintaining personas is Twitter. If your buyers are active across this network, they’re telling you a lot about themselves – for example, how they describe themselves in their bio field, what topics and individuals they are following and reading, what content types are resonating, and other intelligence around the key trends and real-time priorities in their world.
This, and other persona insight, is central to the role of content marketing. I like Jay Acunzo’s definition of content marketing, “Content marketing is just solving the same customer problems as your product but through media you create and distribute.”
To solve these problems, you need to understand these problems. Personas, done right, illustrate the problems faced by your audience in a way that allows you to know exactly what to create to catch their attention. More importantly, personas well-researched allow you to do so in the right tone of voice, using the right word choices, and published in the right places. In the same benchmark study mentioned, high-performing companies were 1.6X as likely to understand the fears and challenges of their buyers than companies who missed revenue and lead goals.4. Many companies claim to be customer-centric, but their marketing doesn’t express that? How do personas help B2B companies focus on their customers?
CEO’s certainly want their organizations to be customer-centric. They know customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable (Deloitte and Touche), and 63% even see rallying their organizations around the customer to be one of the top three investment priorities this year (PWC). However, this sentiment is often given more lip service than real action.
Marketers are increasingly looked to as the resident expert on the customer, and there is a huge opportunity for marketing leaders to earn stronger internal visibility by driving customer intelligence into all areas of the business, using personas as a mechanism for understanding customer needs on a deeper level. When personas reflect the authentic needs and priorities of customer segments, they become immensely valuable to other functions, including sales, product development, and customer-support.5. Describe how transformative it is for a company when personas are shared beyond the marketing department.
We know the impact of personas on marketing. Case studies have shown campaign lift, increased email marketing open rates, higher click-through rates, higher lead quality, and more. When personas can be utilized in other areas of the business, efforts across the board are more relevant and market-driven. Studies have shown 10-20% higher customer satisfaction levels, a metric that will make any Chief Customer Experience Officer happy, 3X increase in closed deals, and 2X faster time-to-market processes in product development. These are the numbers that customer-centric and market-driven companies can expect when action is taken over lip service.6. How can B2B marketers get started thinking about personas in this new way?
For a B2B marketer who already has personas living in a PDF document, I would start by validating the existing insights. Are they accurate and up-to-date? Were they created with real research and data or driven by assumptions? Do they contain actionable insight relevant for sales? For content marketers? For demand gen? What information are you storing in your behavioral processes such as lead scoring / marketing automation that could help to inform/validate some of these insights? What third-party data providers do you have relationships with who could add more insight to your buying audience?
Once they’re created, it’s time to put them to work. Map your contact database to persona for proper segmentation. Make personas easily available in your CRM for sales to access quickly. Audit your content assets by persona to understand the gaps and help your teams understand who each piece is intended for. For more inspiration, here are 29 ways to use personas across the business.