Last week was a big week for Instagram as they announced that they have 300 million monthly active users. This makes the visual platform owned by Facebook, larger than Twitter. It is also growing at a faster rate than Twitter.
B2B companies need to learn how to tell their stories in a visual manner. There are many blog posts that merely list the largest B2B companies on Instagram, or a seemingly random selection of B2B companies on Instagram. But this post is different. These are the ten B2B companies with the highest engagement rate on Instagram. This means their followers (who could be a combination of customers, prospects, employees and partners) have liked and commented on their photos and videos.
Methodology: A B2B company needed at least 1000 followers to be considered for the list. I examined the last ten Instagram posts for likes and comments. The average number of the sum of likes and comments was divided by the number of followers to determine the engagement rate (expressed as a percentage). If you want to put these numbers in perspective, according to SimplyMeasured, the top retail brands have an average engagement rate of 4%. The top B2B companies below have a similar engagement rate.
Note that General Electric, the biggest B2B company on Instagram with 183,000 followers did not make the list because their engagement rate is only 0.78%. Companies need to not just focus on growing their follower counts, but they also need to make sure their content is resonating with their audience.1. IBM
Engagement Rate: 4.04% 2. Mailchimp
Engagement Rate: 3.98% 3. Infusionsoft
Engagement Rate: 3.88% 4. Fedex
Engagement Rate: 3.49% 5. CBRE
Engagement Rate: 3.36% 6. Maersk
Engagement Rate: 2.78% 7. Oracle
Engagement Rate: 2.77% 8. Intel
Engagement Rate: 2.76% 9. Zendesk
Engagement Rate: 2.69% 10. Hootsuite
Engagement Rate: 2.65%
It is the time of year when bloggers dust off their crystal balls and try to predict what will happen in B2B social media in the coming year. I have done this for many years myself. Whether these predictions are based on recent data, anecdotal experience or pure conjecture, they are frequently wrong. Or maybe they are right.
But the best part of writing these blog posts is that nobody ever goes back and looks at last year’s post to see what bloggers got right and what they got wrong. It is a content creators dream come true: attractive headline, shareable content, no repercussions.
Anyone can predict the future if they are not accountable for being right.
These opinion pieces are just that. Opinions.
It is very easy to find a survey and say that B2B companies are increasing their social media budgets. The percentage of B2B marketing budgets spent on social media will rise from 9% to 13% in the next 12 months. It will continue to rise to 21% in the next five years. This single data point will let a blogger predict growth in social media budgets for the next five years. And this survey is updated every year, so this one can go on for eternity.
But nobody is checking up on the bloggers to see what really happened. Or the marketers.
Every year the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs release their benchmark report about content marketing. But in this year’s version they changed the definition of content marketing and the number of B2B marketers indicating that they used content marketing went down from the previous year from 93% to 86%. Does this mean that bloggers can use this study to predict the decline of content marketing? Of course they can.
But other parts of the report reveal that B2B marketers are spending more time and money on content marketing. These selective data points support a prediction of increased reliance on content marketing. A blogger can take their pick of the direction, based on their opinion.
And be right either way. Or wrong.
What about making predictions about mobile? Is this really the year that B2B marketers will finally embrace mobile? It’s very easy to predict. Even easier than it’s been for the past five years that bloggers, including me, have been predicting it. 58% of American adults have smartphones. The breakdown of that data is even higher when you look at groups that likely contain your customers. And that data is almost a year old.
Predict away about the impact of mobile, but B2B marketers will prove it wrong once again. B2B websites, white papers, ebooks are still designed and built for desktop computers. This is one of the biggest no-brainers for marketers in years. But bloggers can predict this until they are blue in the face, but it is just not happening.
Other areas that inspire prognosticating for 2015 are marketing automation, social media advertising, scaling of social media across organizations beyond marketing, measurements of success beyond chasing likes and followers and true executive understanding and adoption of social media.
But for every one of these data-supported predictions, there will be many B2B companies that just don’t follow the trend. And prove the predictions wrong yet again.
It is easy to sign up for a Twitter account, but hard for many B2B marketers to embrace the platform and share information that is of value to their customers. It is easy to pull a white paper out of the archives and say you are doing content marketing, but harder to build a content funnel that matches prospects’ interest and timing so it can all lead to sales. And yes, it is easy to look at your own behavior on your mobile device as a rallying cry to go “Mobile First,” but to get all the pieces in place to make this happen at most B2B companies is hugely challenging.
For many B2B companies 2015 will be the year of true social media adoption and success at many levels. Unless I’m wrong.
Photo credit: Flickr
My friend Tom Skotidas and I recently talked about the keys to starting a LinkedIn Group as a means to generate leads for B2B companies. He is the founder of Skotidas, Asia Pacific’s leader in B2B Social Media Lead Generation. This is part of an ongoing series of conversations about the intersection of sales and marketing, well as social selling.1. Start with your Product or Service in Mind
The first thing you need to do is create a group that is connected to your product or service. This may be related to the product category or your specific industry, but general enough that the right people will find the group relevant and interesting. Choose a group name that reflects the topic and will be meaningful to your prospects.2. Determine the Most Likely Buyer
Since we are looking at this group through the lens of lead generation, make sure you take into account your most likely buyers. The group should be targeted to them. As you are planning the group make sure to develop a targeted persona so you know who should be in the group.3. Never Mention the Product
Even though you have the product in mind, the point of the group is not to sell the product. Market trends and solutions related to the product and services are what is important to the group.4. Create a Closed Group
You can create a closed group or an open group on LinkedIn. Start out with a closed group as you are building it up. This way only people you invite can join the group. As it grows and develops some traction, you may want to make it an open group to take advantage of search and sharing benefits of things posted in the group. While an open group is visible to all, you can still moderate members and comments.5. Manage it like a Community
The LinkedIn group you build is a community and it needs community management. That means you, or someone on your team, must be a manager of the group. This person must have the personality to interact with group members on a regular basis, reach out to them publicly or privately to ask questions or elicit comments, and generally keep the conversation interesting and flowing. A number of different people can serve in this role.6. Build it like a 3-Layer Cake
Start the first layer by getting your staff to join the group so it has a bit of a head start. The second layer includes your closest business partners and some existing customers. Let them know the purpose of the group and that their interaction is encouraged. Once the group has that lived in feeling, invite some targeted prospects to join the group. This is the top of the cake. They are the ones to focus on, and it helps that they are joining an active, growing group.7. Know What Content to Share
The purpose of this group is to provide value to the community, and especially the prospects, so they begin to build a relationship with you. You can do that through content. You can use third-party content related to the theme of the group or even conversation starters, which are just what they sound like. Comments and questions that get people talking.8. Engage the Group
The community managers need to continuous engage the group members to keep the conversation going. That may include messaging someone with a specific and relevant post and asking them to provide their thoughts in the group.9. Practice Both Inbound and Outbound Lead Generation
You can use this group to manage both inbound and outbound leads. Sharing content in the group that provides links back to your blog, website and landing pages encourages clicks and shares to drive more people to those pages. As you build relationships with your targeted prospects in the group, you can coordinate with the sales team to reach out to them. And this is no longer a cold call.10. Remember Marketing Led, Sales Fed
Finally, keep in mind that social selling initiatives like this are run by the marketing team, but ultimately they support sales. You are generating leads for sales.
Are there other best practices you have developed in using LinkedIn groups to generate leads?
The challenge of generating high-quality leads looms large in front of business-to-business marketers today. 78% of B2B marketers say lead generation is their biggest challenge. Just like any other large problem, the best way to address this is to break the process down into bite-size pieces rather than trying to digest it all at once. You need to develop a lead generation process, and support it with robust systems and the right people in the right places.
1. Create a Strategy
Start with the big picture. This should flow naturally from your overall marketing strategy. It should define your target client, including what positions they hold within an organization, the industries they work in, their company’s size, and their geographic locations.
2. Define Your Difference
Before you approach your target market you need to wrap your mind around exactly what makes your product, service, or solution different than competitors’ offerings. And, even more importantly, why that differentiation matters to your prospects and customers. For example, if you are selling a CRM system that can process millions of transactions and your target customer only handles hundreds of transactions, then you have a mismatch.
3. Decide the Criteria for a Qualified Lead
On the face of it, defining a quality lead may seem simple. This is, however, the place where many lead generation efforts fall apart. That’s because sales and marketing have different definitions of what qualified means. Your definition of a qualified lead needs to include:
- The budget that has been allocated to solve this problem.
- Whether or not the lead has the authority to make a buying decision.
- Their need for a solution.
- How soon they plan to buy into a solution.
- The ability of one of your products and/or solutions to solve their problem.
4. What Information Should You Pass to Sales?
A quick handoff of leads from marketing to sales that includes the contact information is not enough. You need to define the information that will be included with the lead. Sales is going to be much more successful if they are given a deep understanding of the prospects’ buying situation, the problems they are facing, the decision-making structure within the organization, how the prospect has responded to content provided to them, and any perceived obstacles in the way of purchasing.
5. Capture the Leads
Now it’s time to determine how you are going to attract and capture leads. The best campaigns bring together these strengths of both inbound and outbound marketing tactics. While Web and content marketing are extremely effective in attracting people who are actively trying to solve their problems online, they can’t do all the work.
If your company is not highly prominent online, the web searcher may not find your content. Also, many executives are extremely busy and don’t have the time to do extensive Web searches. In both of these cases telemarketing is a highly effective and efficient way to reach specific accounts you’re targeting and to help them solve their problems.
6. Nurture Until Sales-Ready
Many marketing departments feel that the job is done once they have captured a lead. The problem, however, is that the majority of leads are not sales-ready.
Perhaps they don’t plan to buy in the near future, or they are simply not educated enough on the problems and solutions to make a decision. In these cases a lead will need to be nurtured. The nurturing plan should likely include email marketing, relevant content, and the occasional phone call to answer questions, provide relevant information, and, of course, add the all-important human touch.
7. Score Your Leads
You also need to define a system for scoring your leads. This system should be based on both on how the lead has interacted with your website and content, as well as judgments made by your salespeople as to the lead’s interest level.
8. Give Sales People Leads They’re Excited to Follow Up On
Based on the scores generated, you can finally pass the leads over to your salespeople. When you do, make sure you also provide all the juicy background information so they are prepared to make the sale.
9. Measure, Adjust, Optimize
Even when you have made the sale, the process isn’t over. You constantly need to be measuring the results, adjusting your process, and optimizing it.
Photo credit: Flickr
The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs released their annual benchmark report on B2B content marketing. It is based on surveys of 1820 North American B2B Marketers across all industries and company sizes. This is the fifth year that they have released this report, and it continues to improve each year. The entire report is embedded at the end of this post.
The first, and most notable stat in this report is that number of B2B marketers using content marketing has gone down from 93% last year to 86% this year. That is because they changed the definition of content marketing to “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Apparently this helped some respondents realize that there is a difference between content marketing and just creating content.
This is a benchmark study, so it gives you something you can compare yourself to. The study also examines the habits and activities of the most effective B2B content marketers, so you can see how you are doing against those who report that content marketing is meeting their goals and driving business value.1. 86% of B2B Marketers are using content marketing
I recently participated in a project with the Oracle Marketing Cloud where they interviewed marketing professors about the state of B2B marketing and how they are using that knowledge to develop curriculum to train the marketers of the future. It was an esteemed panel of professors, including:
- Barbara Kahn, Patty and Jay H. Baker Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
- Josh Murdock, Professor of Educational Technology & Social Networking, Valencia College
- Mark Schaefer, Marketing Consultant, College Educator and Author, Rutgers University
- Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing, Co-Director of Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative, The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
- Eric Bradlow, K.P. Chao Professor of Marketing, Statistics, and Education, The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania
- Jessica Rogers, Graduate Social Media and Marketing, Southern New Hampshire University
- Jeffrey L. Cohen, Distinguished Lecturer of Marketing Analytics and Social Media, Ball State University (hey, that’s me!)
Download the entire ebook here (registration required), but in the meantime, here are my answers to the questions.
1. What is the number one thing marketers may have lost sight of?
Too many marketing activities are siloed from the top-level business objectives of a company, and are not measured against metrics that others in the company care about. If your executives follow daily, weekly or monthly numbers related to things like sales, customer retention, cost savings and customer satisfaction, then reporting softer marketing numbers will not win any points with those executives. Marketers need to find ways to tie their efforts to those business metrics.
2. What are your observations with respect to the nuances of the B2B and B2C marketing disciplines?
As a lifelong B2B marketer, and co-author of The B2B Social Media Book, B2B marketing makes sense to me. No matter what techniques you use, you are ultimately driving prospects into a buying process where you can track where they came from. While selling through a distribution network can complicate things, a company sales rep, or someone no more than a couple steps removed away from the company, handles B2B purchases, making tracking possible. I have never understood how Coca-Cola marketers can track their efforts to sell a bottle of Coke at the grocery store or convenience store. This action is too far removed from their brand marketing and advertising to attribute action to particular campaigns.
3. What do you think a B2B marketer can learn from B2C or vice versa?
B2B marketers can learn creativity, creating an emotional response and storytelling from the B2C pros, and B2C marketers can learn more about calls-to-action, attribution and leading a buyer through a journey from their B2B brethren.
4. Can you compare and contrast the curriculum that you’re teaching and the current roles and responsibilities of today’s marketers?
I am teaching students about the importance of their public, online presence and how to keep up with a constant flow of information in their industry. This would not be an explicit part of their marketing role, but an understanding of this will make them stronger marketers. Traditionally, it has been social media savvy folks on the team who really understand how to build a personal presence and follow all the right sources in a manageable way, but these skills are important as a solid foundation for all marketers.
Students learn how to create and analyze social media marketing campaigns that resonate with customers, B2B and B2C, and are based on solid marketing and business principles. Proper goal setting and how to review analytics to understand success are also a key part of my learning objectives. This fits in with the skills and requirements of marketers in the field. Marketers create campaigns, analyze competitors’ campaigns and review the success of their own efforts.
5. What will you teach my future employees this year?
I start by explaining the difference between personal social media, which is what most college students do, and professional social media. They need to understand the importance of a professional profile, not just on LinkedIn, but on all social platforms, if they are going into marketing. This is part of the transition to the working world. I tie social media to business results and the basic principles of marketing, so students understand the value of social media to an organization. I go though major and minor social platforms, looking at current examples and best practices, so students have an understanding of what is happening right now in social media marketing.
Please download the ebook here to learn what the rest of the panel thinks about the state of B2B marketing and how education feeds into it (registration required).