16 November 2014

B2B and social media: which network should you choose?

Tags:Social Media

Choosing a social media network on which to conduct your B2B marketing can be daunting, not to mention confusing. There are so many different platforms out there to choose from. Globally LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the big four in terms of online marketing, but which one is best for you, what sort of content should you post and how do these networks suit an Australian audience? In this article we will look at the most popular social media sites in Australian and how they can be utilised for local B2B marketing.

First Things First

Before you sit down and choose a social media network there are a few things you need to think about before making the final decision. If you have already developed a media plan, you will have already thought about the questions below. But if you have not, there are three key questions you should ask:

  1. Who is the target audience?
  2. Where does this audience hang out online?
    There is no point investing in Twitter when the people you are hoping to reach hang out on Facebook or LinkedIn.
  3. What sort of content are you going to post?
    Do you have a lot of technical information, videos, images or perhaps you want to participate in online conversations or share short announcements?

It is important to note that the Australian social media market is fairly saturated and growth or change in the market is small, especially when compared to areas such as Asia. Most sites gain and lose members every month but overall user numbers remain static. This makes choosing the most appropriate social network for your business all the more important.

Below is a summary of each of the key social media networks for B2B as well as some of their advantages and disadvantages. Coupled with the answers to the questions above, this information can be used as a guide to help you decide on which network (or networks) are going to be most suitable for your business.

LinkedIn

Content Type: Professional, technical and business information such as white papers. Company pages, groups and profiles.

Advantages: Very big international B2B following. Next largest network after Facebook, professional rather than social. Targeted ads and posts, in mail options, sponsored emails, recommendations.

Disadvantages: Lower uptake in Australia than Facebook– but growing slowly.

Size: 3.6 million unique views per month in Australia.

Globally, LinkedIn is one of the top B2B social media marketing tools and it is responsible for the largest number of website referrals from social media. It's a great place to establish yourself, your sales people and/or your company as thought leaders and to help you connect with potential leads.

Although LinkedIn is generally the most appropriate place for B2B marketing and network building, LinkedIn does not yet have a very large total following in Australia (see graph below). However, approximately 1/3 of Australian workers and 35% of business decision makers have a profile and uptake is

Facebook

Content Type: Images, links, longer text posts, videos, conversations, sharing and following. Company pages and profiles.

Advantages: Largest number of Australian users of any social network. No character limit on text posts. User pays targeted ad and optimised post options.

Disadvantages: Largely social, everybody is on there so it may be hard to be heard.

Size: 13 million Australian monthly users with 9 million Australians logging on daily – roughly 40% of the population

Facebook is the number 1 social networking site utilised, not just globally but also by Australians, and it offers a good opportunity to engage in online communities. Facebook is accessed by 95% of all social media users and people spend longer on the site per visit when compared to other social media networks. Facebook is predominantly social, so if your content is very technical or scientific, this may not be the best place for you and LinkedIn or a Blog may be more appropriate.

However, a recent announcement by Facebook has indicated that they intend to challenge LinkedIn in the B2B market. Changes to the Ads API program means that the way targeted ads work will be improved. This is good news for B2B markets who will now be able to target people based on their occupation and business.

Twitter

Content Type: image and link sharing, making statements, quick updates, short responses and questions.

Advantages: easy to use, quick to learn, simple. Immediate sharing and fast spread of information. Allows more one on one contact than Facebook.

Disadvantages: not as popular in Australia compared to international markets, harder to find local audience, often misused, low character limit can be frustrating. The life of a tweet is very short.

Size: 2.9 million Australian users or roughly 12% of the population

Using Twitter is often likened to shouting in a room full of people and hoping that someone hears you, in other words Twitter is often utilised as a broadcasting platform rather than a social one. Having said this though, it can be a useful B2B networking tool if used correctly. Ideally businesses need to find a good balance between tweeting content, sharing (or re-tweeting) and audience engagement. Engagement can be achieved by asking questions and by participating in conversations with followers.

Twitter does not have a large following in Australia, and although uptake is growing, according to the 2013 Yellow Social Media survey it also had the greatest number of users who stopped using the service over the past year (see graph below). Despite this, Twitter can still be an effective medium with which to distribute content if your target audience also uses it. Therefore it is important to do your audience research first.

  Pinterest & Flickr

Content Type: images and visual content, searches and sharing.

Advantages: easily searchable content, longer content life.

Disadvantages: Very low Australian usage.

Size: Pinterest 420,000 and Flickr 790,000 unique Australian views a month

With image-based social media marketing on the rise, investing time on visual platforms such as Pinterest and Flickr might make sense for your company.

Pinterest is a great search tool and content such as video testimonials, images, eBooks etc can all be 'Pins'. These pins can then be organised into boards of 'like' content with associated key words. These boards and key words are easily searchable and can also come up in Google searches. This grouped content also has a much longer life than many other content types such as a Tweet.

Flickr, unlike Pinterest, is purely for images that can be organised into sets and galleries. For B2B marketing it can be used to share diagrams and logos, as well as photos of equipment, products, employees, the office or lab and photos from events. Flickr can also be a great medium for telling a corporate story through images or building a vivid picture of your business that can be shared with communities. Flickr also allows for RSS subscription and content can be easily shared through your other social networks. However, you need to be careful not to breach Flickr's terms of service by posting sales information.

Google Plus

Content Type: Images, videos, text, circles and pages.

Advantages: Optimises search engine (SEO) results. Can segment audience into circles such as tech support or prospects, clean layout and less spam.

Disadvantages: very small audience in Australia

Size: approximately 65,000 active Australian monthly users

Google is the number one search engine for people wanting to find out about products and services. On a global scale the Google Plus market is growing, however, uptake in Australia is low when compared to other countries such as the US.

Depending on your intended outcomes, you might find it appropriate to get involved with Google Plus in order to enhance your appearance in search results. SEO benefits of Google Plus are very significant since B2B buyers frequently start with a search. Business pages also give companies opportunities to build relationships with each other.

Instagram

Content type: Images and videos.

Advantages: much larger Australian audience than similar platforms, integration with other networks, iPhone friendly.

Disadvantages: limited content types, content only searchable by hashtags

Size: 1.6 million active Australian users

Similar to Pinterest and Flickr, yet with a much larger Australian audience, Instagram is an excellent image based tool that can be used to promote a business's brand, corporate culture and/or community. Instagram has both video and image sharing capabilities and is fully integrated with other networks such as Facebook and Twitter so content can be instantly shared across them.

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