For B2B marketers who understand the nuances of how to talk to time-starved professionals on the site, Facebook can be a valuable addition to the B2B social media marketing arsenal.
Chief Marketer recently talked with Zach Welch, vice president of client services at social media news feed consultancy BrandGlue, who shared some best practices for B2B marketers who want to make the most of their "friendships" on Facebook.
Remember that you're talking to a high-level audience.
One difference between using Facebook to talk to a business, as opposed to a consumer, audience is how status updates are phrased.
"You're trying to engage business professionals rather than a large audience spanning a demographic spreads of ages, social status or whatever," says Zach Welch, vice president of client services at social media news feed consultancy BrandGlue. "With B2B you can get a little more in depth. The people you are marketing to are smart, educated business people."
So what should marketers talk to businesses about? By and large, anything that increases engagement with the brand. There's a metrics-based reason for this: Facebook tends to determine which content, and how it appears, in news feeds based on its EdgeRank algorithm, according to Welch.
The EdgeRank algorithm, the specific makeup of which is not public, incorporates the newness of a post, how often content is shared or interacted with, and whether posts contains videos, photos or links. Marketers who can improve their EdgeRank can increase their exposure in their friends' news feeds.
Don't be passive—get people involved.
"You don't want a passive status update," says Welch, referring to the site's main sharing mechanism. "People push out a piece of content saying 'look at this awesome article we just published.'
"Ask [the audience] to do something," Welch suggests. "Ask them to 'Like this status if…' – and then tie that to something in the article. But use multiple choice options, or true/false. You don't want to have anything that is high friction."
This is doubly true in the B2B setting, in which Facebook users "are buzzing through their news feeds" as Welch puts it.
"These people are busy," Welch says. Marketers shouldn't phrase requests for interaction in a way that requires Facebook friends to write dissertations, he adds.
Don't be afraid to have a little fun.
That said, there's room for quirky content – which Welch calls "community builders" – provided followers respond well to it. In mid-October, marketing automation and demand generation firm Eloqua posted a photo of an employee's puppy, along with a request for "Thumbs up if you like our newest employee". That photo generated more than 90 likes on a fan base of what was then 4,000 people.
"[The photo] didn't have anything to do with the brand, but the next time Eloqua posted something, Facebook's algorithm said 'Eloqua is pushing out content that people like,' and pushed that post out to more people," says Welch.
When it comes to B2B posts, the trick is balancing irreverent, irrelevant content with useful content that doesn't contain pitches and content that is a flat-out sales effort. "My consultancy preaches an 80/20 rule," Welch says. "Eighty percent of the time, put out content that doesn’t directly touch on the brand. Twenty percent of the time we say go for it – try to make the hard sell. Get people to sign up for a conference or buy your software."
Post regularly, but pace yourself.
Consistency and pacing of posts on a B2B firm's Facebook page similarly represents a fine line. "A lot of times in B2B people don't have faith in social media's value," says Welch. "They don't assign resources to social media, and if they do it is to people who have a lot on their plates. They may do one or two posts a week when they need to be constantly reaching their audience and posting once a day."
But it's possible for a B2B marketer to overplay its presence on Facebook. "Large brands don't want to post more than two times a day," Welch says. "Most B2B firms aren't going to have a ton of fans, and their demographic reach will be smaller. Most B2B firms shouldn't be posting more than once a day.
"You don't want to irritate people," Welch continues. "If you have people who have a high affinity score, you don't want to flood their news feed. One status update with information doesn't bother me, especially if it is great content. With three or four, I am inclined to unsubscribe."
Consider the timing of your posts.
Another difference in the way consumer and B2B marketers use Facebook concerns posts over weekends. For consumer-focused companies, this is a no-brainer: Weekends are when consumers have more time to both comparison shop and make purchases.
But businesses, and business audiences, don't necessarily behave as consumers do. Welch acknowledges making B2B posts on weekends is a double-edged sword.
"You can help build affinity and engagement scores if you do post on weekends," he says. "But it can hurt you if you post and don't get a lot of engagement. Low engagement scores can negatively impact you."