Why are B2B brands placing greater value on social media, and why are they willing to spend more than ever before on social customer experience (CX)?
New digital marketing research reveals why B2B brands are finding a renewed passion for the expanding benefits of social media, and why they are becoming more willing than ever to spend more for the competitive advantages that social CX offers.
Let’s take a look at some of the latest report and survey data, and see how B2B brands are changing their social media strategies and outlook.
1 — Social Helps B2B Brands Meet Customer Expectations
A new report from Sprout Social reveals how customer expectations have evolved for the brands that they follow on social media.
Examining insight from over 1,000 U.S. consumers and the same number of U.S. marketers, along with 782 million public social messages, the recently-released “Sprout Social Index, Edition XVII: Accelerate” report showed that 90 percent of consumers will purchase from brands they follow on social media.
“For marketers, this is an opportunity to demonstrate how social positively influences all parts of the business and why a brand’s competitive advantage lives on social,” the report suggested.
55 percent of marketers said they used social data for understanding their target audience, while 48 percent used it to develop creative content, and 39 percent for supporting other departments, the report showed.
Only 26 percent of marketers said they used social data to foster connections with customers, however, and just 10 percent said they used the data to inform business decisions.
“88 percent of marketers agree their social strategy positively influences their bottom line,” the research concludes.
The value of social data has generally increased over time, and the new Sprout Social study bears this out, revealing that 47 percent of marketers consider social a resource that influences strategy for multiple organizational teams, while 46 still see it as strictly a marketing resource, with eight percent viewing it as an organization-wide resource for business intelligence.
Something as seemingly simple as responding quickly to customer questions can be very important in brand purchase decisions. 47 percent of consumers said that responding to customer service questions in a timely manner was the top way brands could get them to buy and forgo competitors.
Nearly as important among consumers were brands that demonstrate an understanding of what consumers want and need.
“Nine out of 10 consumers will buy from brands they follow on social, while 86% will choose that brand over a competitor,” the Sprout Social report data showed.
Given the importance customers place on speedy response times from brands, it’s easy to see how the new Sprout Social data indicated that “78 percent of consumers agree that social media is the fastest and most direct way to connect with a brand — and consumers want their voices heard.”
When it comes to sharing feedback about a product or service, after social media, consumers turn to e-mail and a brand’s website (18 percent for each), followed closely by review websites, and just 11 percent prefer calling a brand’s customer service phone number, according to the report data.
Even for reaching brands about customer service issues or questions, most consumers (33 percent) prefer social media, followed by customer service (24 percent), e-mail (23 percent), and just nine percent prefer using a company’s website for such questions.
“44 percent of consumers will unfollow a brand on social because of poor service, putting a damper on brands’ growth goals,” the report warned.
The Sprout Social study surfaces a fascinating distinction between what consumers and marketers believe makes for best-in-class social media performance.
The most important factor among consumers — at 47 percent — was brands that offer strong customer service, while that was only the sixth most important factor to marketers, at 35 percent.
2 — Social Will Drive Post-Pandemic B2B Customer Engagement
According to Ascend2 and Wpromote’s newly-released 2021 State of B2B Digital Marketing report, the number one digital marketing trend B2B brands are prioritizing is the utilization of new social platforms.
42 percent said new social platforms represented their top trend priority, followed by 34 percent who said virtual events, and 30 percent who noted that influencer marketing was a priority trend.
“Brands embraced new social platforms, virtual events, and influencer marketing strategies that can open the door to new opportunities to drive brand awareness and grow new audiences,” the report suggested.
A robust 68 percent of B2B marketers said they expected their digital marketing budgets to increase during the forthcoming year, with 26 percent seeing a significant budget increase ahead, according to the report data.
When it comes to driving revenue, 57 percent of B2B marketers saw social media as the most effective digital marketing channel, followed by content marketing and email, each at 47 percent.
Reinforcing the notion supported by the other research we’ve examined, the Ascend2 and Wpromote data showed that social media was the area of digital customer experience that had the most impact on overall strategic success, according to 57 percent of respondents — ahead of website optimization’s 47 percent and paid advertising’s 42 percent.
“Whatever social platforms you use as a B2B marketer, if you prioritize the time and resources to add new social platforms to your mix, you increase the opportunity to build new audiences and further engage with your existing audience,” Todd Lebo, CEO at Ascend2 told me. “Newer platforms that B2B should consider are TikTok, Clubhouse, and Twitter Spaces,” Lebo added.
We’ve taken a look at how B2B marketers can utilize Twitter Spaces in “On-Target: What’s New With Twitter For B2B Marketers In 2021,” Clubhouse in “How B2B Brands Can Boost Confidence in Livestream Video, Podcast and Clubhouse Marketing,” and other new social platforms in “How B2B Marketing Influencers Are Finding Success On New Social Channels.”
The most successful B2B marketers have also tended to inform their CX strategy by including other departments — a structure that less successful marketers don’t tend to utilize.
Bringing many of these trends and tactics together, account-based marketing (ABM) — or even account based experiences (ABX), as our CEO Lee Odden recently explored in “Is ABX the Next Evolution of B2B Marketing?” — is increasingly used by the most successful B2B marketers.
43 percent of the most successful B2B marketers already have a working ABM strategy in place, and 30 percent are actively implementing one, the Ascend2 and Wpromote data showed.
“To do ABM well, you need to bend the sales odds in your favor. The best way to bend the odds is to utilize customer data you collect over time and deliver a seamless customer experience (CX).” — Ruth Stevens @RuthPSteven Click To Tweet
3 — Social Drives B2B Customer Experience Personalization
B2B brands are increasing finding success in delivering more personalized CX through social channels.
The digital experiences customers crave can be crucial for building brand affinity, as some 80 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by Salesforce said that these experiences are every bit as important as a firm’s actual products or services.
Brand storytelling helps build more memorable digital experiences, as Microsoft’s Miri Rodriguez has explored, which I outlined earlier this year in “Microsoft’s Miri Rodriguez on How B2B Marketers Are Embracing Empathy For Better Customer Storytelling.”
“Storytelling isn’t the mere telling of story, it’s the intentional design of story structure, attributes and elements that conjure emotion, drive inclusion and lead with empathy.” — Miri Rodriguez @MiriRod Click To Tweet
Some 68 percent of businesses in the Salesforce survey said that they expected brands to demonstrate empathy, but only 37 percent said that they were experiencing it — a sentiment Rodriguez shared when she noted that, “Brands want to transact with people who are showing high levels of empathy.”
Ryan Higginson, vice president and UK/ROI Country Leader at Pitney Bowes, sees a future that includes better customer experiences that go beyond the mere algorithmic.
“B2B decision makers want humanized, personalized, helpful and relevant experiences to reduce complexity and save them time,”Higginson recently noted. “They want businesses to anticipate their requirements beyond the ‘You liked that, now try this’ algorithm. The more B2B organizations get to know their clients at a personal level, the better the relationship becomes and the greater the customer experience,” he added.
A McKinsey study revealed that 97 percent of B2B buyers said that they would use an end-to-end self-serve digital model to make a purchase, with most being comfortable doing so while spending $50K or more.
The pandemic has brought about a shift among B2B buyers, who have grown more comfortable with digital self-service and omni-channel interactions.
LinkedIn’s* State of Sales Report 2021 noted that trust in a brand’s product or service was consistently a top factor in influencing purchases among buyers, and the 2020 version of the report showed that some 75 percent of B2B buyers were particularly influenced by social media, with 84 percent of senior executives utilizing social media to support buying decisions.
We dug into the shift to executive influence in B2B marketing in “Brandfluence – Why Growing Executive Influence is Essential for B2B Marketing,” and also shared 20 tips for driving executive credibility efforts in “20 Ways to Build B2B Executive Credibility and Thought Leadership.”
Reach New B2B Marketing Heights With A Social & CX Mix
There’s no need to make a leap of faith when you have data-backed research informing your digital marketing strategy.
By using social media to drive customer experience personalization and to help B2B brands meet rising customer expectations, B2B marketers will achieve greater levels of post-pandemic B2B customer engagement.
We hope that our look at recent report and survey data will help inform your own B2B marketing efforts as we move ahead towards 2022.
Crafting award-winning B2B marketing with a creative mixture of social media, influence, and memorable digital customer experiences takes considerable time and effort, which is why many firms choose to work with a top digital marketing agency such as TopRank Marketing. Contact us today and let us know how we can help, as we’ve done for businesses ranging from LinkedIn, Dell and 3M to Adobe, Oracle, monday.com and others.
* LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.