How should social media be used in a B2B company?

Our experience at priint

"Why should I do that?"...

"That's what the marketing department is for!"...

"Where am I supposed to find the time?"...

From the outside, social media endeavors appear to be a fairly simplistic process handled by the marketing department. However, this statement couldn't be further from reality. A successful social media campaign is complex, very involved and most certainly is not a one-way street of information. It has everything to do with personal contact, reacting and exchanging information, and even has to take into account engaging with a wide-range of personalities. One person or department cannot successfully implement social media for a company solely by themselves.
Just as each person is different, the circles of acquaintances and the personal networks behind them are also very diverse. This is especially important from a professional perspective. To achieve success in the social media realm, it takes a conscious effort from the entirety of the team to bring visibility to the company in a digital world full of distraction.

Why should a B2B company use social media?

The answer to this question depends on the goals of the company as a whole and can obviously vary. However, one of the goals of almost any company is always growth. Whether it's sales, expanding the customer base, or increasing the number of partner companies - you can only create growth by gaining awareness. A company is basically static and does not have a naturally given awareness. In many cases, a company only gains notoriety by the people in the company and their circle of acquaintances.
An example of this is the story of Nike: The company only gained awareness and ultimately became a global athletic brand giant through just a couple of people- former competitive athlete, Phil Knight and his coach, Bill Bowermann. The coach designed the first Nike shoes simply for his athlete so that he had a lightweight, but also air-permeable shoe. If Phil Knight had not worn the shoes and set some impressive records with it, other athletes and coaches would have never taken notice to it. Through word of mouth and proven success, people wanted what they had created- a very fast pair of sneakers. Their explosive organic growth ultimately led to Nike providing the worlds fastest runners with "the most comfortable shoes" at the 1972 Summer Olympics, and since then they've only grown.

What did it look like for us in the beginning?

Here at priint, we've had social media profiles for a while: At the beginning of 2019, we had Twitter account, a more or less maintained company LinkedIn profile, some personal LinkedIn profiles, as well as YouTube and Xing channels. We had a good base of followers on Twitter, primarily through personal contacts and some irregular posts from events we were involved with. On LinkedIn and Xing, however, this was certainly not the case. Additionally, our personal profiles were only partially maintained and we were rather passive - reading, but not writing anything ourselves or reacting to posts in any significant way.

Why is social media everyone's business and not just for sales & marketing?

In most companies, it's not just the sales department that has contact with current and potential customers. Individuals from several departments within a company often interact with clients. (For example, a company's support team, that helps solve issues and often communicates directly with the end user.) Likewise, it takes more than just the sales and marketing teams to grow a company's brand awareness and increase its digital footprint. When it comes to social media exposure and ultimately business growth, it truly needs to be an "all hands on deck" approach.
The best work a marketing team can do in terms of social media is to provide resources to colleagues in terms of support and content, and to set the standard of communication within the company. If the marketing team can engage their own colleagues to interact on social media and help expand its exposure by sharing ideas (e.g. on LinkedIn and Twitter), the team has succeeded and the company as a whole will benefit.

What did we do at priint? What approach did we take?

Our marketing team took a systematic approach to this. Before we started looking at private profiles, we took inventory: What profiles do we have? What events should we share? What content can we distribute that will be engaging to help expand our audience?
Additionally, we became proactive and began responding to posts and making our team aware of posts, especially within our own personal profiles. We improved at regularly posting something new on our company profiles. On LinkedIn and Xing we focused on expanding our follower base. On Linkedin alone, we doubled the number of our followers, and our engagement rate grew to an average of 6-7%. As a benchmark, if you look at some blog posts about the average engagement rate on LinkedIn, anything above 2% is considered good.

How do you show the importance of social media to the internal team?

As a first step, it should be established which company goals are being pursued with social media and why the platform is suitable. These goals must then be converted into measurable targets. As a caveat, one must never forget that many things are subject to the trial & error principle, and this is especially true with social media: Sometimes it takes "throwing some darts at the board" and seeing which ones stick.
Another approach is to pay attention to what others in the industry are doing, but doing so cautiously. Having the mindset of, "others are doing the same thing and apparently something is working because otherwise they wouldn't continue to invest it" should not be a decisive point. Yes, it draws attention to the company, but it doesn't necessarily mean it can be done in the same way to align with our company's particular goals.
The commitment of team members within an organization is absolutely crucial for the success of the company's social media objectives. This is comparable to glossy brochures, in which a lot of time was invested to produce and bring them to the market to ultimately get them in the hands of potential customers. Today, what counts most is authenticity.
The best example is from Instagram and Adam Mosseri. As the CEO of Instagram, he's someone who's obviously interested in it, but oddly enough doesn't follow its account. Why? Because Instagram informs about current events and maybe product updates, but Adam Mosseri lists the possibilities with new features and the visions behind them.

What did we do to get better?

As a team, we presented figures that we could use to show that social media does in fact work and make an impact. We then had to get the commitment from the team to go all in and engage with it. We presented statistics, such as follower growth and click-through rate, to show that our topics were relevant and we were exponentially growing our audience. Unfortunately, over time this began to stagnate. However, we realized when we announced events like webinars or blog posts featuring people from within our priint team, the numbers immediately improved. The result: we knew we had to get brand ambassadors for priint from within our own ranks- primarily those who already have a network, (e.g. our CEO & founder Horst Huber).
The kick-off for our team was learning directly by an external trainer. At that time we collectively agreed to commitment to embracing social media and its challenges and rewards. The training led to the team gaining more confidence in dealing with social media as a whole, particularly those in marketing & sales roles, as well as our global CEOs. Through regular appointments with the trainer, as well as an evaluation of our profiles and occasional tips & tricks, we have consistently kept our focus on social media as a useful marketing tool to grow our organization.

Interim summary

We first overhauled the company profiles until around mid-2020 before integrating the personal profiles. We implemented a more consistent look, posted regular content that we can share, defined accountability within the team, and looked at how the profiles were evolving. Once we had those things in order, we could take the next step to work on growth. Specifically, that meant putting the personalities front and center and building a kind of owned content creator or ambassador of priint with a commitment to actively participate.
Where we are today, what our next steps are and our plans for the near future will follow in the next blog post.