The 21 Top Social Networks (and Content Distribution Channels) for B2B Marketing
“Don't bunt. Aim out of the ballpark.” ― David Ogilvy
Whether you’re doing content marketing for apps or for the next cloud-based SAAS solution, you’re facing the same challenge as the rest of us—do more with less.
And with so much content being created, and so many social networks available to us, as B2B marketers we can be left pulling our hair out wondering what channels we should focus on to drive new business. We end up asking ourselves questions like “does Facebook make sense for a B2B marketing program—and if so—HOW?” or “Is Twitter dead yet?”
And with new social networks popping up all the time, we end up with the paradoxical problem of too many choices—and what to do where. And since we’re strapped for resources and time, we need to choose the right platforms for our business to grow. To that end, we’ve spent a bit of time researching the current field of social networks and related communication platforms, and have culled together the following list.
To add a little more value, we’ve added a few mid-level to advanced tips for marketers for each social network.
Facebook has grown into a virtual playground for B2C marketers, with complex and dynamic advertising tools to help reach new consumers. It’s only been recently that Facebook has really provided quality tools for B2B marketers. For us, the best way to maximize marketing campaigns and boost leads is to consider using Facebook advertising.
Facebook advertising has the ability to do two important things:
- Reach previous customers that may not yet be your fans on Facebook, and
- Target new customers using intelligent targeting tools.
By uploading your current email marketing database to a Facebook advertising campaign, you can reach customers even if they haven’t liked your page. To do this,
- Go to your Facebook business page (make sure you’re logged in).
- In the header area, click on the three gray dots > Suggest Page.
- Here you can upload a variety of mail lists to Facebook.
- Choose your file, and select who you want to market to, and you’re off to the races.
Additionally—and separately, you can find new B2B clients through Facebook Advertising by using filter tools that allow you to target people easily by:
- Job Title
- New Job
For B2B marketers, using this approach to market gated content to help build your email marketing list is critical.
Did you know you don’t need any followers to start using Twitter?
Just like Facebook, Twitter allows advertisers to upload a list of emails directly into the system, and connects you with Twitter handles that match your list.
One of the great things about Twitter is that anyone can use it, and from just about anywhere on the planet. This includes your employees, so encourage them to engage with your brand when applicable. Additionally, you should encourage them to retweet company posts, as well as create their own inspired content.
Lastly, be sure to brand your Twitter page effectively by pinning a relevant Tweet at the top of your page. Provide a link to your subscriber list in your bio space. This is important real estate and the first thing people will see on your page.
According to a 2016 report by CMI, 94 percent of B2B marketers are using LinkedIn to distribute their content—that’s more than any other social media channel—making it arguably one of the top social channels for content markters. The reason so many of us are focusing on LinkedIn is because LinkedIn Pulse, a publishing platform once reserved for top influencers, has opened its doors to the general (English-speaking) public: some 230 million users.
Currently, there are more than 1 million long-form posts on Pulse, where B2B marketers can now share their expert content in a platform packed with potential clients. With tools available to help direct content to the right readers, this publishing platform is extremely useful.
According to a report by the Content Marketing Institute, 76 percent of B2B marketers utilize video in their marketing strategies; and a video with the right tags, labels, and description could rank higher than written content on Google.
According to this article by Dane Golden, “YouTube has a significant edge in long-tail discoverability – which is where most of the action happens when people research products or services on the path to making a buying decision.” In short, YouTube is awesome as part of your SEO and content marketing strategy.
In addition to focusing on long-tail keywords, you should brand your YouTube channel. This means optimizing your YouTube landing page with a customized, themed banner, unique channel icon, and links to your subscriber list, as well as the company website.
Expert tip: Use a video on your homepage that best summarizes your brand’s ideology. And don’t just post your video and hope people find it. Use the other social channels to make sure your content gets in front of your ideal buyer.
If you’re putting video content on YouTube, is Vimeo really necessary? Depending on the goal of your content, Vimeo offers some very specific advantages over YouTube, including custom URL, better video quality, and improved branding opportunities.
When it comes to adding video to a homepage or special landing page, Gina Kearney from Concept 5 says it best: “Vimeo is the best solution to capture attention and communicate your brand message without the YouTube clutter, and that’s what you want on a company homepage.”
YouTube videos are distracting because of YouTube branding, advertisements, and additional content at the end of a video. Vimeo clears out the clutter so your content shines.
One way to own different social channels is branding, including visuals, content, and even the URL. To customize your Vimeo URL, just go to the settings page for the video. By customizing the URL, you’ll get increased longevity from your content, especially if it’s a catchy, memorable title.
LinkedIn purchased this unique presentation tool in 2012 to help proliferate professional content on the Web. What was once only available through paid features is now free to everyone, which means analyzing your content’s reach and durability with Slideshare’s analytics is a snap.
One powerful way to own Slideshare and make it a powerful content marketing tool is to think outside the box of basic presentations. Michael Passanante says, “Slideshare is great for hosting PDFs, so think white papers, infographics, and other high value content. The more time you take to thoughtfully prepare your presentation material and make it look good, the better chance it has of standing out on Slideshare.”
What’s more, Slideshare has made it easy to share your content across most media channels, and because Slideshare content ranks in search results, it’s easier for people to find your content when they’re looking for it.
There’s still a bit of a debate about whether or not Pinterest could become a top social channel for B2B marketers. Andrea Fryrear says we should practice caution when using Pinterest and make sure the ROI is there before jumping in headfirst. This consideration actually applies to any channel.
With the addition of the “Buy” button available on Pinterest images, many marketers are now trying to figure out the best strategies to sell via pin boards. If this technique does not seem viable for you as a B2B marketer, you might simply use Pinterest to give clients a glimpse of your products, happy customers, or your company culture. We actually show off some of our marketing work on our own Pinterest marketing board.
Every business has a story to tell; tell your story with pictures on Instagram.
Instagram is one of the least common social media platforms among B2B marketers, with less than 30 percent using the technology. However, its use between 2015 and 2016 increased by 5 percent, which means there is a lot of room to grow.
If you’re not ready to start advertising on Instagram, which has similar targeting features to Facebook and Twitter, then try using it to showcase your company culture, show off your work, highlight outstanding employees, and give an inside look into what’s going on behind the scenes.
If you’re looking for a way to engage users in real time, then Periscope is a great option. According to this article on CMO Digital Forum, “Periscope seeks to answer the same question Twitter posed when it first launched: ‘What are you doing right now?’”
Periscope is one of the best ways to share product launches and demos, as well as Q&A sessions with industry experts.
Said Cara McDonald, “So much of today’s content is mass produced and it often has a nice polished sheen to it. This is great for the perfectionists in us, but it can make your content smell like marketing. And when something smells like marketing… guess what, people stop listening.”
Periscope provides an intimate, unedited look at your content that’s perceived as highly authentic. Andrew Jennings of Ketchum suggests having a “call to action in the title so people know what to do or ask when they open your broadcast”.
Similar to Periscope, Meerkat is a live streaming app, but it has built-in functionality that helps connect content directly to Twitter. If you’re not sure which live streaming app to choose for your company’s needs, this article does a solid job of detailing the pros and cons of each.
Use Meerkat to generate hype about upcoming events, go behind the scenes, or use it to capture other intriguing content. Meerkat also offers an authentic vantage point for users to observe your brand and company culture.
You can communicate a lot in six seconds. Large B2B brands like HP and Cisco have used Vine to effectively showcase abstract product benefits and target specific online audiences respectively.
What’s more, Vine is a great channel to interact with influencers, or people and businesses that might have a larger social media presence than you. Vine is a great way to get their attention with a creative, 6-second video.
Try incorporating a revealing, branded Vine video into your existing product launch strategy to create added buzz for an already anticipated launch. Keep it simple and keep it light to be most effective.
Should you determine that you’ve got a B2B audience for Snapchat (Forbes puts the median age at 18), explore how you can use this medium’s abbreviated shelf life to broaden your marketing strategy.
According to Marketo, Snapchat is a great place to promote contests, sneak peeks, coupons, behind-the-scenes content, team member introductions, and targeted videos.
Unlike other types of campaigns, “the good thing about Snapchat is you can tell pretty quickly what types of content is working and isn’t, so it can be quite easy to pivot to a new concept without feeling much pain,” says Liz Froment. “This is why more B2B specific brands are making the move towards exploring this channel as a new way to find and connect with potential buyers on social media.”
Before you start marketing on Reddit, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the way the forum works, and the types of users engaging on the site. In fact, Reddit and other content sharing platforms can be amazing places to get your content marketing strategy ignited. Start by subscribing to subreddits (categories) that might work for your business and see what users are talking about.
Just like all social media channels, the content you post on Reddit should be unique and specific to your audience. But, unlike other channels, the repercussions of posting poorly made content to Reddit can be severe.
According to Marketing Land, “There are a few subreddits that exist specifically to call out marketers or big brands that try to promote themselves on Reddit and fail to do so in a subtle, believable manner…you’ll want to make sure you spend some time posting content unrelated to your business to ensure that your account resembles a normal Redditor’s account.”
Ross Hudgens says, “In the right hands, StumbleUpon traffic can be an extremely valuable traffic source – a method of building brand awareness, growing followers, and attracting links.”
Use StumbleUpon’s built-in URL shortening system to grow your audience and allow for easy distribution across additional social media channels. The StumbleUpon toolbar easily lets users share updates to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Expert tip: Top XX lists do amazing things for content on StumbleUpon.
StumbleUpon also offers an advertising program that allows businesses to create powerful segments with additional control to focus on niche demographics based on age, gender, location, browser, special interests, and much more.
Google Plus is bursting with B2B industry influencers trying to stand out. As a result, this platform is ideal for staying current on industry trends and exchanging fresh ideas.
B2B Marketing offers six ideas that may prove useful to your Google+ endeavors: 1) set up Google+ Business Listing for added visibility, 2) use circles for segmenting connections, 3) join and create communities to network, 4) start collections of categorized content, 5) broadcast hangouts for engaging with followers, and 6) share Google Photos for telling stories.
One great way to leverage Google+ for market research is to use the search bar at the top of the Google+ page, and enter words and phrases that are relevant to your topic or business. This will show you results that include other Google+ users, communities and public posts that are relevant to your search.
Ello is an ad-free alternative to most social networks like Facebook or Twitter, and includes many similar features. Although brands are allowed on Ello, users are extremely savvy when it comes to recognizing paid content; moreover they can easily opt-out of seeing this type of content if it becomes a problem.
If you choose to incorporate Ello into your digital strategy, keep the tone and appearance of your content as personal and authentic as possible. Post content that provides an insider look into your company, details about a specific employee, or special milestones as the company develops. Don’t try a hard sell on these users—it just doesn’t work.
While it’s unclear whether Medium will become a top social platform or just another publishing platform, anyone, including B2B marketers, can use it to post content. Content on Medium ranges in style, tone, format, and length; virtually anything goes—but the focus is on quality. In fact, the platform self proclaims that Medium is “A place where the measure of success isn’t views, but viewpoints.”
In addition, “Medium supports third party embeds,” said Kevan Lee. “Meaning you can share a URL from a favorite service and the media will be automatically included (in a smooth design) inside your post.”
In particular, Medium is great for making long-form content extremely social. It’s hard to make white papers or long-form text appealing to your audience—especially when they want to engage, but thanks to Medium, it’s a lot easier to do so. Social media and content guru Jay Bear leverages Medium to drive content that is more conversational—including controversial viewpoints like “Why Social Success is Now a Volume Play.”
In addition to sharing your content with the world, you can use social media when searching for new creative talent. Say hello to Dribbble, a showcase of web designers, developers, illustrators, and other creative types.
Use Jourrnal to peruse the works of various artists. It publishes interviews with popular Dribbble users and has great suggestions and tips for people working in similar fields. In addition, PSDDD is an amazing resource of free, high-quality content produced by Dribbble users.
Besides learning new tricks and getting inspired, you can visit Dribbble to discover your next creative rock star to design your next bit of content.
Currently, the Digg community is made up of young, early adopters with a strong loyalty to the Digg platform. As is the case with Reddit, any content on Digg should be carefully planned and unique to the platform.
In fact, Digg helps some brands create content that works exclusively within the Digg community. David Weiner, Digg’s Creative Director elaborates: “These are the types of sponsored content deals that we tend to love around here. By working with a forward-thinking brand, we were able to hire good writers/illustrators to create great work that people actually wanted to engage with.”
Once you set up a profile and start sharing content, it’s game on. And you need a community (like Twitter and Facebook) to get your content noticed and… Dugg. To grow your Digg community, digg and comment on content that relates to your business—and your interests.
And, just like with Twitter, follow people who are relevant to you—and ideally they’ll follow you back. You can even find accounts that are on Google, Twitter and Facebook.
Delicious is the world’s largest social bookmarking site, allowing users to save and mange their content from one centralized platform. However, in addition to helping individual users manage content, it also makes sharing content extremely easy.
To be most effective on Delicious, keep your content consistent and update it regularly. If you generally talk about industry news, for example, stick to that category and keep the content coming.
Also, as you probably gathered, headlines play a huge role in how content is discovered on Delicious. Write catchy, attention grabbing headiness to entice your readers, as well as new eyes looking for fresh content.
According to Pam Neely, there are several attractive reasons B2B marketers should be blogging on Tumblr. In no particular order, it gives businesses the opportunity to repurpose content, it helps drive traffic to your site, it’s a great alternative to WordPress, and it can handle all kinds of embedded content.
What’s more, if your goal is to gain more visibility on Yahoo, consider using Tumblr’s sponsored posts. According to Tumblr’s site: “Sponsored Posts are just like regular Tumblr posts—just way more visible. They’re also targetable by gender, location, and interest. And can be syndicated to Yahoo for added reach.”
Tumblr also launched a new format recently called the sponsored day ad, which sits on top of users’ dashboards for 24 hours.
Choosing the Right Social Platforms for You
With any luck, you’ve got a solid understanding of each social network, and our hair will grow back in time. Not all these channels will perform perfectly for every business; it’s up to you to choose, analyze, and optimize the best ones for your brand.
So how do you choose the right social platform for your business?
First, you need to understand your buyers. Ask yourself questions like:
- Who are my ideal buyers?
- Where do they spend their time online?
- Where do they go for information on their industry?
- Where do they go to get help online?
- What platforms are inline with my brand?
- How much time do I have to create and distribute content on different platforms?
Typically, B2B marketers are able to invest in 3 – 4 social platforms per person managing them. So if you have a team of two, you might tackle 6 – 7. An old Ad Man I used to work with once told me that it was better to own one channel and own it well, than it was to spread myself too thin across many. This counts for social media. Pick a few that work for your brand, and spend your time there. Don’t try to manage all of them because they’re cool. You’ll only exhaust yourself, and be completely ineffectual.
Do you agree with our list of top social networks? Which ones do you use effectively for B2B marketing? Do you have any we missed and you’d add?
And if you’re looking to save more time with content marketing, check out our recent post.