With more than a billion users, Facebook is the largest social network in the world. B2B companies don’t want to miss this potential either. The following tips and best practice examples show which strategic fundamentals are important.
Originally intended as a communication platform for private users, Facebook has also been offering companies the opportunity to present themselves for a few years now: With pages, advertisements, locations, applications and much more. Contact with end customers (B2C) is therefore no longer new territory for social media managers. But what about communication between companies (B2B)? It works better than many think.
For a long time, many B2B companies concentrated more on pure business networks such as XING. The reservations about the mainly privately used social platforms are often still very high. But behind every company there are ultimately people who communicate with each other via networks such as Facebook – that is, who can be contacted by companies and excited about their products and services.
Online communication has also played an increasingly important role in the B2B sector in recent years. The fear of contact in this branch is decreasing, the positive experiences of the decision makers reinforce this trend.
Website and search engine marketing have already established themselves as essential pillars of marketing and in some cases even assume the leading function for further communication measures. The use of social media platforms has also increased significantly in the B2B area. Experts assume that this development will even intensify in the future. At almost 60 percent, Facebook is the most frequently used social media platform in the B2B sector .
Anyone who asks Tobias Ilg, who is responsible for social media at Liebherr-International Deutschland GmbH, gets this confirmed with practical experience: “Today we have been active in social networks for almost a year and we receive up to 30 inquiries about our products, service or career opportunities every day Facebook and YouTube. The volume of conversations about our group of companies has increased significantly on the social web, especially the positive traffic, ”explains Ilg. The strong growth of fans confirms his company’s social media activities, and a corresponding expansion is planned.
B2C versus B2B communication
Anyone who designs a corresponding communication strategy for the social web should also know the differences between B2C and B2B communication.
The structure of the target group
First of all, the target group of B2B companies is usually structured differently than in the B2C area. Depending on the orientation, a company addresses specialists and experts from the respective industry. Of course, this also has an effect on the conversations: The fans of a B2B Facebook page often ask very detailed questions or discuss subject-specific problems.
For a social media manager, this means that they should be very well networked in the company and have in-depth specialist knowledge. In this way he can quickly answer complex questions or refer to the right contact person in the company. In this way, the trust can be built up, which is essential as the basis for long-term business relationships and the usually higher investments in the B2B area.
The address of the fans
Another difference is the direct approach to B2B fans. For many B2C companies, it is customary to say goodbye to the fans. Decision-makers in the B2B area have to weigh carefully here. Many companies therefore do not use direct approach when posting to all fans. When communicating with individual fans, many companies heard them. With business partners or applicants in particular, it is important to keep a certain distance and not to communicate too confidentially too quickly.
Complexity of the content
Due to the complexity of the products or services, the B2B content for Facebook should be prepared very clearly. Professional images can help with visualization. But authentic photos of fans can also be used well to show the variability of a product. Important: B2B companies do not have to describe or explain all the details precisely. A B2B Facebook post should clearly convey the USP as a teaser, but the detailed information can then be found on the linked company website.
Studies show that Facebook fans interact with a fan page especially on weekends and evenings – regardless of the industry. In contrast, communication in the B2B area usually takes place during traditional business hours, i.e. Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. B2B companies should therefore not post important content on a Friday afternoon, as the interaction rate is likely to be lower outside of traditional office hours.
Of course, the differences between B2C and B2B communication cannot be generalized. Every company has a different range of services and thus a different target group. Companies should find out and address their habits and preferences individually.
Success criteria for the social media strategy
In order to develop a long-term successful strategy for a Facebook page or group, the goals must first be clear. These can vary greatly depending on the product and service. In the long term, corporate success is the top priority of most strategies. In the short and medium term, however, social media strategists should define specific and measurable sub-goals such as:
- Increase awareness of the company and the brand
- Maintain the image and generate branding effects
- Strengthen customer loyalty and support
- Support search engine optimization (social signals)
- Build a knowledge platform and a feedback channel
- Recruiting qualified personnel (employer branding)
- Generate traffic on the company website
- Increase customer inquiries and orders
Correctly delimit the target groups from one another
Depending on the goal, it is then a matter of defining the right target group and addressing them individually. Basically, there are five target groups in B2B communication: employees, applicants, (potential) customers, multipliers (e.g. journalists or bloggers) and other business partners (e.g. suppliers).
Many companies do not concentrate on one target group in their B2B Facebook communication, but address a combination of several target groups. Then when defining the measures, B2B companies should make it clear which target group has which priority and whether the focus of the activities is on a specific target group.
Perform analysis and monitoring
Before starting the derivation of the next steps, a social media manager should also explain their own industry (competitors, trends and much more) and their own company (such as strengths and weaknesses, budget, human resources, etc.) within the social Analyze the media environment. If you observe the competitors who are already active on Facebook, you will find it easier to assess relevant subject areas and the time required for community management.
With the help of social media monitoring, communication measures on critical topics can be prepared – an important prerequisite for being able to react quickly to negative Facebook posts from fans. Towards the end of the strategic considerations, the social media manager then has to derive the right measures, such as the postings, the integration of job offers via an application or the implementation of an employee competition.
When defining goals and developing a strategy, B2B companies should determine suitable key figures for the success of their Facebook activities. Because only with them can you actually determine the return on investment (ROI) for your social media activities and thus put your success in numbers.
Successful B2B communication in practice
The following two best practice examples show how B2B companies can use Facebook successfully. They exemplarily show how they can support their corporate communication and marketing as well as address junior staff. An article on t3n.de provides further examples .
ROPA Maschinenbau: Brand communication in good Bavarian style
The Lower Bavarian agricultural machinery manufacturer for harvesting, cleaning and loading (sugar) beets, ROPA, has been active on Facebook since 2011 and has over 17,000 fans here. Authentic and uncomplicated communication is particularly popular with (potential) customers.
For example, a product video explains the operation of a machine in Bavarian language and is a useful addition to the company’s services. The varied combination of company information and unusual photos from international locations shows that ROPA is a competent regional business partner.
Krones AG: Branding and recruiting as a regional employer
Krones AG is the world market leader for filling systems and a supplier of packaging systems. Since 2010, the company has now gained around 75,000 fans on Facebook. The Krones AG fan page is one of the larger B2B pages in the German-speaking region . Krones does an excellent job of presenting the dry topic in a varied way with pictures and videos.
In addition, users can take a look behind the scenes and get to know the employees of the large corporation. A trainee blog integrated in Facebook shows young people, for example, which daily tasks they can expect in an apprenticeship and thus also supports the company’s recruiting. This authentic communication conveys a personable image as a regional employer and also as a competent business partner.
Facebook is also an important and successful communication channel for customers and future employees in the B2B sector. The examples mentioned show this very clearly. However, Facebook is only one way of supporting a company’s online communication. A good website and search engine marketing should definitely be the basis of a comprehensive online marketing strategy that goes hand in hand with classic marketing activities.