How B2B Companies Can Use Twitter to Make an Impact in 140 Characters
Over the last few months, I have conducted a qualitative assessment of 18 B2B Twitter accounts. This involved the evaluation of activity over a 3-6 months period of time (depending on the number of tweets sent each month). Research was my favorite while I was in graduate school, so I'm ashamed to admit that this was fun for me.
As of June 2013, Twitter has 232 million active users, so I know my research was not at all exhaustive. In fact, those 18 Twitter accounts are not a big enough sample of B2B accounts on Twitter. However, in light of the fact that 85% of B2B marketers use Twitter, I felt compelled to share some of my observations with you because several things continued to repeat themselves even across this tiny pool of B2B accounts.
The big takeaway is that B2B companies are using Twitter to a limited extent – at best, they are acting mainly as content curators; at worst, they are simply broadcasting content and failing to add any value. These corporate accounts seemed overly cautious and they demonstrate a limited understanding of Twitter’s potential as a platform to relate to and connect with key B2B publics. Still, several of these accounts have anywhere from 1,000 to 8,000 followers on Twitter. But my graduate professors always encouraged me to ask… So what? If most of those followers are not strategic for the company (or worse, bots!) then every tweet is a wasted effort and will not bring results that are aligned with the company’s business communications objectives.
Here is a short list of the biggest no-nos I observed throughout these assessments, as well as best practices B2B companies can implement in order to move their social media programs forward, in the direction of their business communications goals.
B2B Twitter No-Nos
- Publishing way too much content, especially at bad times
- Sharing content that is mostly by or about the company
- Sharing content about topics that are all over the place and not timely aligned with the company's message or strategy
- Not sharing third-party industry content with added-value commentary
- Sharing content that doesn’t address customer pain points
- Using a broadcast approach that doesn’t drive engagement
- Not sharing compelling visuals or other rich media that tell a story
- Using hashtags that don’t add context to tweets around industry trends
- No calls to action, but lots of rhetorical questions instead (Isn’t it annoying when someone asks a question they already know the answer to? Are they really asking for your opinion or just using the question as click-bait?)
- Using a one-way corporate vs. a unique brand voice
- Making few mentions of publications or influencers to drive engagement
- No RTs of other’s content or replies to mentions
Best Practices for B2B Companies on Twitter
Content Inventory. Invest some time to assess what “evergreen” content is currently available on your company blog or website that can be repurposed in light of new context and shared with key groups so as to amplify reach.
Twitter lists. Create Twitter lists for key groups or current and desired followers and spend 30 minutes to one hour at least three days per week to skim through to retweet and reply, even if influencers are not mentioning your company directly.
Industry hashtags. Monitor and leverage key industry hashtags when appropriate in order to remain part of searchable industry conversations and to leverage as social SEO.
Adding value. It is OK to share content by and about your company, as long as it is balanced by industry articles. When doing so, share rich media, photos (directly uploaded in order to display better on the channels), videos and blog content with the aim to add value to industry conversations, rather than solely promote your brand.
Engage Influencers. Share industry articles, mentioning influencers and publication when possible, and adding thoughtful/provocative commentary or follow-up questions to cultivate thought leadership and drive engagement.
Social voice. Share interesting data points, accolades, use cases, customer stories, etc. using a tone that is upbeat, refreshing and doesn’t feel like corporate speak or headlines. This voice should always remain aligned with strategic brand messaging.
Drive conversations. Vary your approaches for sharing content using calls to action, questions, data points, trivia, true/false, quizzes, etc. while still leveraging industry hashtags and sharing original and third-party content that is in line with the corporate communications strategy, themes and messages.
Practice balance. Find a balance between creating new content and sharing with the audiences that will help amplify its reach. Moreover, consider sharing individual content assets multiple times, using different approaches, based on follower personas.
Paid content. As you expand your owned content repository (blogs, infographics, eBooks, white papers, etc.) consider leveraging paid social ads (promoted tweets, sponsored Facebook posts, paid LinkedIn posts, etc.) in order to amplify the reach of your digital assets to highly targeted audiences.
Social monitoring. Consider adding the top 100 influencers participating in relevant industry conversations and those talking about your company to separate Twitter lists in order to monitor those groups more closely to interact with them on a more regular basis.
Empower Ambassadors. Transform corporate executives into Twitter ambassadors by establishing a corporate social media program that enables them to share thoughts around industry trends, breaking news and technology innovation in a refreshing way. RT from the corporate account to showcase your company’s leadership and industry thought leadership.