Long sales cycles. Complex purchasing decisions. A laser-focus on ROI. On its head, B2B social media strategy seems much more serious — and far less frivolous — than its consumer-oriented marketing cousin. But as traditional B2B marketing went digital, a latency around social media remained. We couldn’t help but wonder… why?
Many industry-defining B2B brands have not only embraced social, but have completely changed the game with innovative social strategies. So we set out to determine how B2B industry leaders drive value for their brands on social media, and pinpoint what the rest of the pack can learn from them.
To get at these questions, we used the TrackMaven digital analytics platform to analyze 12 months of social media content from 316 leading B2B brands across five key social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. Overall, our analysis included a grand total of 508,060 social media posts and over 100 million social interactions. The 316 brands featured in our analysis include the leading B2B brands in the Global 500 and B2B leaders on social media as identified by the TrackMaven platform across 17 industries.
In short, the findings in our report, the 2016 Social Media Impact Report: B2B Industry Edition, point to what works (and what doesn’t) for the best B2B brands in your industry. Which B2B brands outperform the rest of the pack? And which social networks really drive results for brands in each sector? Let’s take a look.
Which industry has the best B2B social media strategy?
Let’s start with a view of the complete B2B landscape on social media in one summary graph from the report. The graph below plots the average follower growth, average engagement ratio, and median social media audience size for B2B brands by industry across 2015.
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In a nutshell, you should aspire to land in the top right of this graph. Score high on the y-axis (follower growth) but low on the x-axis (content engagement), and your brand is growing but not engaging your audience. Score high on the x-axis but low on the y-axis, and your audience is interacting with your brand on social, but not bringing anyone new to the table.
So which B2B industries excel on social media? Here are just a few of the key takeaways:
- Biotech, engineering, and financial services brands are in the social media sweet spot. Brands in these industries have both substantial audience growth and high content engagement on social media, indicating impactful social content. The financial services industry’s 81.77 percent average follower growth per brand is especially impressive given the industry’s large median social following.
- Machinery manufacturers are adept at growing their audiences. Across the B2B landscape, brands in the machinery sector see the highest social media audience growth, with average annual follower growth across all five major networks of 129.02 percent. Engaging content is a correlated factor; social media content from machinery brands is ahead of the B2B pack, as indicated by its high engagement.
- Biotech brands know how to engage audiences. Across the B2B landscape, biotech brands have the most engaged social media audiences with an average engagement ratio of 12.46. Financial services brands are a distant second at 9.94
- Are software brands in a social media bubble? Software brands see fantastic social media growth — up 82 percent of total followers across 2015, on average — but the worst content engagement with a 2.62 engagement ratio. Is the allure of Silicon Valley attracting followers to top software brands without the content to back it up?
How to create a B2B social media strategy that works
Our analysis points to a major contradiction in B2B brand popularity. If you look at brand popularity based on follower count, then LinkedIn is the big B2B winner. Overall, B2B brands have the largest audiences on LinkedIn, according to our research. The median social media audience size for B2B brands is:
- 109,000 followers on LinkedIn;
- 34,000 page likes on Facebook;
- 18,000 followers on Twitter;
- 3,000 followers on Instagram;
- and 420 followers on Pinterest.
This finding probably comes as no surprise. After all, LinkedIn is B2B marketers’ social channel of choice. It’s used by 94% of B2B marketers, and the 10 most-liked brands on LinkedIn are all B2B brands. But is this a case of a self-fulfilling social media prophecy? I’m a B2B brand, therefore LinkedIn is my primary social channel?
Our research indicates that this might be the case — and it’s likely holding B2B brands back from newer, more impactful networks.
Let’s look at B2B brand popularity by a different parameter: content engagement. When we analyzed the average engagement ratio (number of interactions per post per 1,000 followers) for B2B brands on each social network, Instagram is by far the B2B powerhouse. The average engagement ratio for B2B brands is:
- 22.53 on Instagram;
- 15.88 on Pinterest;
- 5.99 on Facebook;
- 1.09 on LinkedIn;
- and 0.86 on Twitter.
We cover this finding (and many more) in detail in our report, but here’s the quick and dirty bottom line: Challenge the LinkedIn legacy effect for B2B brands. Explore newer, visual-oriented networks where there are high levels of engagement and less competition.
“Overall, B2B brands have the largest audience on LinkedIn — 36 times the median number of followers they have on Instagram. But B2B brands get 20 times more engagement on Instagram than on LinkedIn.”
Want to discover more opportunities for your B2B brand to stand out on social? Download the complete report on B2B social media strategy to learn which social networks drive the greatest impact for your peers, and see how your brand measures up against industry-specific benchmarks.