Facebook for B2B marketers? Should that really be a priority in 2021? Can’t you just do some advertising and publish some automated organic posts?
No. Because while Facebook might have a reputation for not being for B2B marketers, nobody seems to have told B2B marketers that. Or told regular people, either: 74% of people use Facebook for professional purposes. 46% of B2B marketers use it, too – more than the 33% of B2B marketers who use LinkedIn. And, of course, Facebook still dwarfs every other platform in terms of the size of its user base and how much time they spend on the platform.
So yes, Facebook is an essential element of any B2B social media strategy in 2021. But it’s time to evolve our thinking about how to use it as marketers. What can be done on Facebook has gotten far more sophisticated.
We have new content formats like Stories and Lives, the opportunity to launch private Groups, or the ability to attract and convert customers via Messenger. We can host virtual events on Facebook, too. The days of just worrying about what to post to your page are gone; this is a platform that’s ready to be used in some very sophisticated ways.
So while we love LinkedIn – and Instagram’s a great opportunity – do not neglect Facebook for B2B social media marketing. If anything, you may have to be frugal about which Facebook B2B marketing tactics you decide to use.
We like these ten best.
Video is one of the mega trends of content in 2021 (as it was in 2020), and it’s especially powerful on social media. Personal connection is also a major theme.
“Lives” fuse both of these trends into a content format you need to consider, if not amplify in 2021.
Facebook, of course, isn’t the only social media platform for Lives. We’ve talked elsewhere LinkedIn’s Live feature, but that’s currently available only to people LinkedIn approves. Facebook’s Live feature is available to everyone – right now.
Doing a Facebook Live every week can become an excellent way to commit to creating video content. Even better, your Facebook Live can be republished on YouTube, published as a video on LinkedIn, and even a 10-minute Live can be chopped up into smaller, short video clips to use for social media posts.
Many business coaches pad out their email newsletter content by either announcing their next Facebook Live, or linking to a Facebook Live they did earlier. There’s no reason a B2B company couldn’t do this, too – just as many B2B companies are already using their email updates to announce podcasts, blog posts, webinars, or any other content format.
Here’s the best part, too: Your Lives don’t actually have to be live. Tools like OneStream let you upload a pre-recorded video and schedule it to play as if it was live.
Using “Unpolished” Images
Images on Facebook have one job: To stop the scroll so your Facebook ads and posts get more engagement. And the trend right now on Facebook to stop the scroll is… to stop the polished stock photo images.
This may be hard for a lot of B2B marketers. After putting so much effort into a polished, consistent brand image, it may be tough to post an unprofessional photo of two colleagues talking in the company kitchen. Or maybe posting something like that won’t be hard for you, the marketer, but it will be hard to get your C-Suite to agree to this new approach.
If you expect pushback, consider some testing. That way any change you make will be data-driven. It’s one thing to say “the trend is for more casual photos that look like someone’s friend posted them,” and an entirely other thing to say, “we’ve been testing our standard stock-photo style images versus more relaxed, looks-like-your-friend-posted-them images… and the friend posted images are getting three times the engagement rate.”
This “looks like your friend took the photo” trend applies to both Facebook ads and to Facebook organic posts. The good news is you’ll probably won’t have to pay staff photographer as much. The bad news is everybody in your office is going to have to be camera-ready more often. But given how used to Zoom we all are now, that’s probably not a big deal.
The iOS 14 Privacy Update
There’s no way to talk about Facebook right now without addressing the tsunami of change that is upon us. When Apple’s iOS 14 goes live, it will ask users if they want to opt-out of tracking.
This is what the prompts will look like:
It’s important to note that we don’t know how many people will agree to be tracked. We also need to remember that Apple devices aren’t the only way to use Facebook. But these new privacy controls are going to cut off a lot of tracking features. They will limit how much the Facebook pixel can learn. This means the algorithm will have less data to optimize your ads with and thus your ads won’t perform as well.
Another real disappointment is that marketers won’t be able to create lookalike audiences anymore, which have been a staple of most B2B Facebook advertising strategies.
This is clearly a complex, uncertain, evolving issue. A lot has been written about it and a lot more will be written about it in the future. In terms of how to manage it, honestly, most Facebook ads managers I know are talking a lot about diversifying their traffic away from Facebook. That, too, has been a perennial issue with Facebook. But will the iOS 14 privacy issue be enough to finally drive marketers away from Facebook ads? We doubt it.
One other megatrend in social media is personalized communications. DMs, individual comments and replies – marketers have found that conversions happen more often when the conversation is “H2H” (human to human) rather than in response to a broadcast style messaging campaign or post.
Facebook Messenger is an especially effective tool to use for this trend of personalized messaging to engage and convert more of your social media following.
Of course, this personalized messaging is likely to be a bot. Bots can be set up relatively easily, or you can have a custom-programmed bot made for your company. That will cost more (of course).
Marketers also need to understand “the 24-hour rule.” This is that you can send messenger messages for free within 24 hours of a user interacting with your bot. Beyond that 24-hour window, the types of communications you can send are much more limited.
Because the restrictions – and the features – of Messenger change so quickly, it’s best for us to direct you to Facebook’s Messenger Platform Policy Overview so you can get the details yourself.
One notable exception to Facebook’s 24-hour rule is the “One-time Notification.” This lets a company ask any user if they can send a follow-up message when a certain condition is met (like an item is back in stock, or perhaps when a new feature the customer wanted has been implemented).
Here’s an example of how it can work:
Pages have to apply to use this type of messaging, as they have to apply to use a messenger bot at all. This is clearly not a simple or unregulated channel, but Messenger is an extremely popular app, and many marketers report radically higher engagement with Messenger bots than what they’ve been getting through email. There are also messaging assessment tools like Wynter that can give you detailed feedback on how a B2B audience views your messaging.
In other words, if you’ve got some budget, and even part of your customer base uses Messenger, this could well be worth some testing.
Whatever you decide to do, know that Messenger isn’t going to go away. Facebook is still making tweaks to it. The most recent occurred in August of last year in Facebook’s first step towards merging Instagram and Facebook’s chat systems.
Instagram users got this message:
So that’s the sign… that there’s a whole lotta change on the way.
I mentioned video in the first point in this article, but it is so important to social media in 20200 that it’s worth focusing on this in terms of content creation.
At least 20% of the posts you publish on social media should have a video element to them. Even if they’re just animated gifs. Maybe they’re clips from the Facebook Lives you’ve been doing. Maybe they’re video summaries of your latest blog post that you made with a tool like Lumen5.
If you’ve already adjusted your content mix to include at least 20% video, congratulations. You’re probably also enjoying the better engagement rates that video usually delivers.
Have you ever been poking around your competitors’ Facebook pages, and seen reviews their customers have left, or pleading posts asking for help? It doesn’t take a lot of time to find them. If you can’t find competitors who have been ignoring their Facebook customer service, check a few local businesses.
Even if we don’t think of social media as a channel for customer service, our customers do. And we either have an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with a customer by fixing a problem quickly, or we can lose that opportunity, and have them write one of those sad please for help that go forever unanswered on our Facebook page.
Note that this doesn’t have to be a task for the marketing department. All you need to do is set up a way for customer service to handle these requests.
Listening for Customer Sentiment
A “listening station” is a tool that monitors social media for any mention of your brand, products, events, or even your competitors’ brands, products, and events.
Most robust social media management tools include a social listening feature now, and it may be worthwhile to set this feature up for your brand on Facebook.
Even if you are staunchly uninterested in having a Facebook presence, setting up a listening station might give you valuable information about activity on the platform. It might give you a data-driven way to know if having a presence on Facebook is a good idea or not.
To Support Your Sales Team
I heard an interesting insight from a sales pro once. He said he always met people on LinkedIn and started his engagement with them there. But at a certain point, he would start trying to expand the channel. He would send them a friend request on Facebook. Typically, a week after they accepted the friend request, he’d close the sale.
Is your Sales team using Facebook? If they are using the platform to nurture leads and existing relationships, that’s a compelling reason to invest in a presence on the platform. And – of course – be sure to ask how they would like the company’s Facebook presence expanded. They may not know every marketing tactic that’s available to them, but if prospects are already messaging them as the primary way they communicate on the platform, that’s a clue about whether to invest in messaging, or Lives, or even Stories.
There’s been a lot written about the power of Sales and Marketing alignment, and for good reason. To be truly aligned, social media activities need to be coordinated as well.
This is not a typical content “format” or marketing tactic for a B2B firm, though there are some notable exceptions.
Groups aren’t just for chatting. Set up the expectations right and you should be able to convert your Group members into paying customers on a regular basis. Some Facebook Groups experts say they get dramatically better engagement and ROI from their Facebook group than from their email list, though clearly those results depend on which email list it is, and which Group.
Here’s one key best practice: Set up questions for your Facebook Group. A few careful questions can help a lot with the quality of the discussion on your group, and to set expectations for members’ experience.
You will probably also want to ask for an email address, even if you already have the person’s email address. It’s important to track who’s joining your Group and what might have prompted them to take the action.
Here’s an example of a detailed series of questions that Boeing’s employees, spouses and family page asks of anyone who joins:
We’ve written about how to use Instagram Stories for lead generation. Facebook Stories have some of the same features as Instagram Stories, but not all of them. Most notably, there are no highlights for Facebook Stories. Highlights are the circles near the top of an Instagram profile page. It’s a way for people to basically save their Stories so people can view them later. This is a critical feature, because without the highlights, your users will see your Stories once, then never again.
Fortunately, Facebook seems to have gotten the memo that Stories need a bit more reach and utility. This is true at least for most B2B marketers, who have to be laser-focused on driving not just leads, but Sales Qualified Leads or at least Marketing Qualified Leads.
Something interesting happened with Facebook and Stories in September of last year, though. Facebook started letting Instagram Stories be viewed on Facebook.
The only people who will be able to see your Instagram Stories on Facebook are your Instagram followers who’ve linked their Instagram and Facebook accounts. So this could be a smaller audience than your Facebook followers. But the shift now allows B2B marketers to leverage their Instagram Stories in a smart way.
It also allows marketers to repurpose content, which is definitely a best practice in content marketing. It also means – because you can generate leads with Instagram Stories – that you could generate leads with Instagram Stories on Facebook.
Clearly, Stories are not well, the biggest story for B2B marketers on Facebook. But embrace this content format. We’re probably going to see more of it in the future. Stories themselves, as a content format, are definitely one of the biggest trends on social in the past year or so. They also speak to how overwhelmingly mobile social media has become.
B2B Social Media Strategy for 2021
We hope that gives you some ideas for how to “think beyond the post” for your B2B marketing on Facebook. B2B social media strategy can lay the groundwork for your goals on social media, and it may only pivot a little from year to year. But social media continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Some of the tactics we use to implement our strategies need to change from year to year.