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Best Social Media Sites for B2B/B2C Sales

When market research firms like eMarketer predict worldwide online sales will reach $2.5 trillion in 2018, your marketing team has to be thinking about leveraging the power of social media to drive sales. Here’s a roadmap for your social media journey.

In this third and final blog post in my three-part series, I’ll describe more details on social media sites for lead generation, brand awareness, and sales. As a recap, in the first two blog posts, I described the core tenets of successful social media marketing campaigns and listed numerous tips to help you convert your bright ideas into quality content that guides customers to your products.

The Current Market Landscape

Let’s review the basics. Your quality content is tagged or encoded with unique identifiers and session logic that retrieves information about the user viewing and clicking within the tagged content. To learn more about your potential customer, they are often prompted to enter contact information before submitting this basic profile and then gaining access to the content. As trust, brand awareness, and value grow, the user returns to your site (pulled in by a newsletter, video, or other fantastic content). Several positive brand impressions later, this user returns as a customer, fills in more profile details, and perhaps makes a purchase or investment. They may even buy from another site or reseller elsewhere but return to your site for support, service, and related product information.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s largest retail trade association. It represents discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, local merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from 46 countries, including the United States where retail is the largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs (42 million working Americans).

In 2016, the NRF said retail sales were expected to grow 3.4 percent over last year rather than the 3.1 percent forecast earlier. Online and other non-store sales, which are included in the overall figure, were expected to increase seven to 10 percent year-over-year rather than the six to nine percent forecast earlier.

Forrester Research issued similar estimates. Online sales in the United States are expected to reach $523 billion in the next five years, up 56 percent from $335 billion in 2015, and mobile devices are expected to be a key driver in that growth.

Sales Lead Gen: Quality Over Quantity

As a B2B marketer, you want to measure sales lead quality rather than just raw volume of views, conversions, and sales alone. For example, converting 10,000 user views into 2,000 one-time sales is good; however, are those repeat customers? Are they coming back to you? Are they referring their network of contacts to you?

In my last blog, I identified content strategies you can apply. Besides hosting live events, the Content Marketing Institute reports that the top five business marketing lead generation strategies are webinars, case studies, whitepapers, videos, and blogs. On the consumer side, it’s social media, photos/artwork, and electronic newsletters followed by videos and articles.

Online Marketing Terms

A few terms before we begin:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): Clicks divided by impressions. For example, your social media post is viewed 10,000 times and 2,500 users tapped or clicked the link inside it to get more information. We would say the post had a 25 percent click-through rate, or click-rate.
  • Cost Per Click (CPC): Cost divided by clicks.
  • Cost Per Thousand (CPM): Cost per thousand impressions of an ad.
  • Revenue Per Visit (RPV): Site revenue divided by visits.
  • Social Engagement: The volume of comments, likes, shares and other interactions with your post.

Social Media Platforms

Next, I’ll introduce you to each social media site, in no ranked order. After reviewing this section, your teams should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Which social media sites are right for our product brands?
  • Which markets do we want to target?
  • What content strategies are we ready to initiate?

Facebook

The most popular global social network, Facebook boasts over 1.7 billion active accounts. That’s fully half of all users with access to the Internet. People can set up personal profiles that serve as ID badges to register at other sites. Users spend their time making connections, posting messages, sharing media, playing games, exploring new features, or referring others to existing functions, services, products, and third-party apps.

The most transformative culture shift today is the volume of social media referrals, particularly on smartphones, and the most popular social media platform among B2C businesses is Facebook, with 94 percent reporting its active use as a sales tool. Other popular platforms are Twitter (82 percent), YouTube (77 percent) and LinkedIn (76 percent). Two-thirds of B2C marketers say Facebook is their most effective social platform; followed by YouTube (53 percent), Twitter (50 percent) and Instagram (42 percent). On the B2B side, 84 percent of B2B marketers use Facebook as part of their content strategy.

Marketing teams prefer ad placement on Facebook over other sites because it has demonstrated an improved algorithm for aligning customer interests with advertising content and themes. What’s more, a 2016 Adobe Media survey has confirmed that consumers preferred Facebook ads over YouTube ads by a three to one ratio. This year, Facebook is reporting that the click-through rate (CTR) for its ads is already double last year’s rate.

Alyssa on Facebook: Reach any consumer on Facebook. Relationships can flourish. Strong advertising.

LinkedIn

Hoping to transform the way companies market, sell, and hire, LinkedIn connects the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. Often cited as “the world’s largest professional network on the Internet,” the company was acquired by Microsoft in the summer of 2016.

LinkedIn is a favorite among B2B marketers with 94 percent using it as part of their content strategy. According to a recent survey, other popular platforms included Twitter (87 percent), Facebook (84 percent) and YouTube (74 percent).

LinkedIn Marketing Solutions revenue increased 29 percent this year to $181 million. Sponsored Content surpassed 60 percent of that total and was the primary driver of growth, due largely to an increase in customer demand.

Alyssa on LinkedIn: An essential professional networking tool. Sophisticated and respected as a platform.

Twitter

Perhaps most widely known for its 140-character limit on tweets, Twitter generates over one billion unique monthly visits to other sites from over 310 million active accounts. Only 18 percent of its users are not using a mobile device (meaning 82 percent are, so it is very popular on smart phones and tablets).

Over 87 percent of B2B marketers use Twitter as part of their content strategy. Ideal for international marketing, Twitter supports over 40 languages and almost 80 percent of its accounts are outside of the U.S.

A new marketing program partners with content creators and branding executives to create unique, immersive experiences on Twitter and Periscope. Periscope broadcasts are shared through tweets by a spokesperson or celebrity, select broadcasts appear as promoted tweets from brand partners, and highlight videos are tweeted and shared.

Founded in 2006, Twitter has less than 140 million users interacting with the service daily (Bloomberg). After Facebook, the short-messaging service was once the second largest social network but has since been surpassed by other Facebook apps, including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.

Alyssa on Twitter: Great for short announcements, news, and press releases.

YouTube

Over a billion YouTube viewers watch and share original videos and connect in forums across the globe every day. Launched back in May 2005, YouTube has become the preferred distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers of any size.

In the statistics my team and I researched, I want to remind you that about 3.6 billion people are counted among internet users, but with shared devices and the growth of mobile, the number who have some form of access to the Internet is higher. So, when a company has over one billion users, that is a big deal. Again, that’s like saying you have 30 percent of the worldwide user base on your platform.

Every day people engage with video content and related comments and links for hundreds of millions of hours and generate billions of internal views alone, not to mention all the external links or calls to action (for example, after viewing a product video, a user might link to another site or get in their car and physically make a purchase at a local store).

Consumed on desktops or mobile devices, YouTube claims to reach more people of either gender in the 18-34 and 18-49 age demographic than any U.S. cable network. Worldwide, it covers 95 percent of global users with 76 language viewing options and localized sites tailored to 88 countries.

Seventy-four percent of B2B marketers use YouTube as part of their content strategy. 53 percent of B2C marketers say YouTube is their most effective social platform; this trails Facebook (66 percent) and is followed by Twitter (50 percent) and Instagram (42 percent).

More than half of all YouTube views come from mobile devices, where the average viewing session has grown to just over 40 minutes. The vast majority of users do not pay the monthly fee for ad-free content so most users are also viewing 15-second, 30-second, and longer running ads. A 2016 social media survey by Adobe found that Facebook ads were favored almost three to one over YouTube for their ability to genuinely match consumer interests.

As a marketing team with clever ideas or an original business or personality with a unique product or service, you will be happy to learn that YouTube reports this year that the number of channels earning $100,000 or more per year is up 50 percent over last year.

Alyssa on YouTube: Top exposure with best opportunity to showcase features and drive maximum views and comments. Short ads cannot be skipped.

Instagram

A favorite among smartphone users (one in three have active accounts), Instagram is more aligned with Snapchat for consumers, and Twitter for business. The site has some 300 million accounts that access the space daily and 500 million active users in a typical month (90 million in the U.S.). About one in four people in the U.S. are estimated to be users, one in 10 worldwide.

Over 91 percent of the content shared by users on Instagram are photos. The site reaches 34 percent of U.S. internet users and more than half of all social media users; however, 90 percent of its users are younger than age 35 and 41% are between 16-24.

In 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion and two years later bought WhatsApp for an astonishing $19 billion. The WhatsApp social messaging service enables users to send free messages over a Wi-Fi or data connection. (Instagram statistics courtesy of DMR at http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/important-instagram-stats/5/.) Instagram demonstrates that what works for B2C markets often works for B2B markets.

In her distilled.net online marketing blog, Beverley Reinemann writes:

B2B brands need to embrace the fact that marketing on Instagram is less about selling the benefits of your products and services, and more about establishing deeper connections with people including industry thought-leaders, employers, and prospective clients… building and maintaining awareness of your brand needs to come before lead generation. Unlike Twitter and LinkedIn, where you can drive traffic to your site, think of Instagram as a way to grab the attention of industry influencers and prospective clients at a time when they’re not really in “work mode”.

Alyssa on Instagram: Instagram is fun, especially for personal use. However, consider outsourcing to a creative marketing specialist to improve your professional branding and visuals on the site.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a catalog of ideas about content from other sites that users can clip like coupons or collect like stamps. With over 100 million active users, Pinterest says it handles two billion search queries every month. An estimated two-thirds of all user-stored content comes from a retail site or blog (in other words, new content is not simply created and uploaded by users).

Over 50 percent of the users on Pinterest (those with accounts and those just browsing content) want to find or shop for products, making it an effective place to target new and existing customers. Not only can you reach people who have a demonstrated interest in your products, but your ads can also reach them when they’re actively looking and more likely to take action.

According to an update from Pinterest in June 2016, the media site added new forms of ad targeting, making it possible to target ads using data from your own business. Since then, advertisers using audiences have seen an 80 percent increase in click-through rates to their websites. Recently, Pinterest introduced the ability to target people based on site engagements and expanded how you can target people who visit your website from Pinterest.

Alyssa on Pinterest: Great place to introduce new products and get early feedback from the market before a major release.

Snapchat

Snapchat is a fun messaging app where users take a photo or video, add a caption, doodle, or silly lens graphic layer on top, and send it to others. Users can also add that instant memory to their own 24-hour story, a collection of visuals, which they broadcast to the world or just their followers. The content is deleted after it is sent.

Popular with youth ages 9 to 30, Snapchat has been growing quickly. With over 150 million people using the service each day, the 2011 messaging app now has more daily active users than Twitter. According to Bloomberg, Snapchat generated revenue of $59 million last year, and the company projects that number to rise more than fourfold this year. Snapchat opened its funding round last year by selling shares valuing the company at $16 billion.

Alyssa on Snapchat: Not ready to decide. I’m no techie hedge fund analyst, but when I see Snapchat valued at $3 to $16 billion, even I am concerned about another era of dot-com bubble bursting.

Tumblr

Started in 2007 and now part of Yahoo, Tumblr is 313 million different blogs, “filled with literally whatever.” The site uses the blog metaphor to connect people with any content including text, photos, and videos. Other examples include stories, photos, TV shows, links, quips, jokes, mp3s and Spotify music tracks, fashion, art, philosophy, and any smartphone content.

Tumblr users can share, refer, include, and customize everything the way they want, down to the colors and HTML user interface theme (a simple but effective B2C branding opportunity). With over 300 million confirmed registered users, the site attracts over 13 billion global page views in a single month (Washington Post).

While Pinterest and Tumblr are doing better in recent years (revenue per site visit doubled for Tumblr last year), they’re still unable to provide consistent referred revenue outside of the holiday shopping season. Only Facebook can achieve more consistent referrals throughout the year.

Alyssa on Tumblr: Surprisingly fresh and fun. Give Tumblr a try.

[Marketing survey statistics based on Content Marketing Institute and 2014-2016 quarterly business and consumer data marketing surveys from Adobe Media Optimizer and Adobe Analytics.]

Best Social Media Sites for B2B/B2C Sales

Alyssa Hall, CMO

Alyssa Hall is Chief Marketing Officer at CDI, focusing on marketing/corporate communications, brand management and strategy, media planning, and media relations. Alyssa brings over 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations, with a background spanning a variety of industries including entertainment, manufacturing, and finance.  Alyssa comes to CDI LLC from GAF, North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, where she was director of marketing communications. In this role, she was responsible for brand management and strategy, with a focus on media planning and media relations. Her previous roles include director of market research with Harris Interactive and marketing director with Meridian Capital Group. Alyssa holds a degree in Corporate Communications from The Park School at Ithaca College.