Facebook started as a network for university students and grew to the biggest social network for all ages (approx. 1.06 billion monthly active users). Then Facebook needed to earn money and they re-invented themselves as a marketing tool. Facebook started to offer advertising space (ads), company pages and promoted posts to allow companies to use Facebook for their marketing purposes. Today there are many examples that marketing on Facebook actually works – as long as you are selling to consumers (B2C).
Most Facebook users still look for distraction and entertainment. They want to connect with their friends and socialize, they share their life with their group of friends by posting updates, pictures, videos etc. to their Timeline. They read the posts of their friends and interact by clicking on “like”, leaving a comment or even sharing the post with his or her group of friends. People share what they think is interesting to their friends. Therefore spare time activities (family pictures, travel, events, music, movies, sports, shopping etc.) clearly dominate the posts – professional topics are still rather an exception.
B2B marketer face 2 main challenges on Facebook:
- How do I find my relevant target audience in Facebook?
- How can I produce relevant messages that are suitable for a social network?
1.Your target audience – or how to find the needle in the haystack?
B2B marketers often target a very specific audience. Imagine your company sells nuts & bolts, tractors or electronics parts. You want to reach people who buy these products (purchaser) or influence the purchasing decision (user, consultants etc.). How can you find the relevant few among the approx. 1 billion Facebook users? It’s a bit like the famous needle in a haystack. Unless your customers do not find you (e.g. because you promoted your Facebook page on other media) you will probably try to place an ad on Facebook. Obviously it is quite expensive and inefficient to show your ad to all users. Therefore Facebook allows you to filter the audience with a set of mostly predefined categories. Most of these categories (gender, age, hobbies etc.) are not very helpful for a B2B marketer. The most relevant one is certainly the “precise interest” field. There you can play around with search terms that are relevant for your area of business (products, brands, competitors etc.). Facebook will show you immediately how many users have expressed interest in these areas on their Timelines and gives you the possibility to target them. So if someone states on his Timeline that he or she likes tractors, is in a tractor-lovers group or liked another page about tractors you will be able to find them. But the more specific your business is the more difficult it will be to find your target audience on Facebook. Who will state on a social network that he or she is a professional buyer for toilet seats? So chances are high that it will take you a long time to build up a fan base.
2.Virality: entertain or in vain
If many people share and like a post it gets viral and reaches a lot of people beyond the original audience (group of friends of the original author). Companies obviously hope for similar effects to distribute their marketing messages to a larger audience. Unfortunately viral effects are not guaranteed. When you start a company page, only the few people who like your page (fans) will automatically see your posts on their news stream. More fans means more people get to see your message. A larger number of fans also increase the chance that one of your posts might get viral. But this is only one part of the game – the most important factor is the content of your post.
Especially for B2B marketer it is challenging to produce and distribute relevant content that is suitable for a social network like Facebook. As stated before, most people use Facebook for entertainment purposes. Therefore entertaining content has a much higher chance to get liked and shared. Our experience shows that entertaining content performs approx. 10 times better than normal business content (in terms of “likes” and “shares”). As a consequence it is very unlikely that your business content ever gets viral and will be seen beyond your original audience (fans of your page). For most friends of your fans it will simply be irrelevant – unless they have a similar job. The viral effect in a social network can unfortunately also work against you – and this is also true for B2B. Bad news about your company can easily be spread and become real “shitstorms”.
If you want to add Social Media to your B2B marketing strategy and budget and resources are limited, marketing on Facebook would not be our first choice. First priority is to continuously create good content that then can be leveraged across multiple social platforms. Post your articles, videos etc. on a company blog and promote them through professional networks like LinkedIn and Xing that offer excellent targeting options. Users of these platforms are more open for professional content than Facebook users. This strategy also helps you to drive more traffic to your homepage and improves search ranks.
Gaining followers on Facebook is more difficult and more time-consuming for B2B companies. So do not expect short-term results. If you start a Facebook company page then do it for the right reasons. A good Facebook page can contribute to the company image and play an important part in an employer branding strategy. Lead generation is more difficult than in other professional networks like LinkedIn and Xing because Facebook was simply not made for B2B.
Author: Christoph Grass