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How to increase social media engagement for your B2B content

We all know the sunken feeling of posting something to social and getting crickets in return. But if you’re a brand, especially in the B2B space, getting no engagement on your social media posts isn’t a sign that it’s just a bad joke. It’s a sign that you aren’t bringing value to your audience. And that means a missed opportunity to bring someone down the funnel.

In some ways, increasing social media engagement is much easier for B2C brands than B2B brands. They can post something funny or irreverent and suddenly it spreads around the internet. B2B brands by their very nature have a harder time getting those likes and shares. Their subject matter doesn’t lend itself as easily to jokes or posed shots of succulents. So what can you do to boost social media engagement? Start by thinking about what your audience values professionally.

In this episode, the Umault team is joined by Jason Patterson, a B2B content strategist whose article B2B vs. B2C: Apples, Oranges & Social Media inspired the episode. After reading the article, Guy wanted to continue the conversation. Listen in to learn more.

Key quotes from our special guest

"Yes, we're all human, but we're also different people depending on what we're doing. We are a little different when we're with our friends, when we're with our family, when we're by ourselves watching Netflix, but also when we're working. While you're consuming, and especially sharing B2B content, you've got your work hat on. And sharing is the most important thing to a piece of content going viral, whether it's B2B or B2C." - Jason Patterson
"Most people spend more time on Facebook in the average day than they would on LinkedIn. So if you've got something important that you want to get in front of their eyeballs, paid content, a white paper, some kind of lead gen, Facebook can still work great for that." - Jason Patterson
"You have to look at every post and think, "What value am I providing with it?" And you're not going to go viral on every post, but you are going to decrease the probability that you're going to have a post that nobody clicks to near zero. As long as you're providing something that the audience values, there will be some engagement." - Jason Patterson


Jason Patterson’s article that inspired the episode: B2B vs. B2C: Apples, Oranges & Social Media

For more on maximizing your B2B video content, check out our B2B video marketing guide.

Plus some great examples of sales enablement videos.

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.

Episode transcript

Hope Morley: Hello, and welcome to So You Need a Video, a podcast about boosting your business with video marketing. I'm Hope Morley.

Tory Merritt: I'm Tory Merritt.

Guy Bauer: I'm Guy Bauer.

Hope Morley: And today we have a very special guest. We have Jason Patterson, he's a freelance content strategist joining us all the way from Taiwan. So you're-

Tory Merritt: Hey Jason.

Hope Morley: ... our first international guest, welcome to the show.

Jason Patterson: Oh, I am... Wow, that is a unique honor and I am very happy to be here.

Hope Morley: What's it like over in Taiwan right now? We're all still recording from home because we're still under stay-at-home orders here in the Midwest.

Jason Patterson: Well, it's 6:00 AM here. So naturally, I'm at home. I mean, some people are working from home, but generally speaking businesses are still open. Most people are still going to offices. It's been relatively quiet here. They've mostly managed to keep the virus out.

Guy Bauer: Wow.

Hope Morley: Nice. Well, we asked you on the show today to talk about an article that we saw that you posted on LinkedIn. That it caught Guy's eye, and we thought it was really interesting, we'd love to talk to you about it. So the article was called “B2B vs. B2C: Apples, Oranges and Social Media.” And we will link to that in the show notes for anyone who hasn't read it. I want to take a step back, and Jason, if you could just give us a little summary of the article before we ask some questions about it and talk about it a little more.

Jason Patterson: Well, basically the article arose as a reaction. That sounds kind of basic, but that's basically what it was. I was seeing something on Twitter, an article that was really kind of questioning the value of social media engagement. And I was talking with someone on, or chatting, with someone on there and he was a real doubter, let's say, not really seeing the value of it. And at the time I remember thinking, "Yes, in B2C a lot of times there will be zero sales uplift."

Hope Morley: Based off of social media engagement?

Jason Patterson: Yes. Yes. But I felt like in B2B instances, that's less likely. That the value of the engagement is much more likely to have some kind of benefit to either your sales, or your brand because generally speaking, the nature of it is different. It's not quite the same thing most of the time.

Guy Bauer: Right. So what you're saying is like, or correct me if I'm wrong about what you're saying, is that usually B2B brands are putting out content that's trying to add value in the form of education, right? So if you have someone interacting with that content, there's a reason why they're interacting with it. It's because it's bringing them value. They're not someone off the street just like, "Oh, I'm going to download your “MQL Is Dead” white paper," or whatever. I mean, like you have to be inherently interested in order to engage with it.

Jason Patterson: Yes. You are highly unlikely to engage with B2B content unless you are learning something from it, or even to share it. I mean, a lot of people share B2B content because it makes them look smart. I mean, that might sound a little shallow, but that's the way it is. But at least looking smart has some value to them. It's not about just, "Hey, this is funny." I mean, it doesn't have that... I mean, most B2B content, yeah, maybe it can be a little entertaining if you're good at your job, but people don't consume it just for the entertainment, they're consuming it for some other reason.

Guy Bauer: And what are those reasons actually? Let's, every podcast says this phrase, "Let's unpack that."

Jason Patterson: Well, like you said, usually it is education. People follow to learn about something, and it might be on a hot topic of some kind, maybe it's on something like artificial intelligence, or 5G and how it impacts your business. There's probably been 10,000 social media posts on that topic in the last few years. But it doesn't necessarily have to be something hot. It can be something obscure. It can really be something that scratches a geek itch, for lack of a better word. And a lot of B2B content is like that.

Jason Patterson: Even if it doesn't contribute to a sale immediately, it might keep people in your brand's orbit, so to speak, until they finally are ready to buy. Or it will have display utility let's say. Like I said before, sharing it makes you look smart or makes you look “with it.” Makes you seem important. And that is something that people on B2B channels like LinkedIn are really into. So it can really generate a lot of awareness for your brand.

Guy Bauer: So, on this podcast we've talked about, I wrote a book or an ebook and I said, for B2B marketers, "Your customers don't wear their suits to bed." And what I'm trying to say is, your content is not being... Like we all wear suits at work and we put on our deep voices and, "Uh-huh." And we say like “disparate” words.

Tory Merritt: It's not a panacea, Guy.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. We use words like panacea and-

Jason Patterson: Synergy.

Guy Bauer: ... vernacular, synergy, whatever. Yeah, pedagogy. But at night, right, we all put on Netflix and we still consume B2B content in our PJ's with-

Tory Merritt: Still doing that, all day right now.

Guy Bauer: ... a bowl of Chunky Monkey... Yeah, right now it's all day. But, and what really struck me about the article is that it's a lot grayer than that. It's not that... Yes, you are talking to a human, but there's different mindsets for B2C and B2B. If you can, you unpacked the package before, and now I'd like to put another package in front of you to unpack. Talk about what are the conditions between B2B and B2C?

Jason Patterson: Yes, we're all human, but we're also different people, depending on what we're doing. We are a little different when we're with our friends, when we're with our family, when we're by ourselves watching Netflix, as you say, but also when we're working. And consuming, and especially sharing B2B content, while you're doing that you've got your work hat on. And sharing is the most important thing to a piece of content going viral, whether it's B2B or B2C.

Jason Patterson: And if you are on a business channel, or if most of your connections are your colleagues, or perhaps your boss, or perhaps other bosses who might hire you at some point in the future, you are going to pick and choose what you share a little more carefully than if you're just sharing with your friends. And while you are doing that, if you are consuming B2B content, even if you've got Netflix playing in the background, that smaller screen, the one that you're holding in your hands, that dictates what hat you're wearing at the time, so to speak. And if you are reading an article on LinkedIn, it's going to be your work hat. And that will affect what you share. And that is the most important thing to social content success.

Tory Merritt: That makes sense. I was just going to say, when I'm on LinkedIn and you see people posting things that swing a little personal, like you're reading like, "Here's an article on AI machine learning," and then you're hit with a very political set of comments or an article. It feels out of place. It feels like you're kind of wondering why they shared that on LinkedIn versus sharing that on their other channels.

Jason Patterson: Yes. Yes. And when you see that you lose respect for that person.

Tory Merritt: Yeah.

Jason Patterson: Or if it's somebody that you know, if it's a contact, you're going to be kind of shrinking back and going, "Mm." Doing kind of a face plant or something like that. You're going to be wondering, "What are they doing? Why are they embarrassing themselves like this?" You might think, "Their boss might see this. A future employer might see this." These are going to be things that are just, yes, they feel out of place and you will lose some respect for that person. And respect is very, very important in B2B. It is absolutely critical to making a B2B sale and to the entire sales process, which is why you don't want to lose respect.

Hope Morley: We've talked a lot about LinkedIn and that as a key B2B platform, which it obviously is, but we found a lot of our clients have a lot of success on Facebook as well, as B2B marketers. So I wonder what your thoughts are on Facebook as a platform for B2B, because it is a more fluid... You've got your personal, some people do choose to post their political thoughts on there, but you might also be sharing content about your work life. So how does the platform impact social shares and how should marketers address that?

Jason Patterson: Well, LinkedIn is not a universal platform because it is not the predominant B2B channel in all countries, first of all. There are places like Japan or the Middle East, where Facebook is still king. And also, in some countries and some languages, they have home grown channels where B2B content might be consumed. So LinkedIn is not quite, it's not McDonald's just yet, so to speak, in terms of its B2B dominance.

Jason Patterson: But if you are going to be posting B2B content on Facebook, you still have to respect the platform. And there are certain ideas and techniques regarding presentation that you have to respect. The metrics say that basically, the shorter, your copy, the better on Facebook. While with LinkedIn, you can ramble on a bit more and people will still click it, things like this.

Jason Patterson: But I think it's mostly a matter of knowing your customers and your followers. And there are certain kinds of B2B content that I think are more amenable to Facebook. Like things about your employees, let's say, or things about CSR activities. Let's say “feel good” kinds of content for a lack of a better word. I definitely think that content like that would travel farther on Facebook if you've got a significant presence there. And Facebook still has great targeting. You can leverage it for more serious content.

Jason Patterson: People definitely spend, or most people, spend more time on Facebook in the average day than they would on LinkedIn. So if you've got something important that you want to get in front of their eyeballs, paid content, a white paper, some kind of lead gen, I mean, Facebook can still work great for that. But you're probably less likely to get such content shared on Facebook. I mean the target audience might click, it might read it, or whatever. But I think it's a little less likely maybe to go viral. Because in the end, on Facebook, you're going to have your colleagues, and your friends, your family, your Aunt Betty from Wisconsin, things like this. And it probably won't, it's probably a little less likely to go viral that way, less likely to get shared. But consumed? Yes, it still will be.

Guy Bauer: Right. You're just going to have to pay for it.

Jason Patterson: Right. Well you got to pay for it everywhere.

Hope Morley: Yeah, Facebook doesn't let you get any organic reach anymore anyway.

Guy Bauer: My big question is, is social media worth it at all? Because I think that's, like I'm left at the end of the article going like, "What are we doing this for then?" Like, "It seems so hard." It seems hard to create content that's shareable. To engage with people. So, is social media worth it at all?

Jason Patterson: Well, I feel like that's the wrong question, because right now, especially now, and for the next couple of years is, where else are you going to go?

Hope Morley: Yeah, out of home is not an option in the U.S. anymore. Like, where are you going?

Jason Patterson: I mean, I feel like the next couple of years are going to be very rough on print ads, billboards, television commercials, all those things. It's going to be very tough. But even after the world reopens again, people are going to travel less. They're going to touch fewer newspapers, a lot of things. But we're still going to have our little screens, and we're still going to be spending a lot of time staring at them. And I feel like some audiences, especially younger audiences, it is still, I think, the prime way to reach them. It is, yes, the ROI on organic social can be very hard to justify. But I still feel that, like a lot of things, social media doesn't seem that valuable because when it comes from brands, a lot of it sucks. And even a terrible TV commercial, it still gets seen by millions of people.

Jason Patterson: It's a communal experience, and it can be something that can even be buried in the collective unconscious, so to speak. I mean, I can still remember dozens of jingles from when I was a kid. Even ones that I thought were very annoying at the time like, I Feel Like Chicken Tonight. That was something that, when it came out when I was a kid, it just annoyed me to no end, but it still burrowed its way into my memory.

Jason Patterson: But the thing is, social media is not shared that way, it is not something that everyone sees. By its very nature, it's generally targeted. And it is still something that I think... Most brands have been plugging away at it for 10 or 15 years. At least the ones that have been around for that long. But there's still so much I think we haven't really figured out. And I feel that, compared to most other forms of advertising, it is still very immature. I mean, are we ready to give it up and go where? I think someone needs to have a better idea before we can give up on social. And I haven't heard one.

Hope Morley: At the end of the day, we have to go where the people are. That's the only way that you can get people to see your content. The people used to be watching TV from 7:00 to 9:00 every night. Everyone in the U.S. or around the world, they were watching TV after dinner. Now we're mostly on Netflix, or HBO Go, or what have you. So where are the people? The people are on social.

Hope Morley: The biggest thing that we need to think about, especially as B2B marketers on social is, think about what value you're bringing to your audience that might be different from B2B and B2C, even if you are just talking to everyone as people, but you still have to think about your audience and what value you're bringing them. And then at the end of the day, that will help you inform your social media content strategy.

Jason Patterson: Yes. And I feel that all brands, whether it's B2B or B2C, have to remember that yes, that value is essential to all content, but there are different kinds of value, there are different types of things that audiences value. For B2C, B2C social content is very much entertainment. And it works along the same principles as entertainment. People like things that are intriguing, or that add a little bit of mystery, or that are playful, or that are funny. While in B2B, value is more in terms of intellectual value. Information that has value as opposed to something that necessarily elicits a pleasant feeling.

Jason Patterson: And so you just have to approach all of your content that way. You have to look at every post and think, "What value am I providing with it?" And you're not going to go viral on every post, even if you do that, but you are going to decrease the probability that you're going to have a post that nobody clicks to near zero. As long as you're providing something that the audience values there will be some engagement.

Hope Morley: Yeah. I think that's a great insight for us to wrap up on. Jason, thank you so much for joining us today.

Tory Merritt: Thank you, Jason.

Hope Morley: It’s bright and early for you. So we really appreciate you giving us the time.

Jason Patterson: Thank you so much for having me. I've enjoyed this.

Hope Morley: And we'll link to your article in the show notes. Thank you everyone for listening to this episode of So You Need A Video For more information, you can visit us on our website. That's umault.com. U-M-A-U-L-T.com. And also, give us a subscribe on YouTube and rate us on your favorite podcast app. We'd really appreciate it.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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