While many report that the influence of Twitter is waning, last year Twitter reported it had 330 million monthly active users, of which more than 40 percent (134 million people), use the service on a daily basis. That’s up from the previous year and seemingly halting the reported slide in users in 2018. So, as we cast our minds forward to a new year, Twitter remains relevant and Dennis Shiao guides us through some best practices for B2B marketers.
In December, I celebrated my 12th anniversary using Twitter:
Of all the social networks, Twitter is where I spend the most time. I use it to share content, but more importantly, I love discovering new content and connecting with people. While I use Twitter as a hobby or even a passion, it’s also an investment of sorts: the experience I gain from using Twitter can be directly applied when I’m hired by clients to help with their social media strategy.
When I think about B2B brands’ use of Twitter for social media marketing, I see three phases:
Phase 1: Foundational
Grab your brand’s handle, set up your profile and figure out who will manage the account (for example internal teams or external agencies).
Phase 2: Scaling up
It’s the adolescent years: rapid growth and poor complexion, while trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Your Twitter account goes from a haphazard schedule to routinely tweeting 10 times per day. Automation is introduced, with scheduling, social listening and reply management.
Phase 3: Scaling up by scaling down
This is the phase I’ll cover in this post. My prediction is that the B2B brands that fully embrace this phase are the ones who will find success in 2020. They’ll scale up their engagement (such as with customers and prospects) by scaling down their automation.
In lieu of automation, they’ll have staffers (employees or agency personnel) engage with users ‘in the moment’.
Too many B2B brands today are in Phase 2. The way I picture their social media marketing operation is an airplane cockpit. They have the instrument panel fully automated, with tweets set to go out on specific days, at specific times.
Replies to their tweets are intelligently routed to the right employees. Heck, likes and replies may even be automated. And you guessed it, the pilots are reclining in their chairs because the airplane is running on autopilot.
Embrace your inner B2C
B2C brands (especially in food and beverage) are finding success embracing Phase 3 these days. I can hear a B2B marketing exec or an agency exec right about now:
“Yes, it’s working with B2C brands. But we’re B2B and our customers don’t want to engage with us in this way.”
While the nature of the engaging is different between B2C and B2B buyers, the person at the other end of the tweet is the same. Jane, who receives a witty tweet from Wendy’s, is the same Jane who’s evaluating ERP software, engineering outsourcing or cybersecurity monitoring.
Jane, who receives a witty tweet from Wendy’s, is the same Jane who’s evaluating ERP software, engineering outsourcing or cybersecurity monitoring.
B2C brands are mastering ways to connect with Jane. B2B brands, on the other hand, are stuck in Phase 2, sharing vanilla tweets that are loaded with 10 hashtags each. For B2B vendors trying to sell to Jane, she doesn’t even see your tweets.
Here are a few ways to elevate your engagement game — to get noticed by Jane and other B2B buyers.
Live video can humanize your brand by bringing out your employees, customers and partners from behind the curtain. Your CEO may be visible and well-known, but less so your marketing manager or accounting manager.
While live video has been available on Twitter for years, B2B brands have been slow to hop on the bandwagon. That means the window of opportunity is open — for now. In addition, Twitter wants to promote your live video to the widest possible audience.
On Facebook and Instagram, ‘Stories’ receive favorable real estate at the top, above the newsfeed. While Twitter doesn’t have Stories, it does feature live events and live video at the top, also above the newsfeed. If a person or brand is broadcasting live video on Twitter, I see that at the top of my feed.
The Twitter help center has a useful guide on using live video.
Connect with customer or potential customers by participating (as your brand) in Twitter chats. In content marketing, two popular chats are #ContentChat (Monday’s at 3pm ET) and #CMWorld (Tuesday’s at 12pm ET). Do a Google search to discover relevant Twitter chats in your industry.
Before your brand handle participates on Twitter chats, make sure team members are familiar with the logistics, conventions and the associated chat community. Have them participate in some chats using their personal handles, to get their feet wet.
When your brand is ready to jump in, I recommend disclosing who is behind the scenes (let them introduce themselves – “Hi! I’m Jane from the marketing team and I’ll be the person behind the scenes on #ContentChat today.”). Also find the right voice (I prefer that brands use “we” instead of “I”) and try not to plug your company or your content too much. The ultimate goal is to connect and engage with others, not to promote your brand.
try not to plug your company or your content too much. The ultimate goal is to connect and engage with others, not to promote your brand.
Retweets and replies
While Phase 2 was focused on ‘share, share, share’, Phase 3 is all about ‘engage, engage, engage’. While you can selectively retweet others, a reply is more meaningful, since you’re sharing a thought or a perspective. A retweet takes a single mouse click, while a reply forces you to say something meaningful.
Replies should not be automated. They should be done by real people on real keyboards. So here’s the ratio B2B brands should strive for in 2020:
For every link post you share on Twitter, reply to another user or brand. Engage as much as you share. Participating in Twitter chats can help with this ratio.
Scaling to new heights
Take the plane off autopilot. Ask the pilots to sit up in their chairs and lean in. They’ll represent your brand (on Twitter) in real time and in the moment. The Janes of the world will notice.
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