Companies across all industries have heavily invested in leveraging the capabilities of social media and the proliferation of online data to promote their daily operations. B2B and B2C marketers are largely using the same tactics. The differences may lie in the expectation and use cases. The variation may come in how social media is being used, not which social media channels are being used.
However, while B2C businesses quickly adopted comprehensive social media tactics, B2B businesses have been far more reserved. Although, leading businesses are uncovering powerful and unique ways to empower their decisions using social insights.
This B2B social media report examines the activity of B2B businesses, provides an overview of various applications and growing prominence of social media in B2B.
B2B Social Insights:
The leaders of the B2B industry doubted the volume of social data on topics like automated sales software or heavy manufacturing and questioned the value social media could provide. Surprisingly, the reality is that there is a huge amount of social data that many B2B businesses are already leveraging to drive better-informed decisions, For example, a three-month analysis of more than 200 B2B social channels gathered close to five million conversions.
The following is the analysis of more than 200 B2B companies social activity;
- 3,700 thousand posts an hour
- More than 31 million mentions per year
- 1 new post every second
- 5,300,393 mentions collected
76% of B2B brands now own at least one social media account on either Facebook or Twitter, recognizing the reach of these posts and the value of their influence.
Owned Vs Earned:
Examining the total volume of owned and earned conversation show some very clear patterns in the way businesses communicate with their audiences. Specifically, the business software industry publishes more frequently and generates and produces quite higher buzz than any other B2B industry.
The owned B2B social accounts communicate using a remarkably similar approach as their audience. They use the same amount of videos and hashtags and just differ somewhat for replies (6%), images (2%) and links (7%).
The business software industry effectively attracts more attention online doesn’t necessarily mean that its marketing initiatives are more successful. A thorough comparison of the ratio of earned mentions against owned posts truly shows how successful each industry’s content is at generating buzz.
Best Time to Post:
While many B2B companies do not effectively optimize on the highly engaged days of the week, they successfully generate audience activity with their content.
While B2B companies average 4.96 tweets daily throughout the weekdays, the total volume of owned posts slightly decreases to an average of 1.83 tweets during the weekend. Regardless, their audiences are more engaged on the weekend with twice as many mentions and retweets per post. Strategically capitalizing on a time when their audience is more engaged, companies with social intelligence will increase their overall buzz by publishing more content on the weekends.
The demographics analysis of B2B conversations puts light on the nature of the discussion and the authors driving it. These insights are very helpful for marketing, sales and even product teams as each of these teams tries to identify their audience and their interests.
Among the B2B companies analyzed, more than 65% of B2B conversation came from males while 35% was from females. The audience’s top interests are technology, business, and sports. And their top professions include Software developer, Executive and marketing/sales roles.
The global analysis shows many truths about how the distribution of mentions reflects the geography, culture and socio-economic state of a country. Oil-rich countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE talk most about energy brands like BP, ExxonMobil, and Chevron.
More granular analysis of the United States specifically shows how conversions about specific companies vary across states. is the clear leader, dominating B2B chatter in 26 states. However, the performance of Rolls Royce, Oracle, and Cisco shows some critical regional discrepancies.
With a total of 28 different firms with top county mentions, the UK breakdown shows a varied breakdown of different companies.
Understanding how interest is divided geographically helps companies identify potential untapped markets and outline the competitive landscape.
The B2B Voice:
In the current social climate, numerous companies compete to build meaningful connections with increasingly critical customers and increase their share of voice online. As such, the top challenge businesses face is building a brand voice that clearly resonates with their audience.
For many companies, this means defining and identifying strategies to effectively reach their ever-connected audience.
Brand’s commitment to image-based posts is currently paying off as the analysis of B2B brands’ Facebook content reveals that over half of their posts contain a photo.
Similarly, videos generate more shares than photos and quite more comments than any other kind of posts. Companies can interpret this to understand that while videos garner more conversation on Facebook, photos are best at spreading sharable posts.
Status updates generate the least volume of likes and shares, while posts with links generate the least volume of conversation. B2B companies, identifying the content that resonates most with their audience, can improve their online presence by tailoring their content based on previous performance.
And with the number of visual posts increasing by 50% in just two months, many companies are capitalizing on the added engagement photos offers.
The total number of companies posting from multiple accounts is 16% higher on Twitter than Facebook.
Business software companies in the United States have the highest average number of Twitter accounts (9.1), while the industrial technology companies in the United Kingdom have the lowest average number of Twitter accounts (0.4). BP, Intel, and GlaxoSmithKline are among the social leaders that are currently managing multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts.
B2B companies looking to optimize their consumer purchase cycle can use insights gathered from online conversions to understand, identify and adapt according to their customers’ specific concerns.
Consumer conversion analysis reveals that the most commonly discussed topics relating to the product purchase cycle is the value and price of a potential purchase.
Companies, aiming to optimize and develop their product purchase experience, can learn their consumer’s concerns and how they stack up against their competitors for each topic.
For example, business software companies should consider investing in the quality of customer service they provide, as it is likely to be more broadly appreciated by customers due to the number of mentions.
Companies from all sectors recognize the value of benchmarking both across and within industries. Such comparisons can uncover threats, showcase opportunities and expose clear weaknesses or strengths. Competitive benchmarking has always been paramount in understanding within the B2B industry.
Providing insight into the social media activity and performance of each company, country, and industry; the following section of the report examines the social presence of B2B companies.
When compared to others, owned social channels within the industrial tech sector are exceptionally inactive. The channels posted via social platforms just 2.1 times per day well below the B2B average of 7.7.
Higher than any other B2B industry, positivity encompasses this industry with more than 80.31 of all positive emotive language. National Instruments, Honeywell Process Solutions, and Rockwell Automation drove the majority of these positive mentions.
Mentions for the industrial technology industry were only posted in 93 countries during a time period of two months. No other industry was mentioned in so few countries; in fact, 50 countries more than the industrial tech industry, B2B industries were talked about in 143 countries on average.
Way above the B2B average of 3.9%, conversation about recruitment and careers makes up 8.3 of all construction mentions. Balfour Beatty, Interserve, and Carillion receive the most mentions relating to jobs while Mitie uses their own account to provoke recruitment conversation with 36.2% of all their owned mentions relating to jobs.
Within the construction industry, social media teams respond the most when engaged with. In fact, they responded to 4.5% out of every mention they received online. The average response rate is just 0.88%.
The adoption of social in construction is impressive 10 out of 20 brands having a Twitter following of more than 10,000. Despite all this, the average engagement per post is strikingly low at just 22 retweets, likes, and comments per post.
15% higher than average, earned mentions of heavy industry contain the highest percentage of photos. This is because many resellers taking to social platforms to post photos of heavy machinery goods they wish to sell.
The heavy industry is second in the B2B market for positive mentions. 80.25% of emotive language about the industry was positive. Caterpillar and John Deere caused the majority (75%) with their dedicated fanbase and admirable products.
The heavy industry generates a strikingly low amount of news hits in comparison to the engagement per post figures. Competitors within the industry clearly struggle to generate PR hits, averaging at 670 news hits per brand (825 below the average).
Second to just one other industry (military defense), the brands within the business software industry are mentioned in 170 countries around the globe.
The Facebook and Twitter account for brands within this sector gather the largest average following, 1,439,551 on Facebook and 286,241 on Twitter. Posting 38 times a day on average, business software companies utilize their social networks well above the industry norm of just 7.7 posts per day.
Journalists only make up 6% as a percentage of total earned mentions, while the average is 14.8%. The majority of mentions for this industry came from sales/marketing/PR (21%), executives (22%) and software developers (18%). Business software brands aren’t capitalizing with increased engagement, despite their clear lead in regards to social account following. Four other industries deliver a higher engagement per post (aerospace, military defense, chemical, and agriculture).
Brands within the energy sector provoke the largest volume of mentions about product values and prices. Close to 13% (B2B average is just 6%) of all industry chatter is about the value of crude oil and the falling price. ExxonMobil came in second with 11,000 mentions and BP generated the most value and price mentions with 19,300 recorded over two months.
The amount of news hits per brand is one of the clear strengths within the energy industry. Averaging at 2,658, energy brands clearly outperform the B2B average despite their mixed adoption of social media. These aren’t all negative stories, 98% of them are neutral or positive.
The highest proportion of negative mentions to positive mentions online is from the energy sector. The industry average for negative mentions is close to 35.8%, but the general B2B average is only 24%. With BP, Hardy Oil and Afren, all provoking a high volume of negative mentions, UK energy brands are particularly bad offenders.
Two clear differentiating factors between the worst and best performers in this index are total employees and revenue. The top 25 companies in the index have an average of 57,888 employees and annual revenue of $72.7 billion. And for the bottom 25 companies, the average number of employees is 1,191 and the average revenue is just $3.9 billion. These findings suggest what many would guess – with size and success the awareness comes in.
Breaking down by industry, the average index score reveals how each B2B sector compares:
With major brands like IBM, Oracle and Cisco championing the index, the business software industry ranks as a clear leader. By a considerable 38 points, the medical industry trails the business software industry. However, the difference between the aerospace industry and heavy industry is a mere 14 points.
With the average index score of 109, the US brands continue to outshine UK brands, 20 points higher than the UK average of 91. This reinforces the fact that US companies are more advanced in their use of social and their early adoption has delivered tangible results in the form of brand awareness.
The B2B social market has not yet reached maturity but is no longer in its infancy either. Accustomed to the social presence of B2C companies, audiences now expect the same from B2B brands.
Companies should understand that this latent adoption is an opportunity, rather than a deterrent. Investing in social before the competition is advantageous in the long run as evidenced by the rapid progression of B2C brands’ social presence. Where the content is already performing exceptionally well for industries like aerospace, a strategic social content strategy could prove to be highly beneficial.
Many B2B industries currently face a pivotal moment where the value of social is increasingly recognized, but the infrastructure has not yet been adopted. And for many companies, this transitionary period will be very critical in shaping their future success in social.