As a B2B digital marketing agency, the content we produce is made for different position holders in businesses to read and gain value from. B2B content, if you will. This helps position our clients and gain relevant traction with a goal of turning strangers into leads and further on customers. The challenge of writing fresh, informative and educational content for such narrow audiences like business owners or managers, is rivaled only by the challenge of promoting that content via social media.
Creating viral content that spreads across the internet like wildfire, bringing in new leads in droves – oh boy, how intoxicating that sounds! But in reality, most of your content will (probably) never go viral. Especially if you’re creating B2B content.
As such, you'll need to keep pushing it strategically and persistently ever so slightly, if you want your content to be seen to solve people’s problems and educate them while it’s at it. If you’re investing a lot of time in content and nobody sees it - what’s the point? (Of course there are other ways to generate traffic such as SEO and PPC but the former takes time and the latter isn’t always realistic due to budget restrictions).
This used to be almost an automatic process for us - the main platform we used to distribute in was LinkedIn, their API was wide open, we used to publish content on our client’s blogs and then with a click of a button, publish it in hundreds of LI groups. This used to generate about 30% of our clients’ traffic and it was also the higher quality better converting traffic. But those days are long over, LI shut down their API and going full blast on automated distribution is no longer possible. When this happened we found ourselves a bit helpless, we weren’t sure how to compensate for the large gap that we were facing in traffic. We knew we had to recalculate our social distribution route and do it wisely. In retrospect I’m glad that happened, I think this forced us to be more surgical in our social efforts and step up the quality of our output. Sometimes automation can be an agency’s worst enemy - we wouldn’t have realized the untapped potential we’re missing out on, because what we were doing was working for us.
(I’ve been told I might be uncovering too much internal info about our tactics but I believe in transparency and I’m happy to share this info. If you’re reading this and have any feedback about the process below - do reach out to me and let’s discuss.)
Be there to solve your audience's problems, become their trusted advisor
When done right, social media is a leverage for creating genuine, meaningful relationships with your target audience. Really being there, reading their problems and offering relevant solutions through the content you’re providing. Building your brand on trust and cooperation.
What I’m about to show you further below is how we organize our social media distribution efforts. Which social media channels we picked, how we find (and keep finding) relevant discussions and individuals within those social media channels, how we distribute large quantities of content, how we stay certain the content we are sharing is relevant and addresses the reader’s pain points, and how we keep track of it all. It’s quite the task, mind you, but it’s not rocket science.
How to pick the right social media channels
Choosing the right social media involves a mix of analysis and common sense. Our first step is to take a look at the buyer persona we’re aiming for and to break down and see what these people are up to when they’re online. As a wild generalization corporate B2B readers (founders, CXOs, etc.) spend a lot of their time on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit and Quora. The common-sense part lies in the fact that these are some of the biggest, most popular and most active social media sites on the internet.
Here is an example of a buyer persona who is a large publisher:
With a little digging, we managed to find quite a few groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. These were relatively big (from 1K to 20K and beyond) groups with a lively, vivid community that was sharing experiences, asking questions, solving roadblocks and cracking jokes on a daily basis. Looking for subreddits of similar topics also turned out fruitful. Quora was brimming with questions that our content could answer. It’s important to conduct such research each time you tackle a new buyer persona. Moreover, this research should be agile and ongoing - the idea is to hone the process and make sure you’re always present “where the party is happening”.
Pro tip: we also look into the top influencers the persona might be following in order to potentially tap into relevant conversations they’re leading online:
Choosing what to monitor (hint: focus is key)
Tracking all of the different conversations, posts and topics across the world wide web, even a handful of subreddits or LinkedIn groups is a Sisyphean task. What we needed was a way to automate looking for fresh and relevant conversations. So, we bought us a little magic – BuzzSumo (this is not an affiliate post, we’re not biased and there are probably other solutions out there, Google alerts for one. However we work on large scales and BuzzSumo is our tool of choice for the time being). The tool allows us to track either the entire internet (which I wouldn’t recommend for obvious reasons), or specific websites. So we did – we started tracking social media channels of our choice. We track for a number of different keywords that we researched and identified as relevant for the conversations that we were looking for.
There are a few types of keywords we track:
- Keywords that we have written blog posts about (these are based on the content research we conduct when strategizing marketing funnels per our client’s buyer personas). This is an ongoing process, we make sure to update keywords for tracking after publishing new posts.
- “Money keywords” - these are bottom of the funnel, high intent keywords of people looking for specific solutions such as our clients offer.
- Brand searches - mentions of the brand.
- Competitor alternative - basically we list all client competitors and monitor conversations where people are asking about “competitor alternatives”. This is mostly relevant for technology solutions. For example we’ve identified MailChimp as a competitor of one of our clients and thus we monitor conversations where people are asking about “MailChimp alternatives”. We’d then jump in and join the conversation and set it in our favor.
(screenshot from BuzzSumo)
Once you set up keywords to monitor, you start receiving steady streams of conversations happening on the platforms you’re monitoring. This typically ends up being Quora questions, Reddit posts and other publicly available social media conversations that were relevant to the content we were producing. Or rather, that we thought our content was relevant *for*.
Hitting our first roadblock
For the first few days of launching this strategy, everything was fine and dandy. BuzzSumo would send us an email digest with the relevant conversations, we’d read through, identify which piece of our content answers their troubles, prepare a short copy and post it (never just paste a link, always stop to consider what the most appealing and helpful answer is that you can provide). Sooner than later, though – troubles came knocking. We started getting warnings from all around that we’re being investigated for spam! Unless we wanted to do ourselves a huge bear’s favor (like, a really big bear, we’re talking grizzly meets Hulk kind of bear, here), we needed to make sure we’re not flooding people, we weren’t repeating ourselves and that we were 100% relevant.
We realized that we needed to start tracking our progress and evaluating it – immediately. So we turned to Google sheets, and employed a bit more magic here. We created this large, program-like document, where we’d add literally everything:
- Which piece of our content we’re linking to
- Who’s the buyer persona we’re addressing
- Where we’re posting (which group)
- What we’re posting (the actual post copy)
- What feedback we got from the buyer persona
- Who posted the answer
- When it was posted
That way we could track everything and always make sure we’re not flooding a specific LinkedIn group or a subreddit. This way we’d also double check that the content we're sharing is always (and I can’t stress this enough) super relevant to the thread or question in front of us. And perhaps most importantly, that way we’d see which pieces of our content were most interesting / sought after. We even split the task into two parts: offense and defense.
Offense is when we were the ones initiating the discussion. If we’d post a new thread on reddit, or a new question in a LinkedIn group, we’d log it into the offense tab, to keep track of it more easily. Defense is where we were tapping into already existing discussions, like reddit threads started by someone else, or Quora questions that hadn’t yet been answered properly.
Recaping the rewards
To recap, here’s what we did:
- Identified our target audience / buyer personas
- Identified social media channels where these people hang out
- Chose what keywords to monitor
- Found groups, subreddits and threads with questions to which our content had answers
- Prepared a highly detailed spreadsheet where we keep track what was posted, where, by whom, and to whom
This strategy helps us solve people’s problems, kickstart meaningful relationships and nurture strangers into customers. We position ourselves and our clients almost exactly where we want (we’re never fully satisfied) – as thought leaders, opinion-makers, but also a helping hand and the friendly, laid-back type. And that is something that money can’t buy.