A persistent and key question for B2B companies is whether there is real value in social media and, if so, which channels are worth the investment of time and resources. Our social media expert, Simona Cotta Ramusino shares her views on the best approach.
The outage that simultaneously affected WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram last month highlighted an important lesson for social media managers: either take a day off, or ensure you are on multiple platforms. But aside from the outage there is another reason why a B2B firm should be nurturing multiple social media channels – they fulfil different purposes.
The way I see it LinkedIn is about describing who you are, Twitter is about doing what you are and Facebook is about showing who you are.
Let’s hear it for LinkedIn
LinkedIn remains our preferred social media platform when it comes to our B2B clients.
According to some recent stats, LI drives 46% of social traffic to B2B sites and is considered the most credible source of content. Other numbers supporting the business case for having a LI presence include:
- 4 out of 5 people on the platform “drive business decisions”
- there are 61 million “senior-level influencers”
- 33% of B2B decision makers use LinkedIn to research purchases
As a fully integrated communications agency we see LinkedIn management as a key piece of the comms plan.
4 reasons we love LinkedIn
- You can build your company’s profile within your sector. As your competitors will likely be on LI too, it is important to be seen and promote your latest company news, updates and wins.
- You can promote thought leadership and highlight your company’s experts. This helps put the accent on the individuals driving the business as well as your products and services.
- You can directly engage with peers, clients and prospects. As with many social media platforms, LI supports two-way communication, allowing for followers to comment on and share your updates. You can also gather their views through polls and posts – something that more traditional channels do not allow for.
- You can have a positive impact on employees and attracting new hires. Understanding the kind of culture a company has is key when deciding whether it is going to be a right fit – whether it is worth leaving your current company for. It is no longer a leap of faith or a ‘grass is always green’ scenario: LI (and Facebook) can help you acquire a view of what it is or would be like working for a certain company.
LinkedIn has also added some interesting new features over the last year to improve user experience and make engagement with followers more interesting:
- LI Polls
- LI Live
- Option to use Carousels for posts.
Also, not quite as new (but still worth noting) is the option to set an event under your company profile, share it with connections, and invite connections to follow your company page.
For B2B firms, is there life beyond LinkedIn?
YES! Twitter is great if you are attending virtual (or dare we say live now) events and for sharing snippets from presentations or keynotes. It also allows you to follow and engage with key influencers in your space with many analysts and journalists tweeting regularly.
Facebook is probably the best platform to showcase your culture, the people that make the company a great place to be and any CSR projects that you may be engaged in. As well as helping to create a strong community feeling among employees it is also a powerful means of attracting new, like-minded people.
If you are a business that relies more on visual marketing then Instagram is the place to be. The platform is optimised for videos and images so products and services can be brought to a target audience in a more compelling, memorable, and engaging way, both building trust and increasing traffic back to your website. Although Instagram is often disregarded by B2B marketers, viewed mainly as mainly a B2C channel, there are stats and business reasons that support the value in having a presence on the platform:
“B2B companies experience their largest engagement ratios on Instagram—meaning that of the major social sites, Instagram fosters the highest number of interactions per number of followers. Not only does Instagram promote engagement through commenting, but it hosts text, photos, and videos directly on the platform so your followers don’t have to click elsewhere to see the content.”
So if you are considering upping your social media game or hiring someone to do it for you, establish what it is you want to achieve and who exactly you want to reach. Equipped with this knowledge, selecting the right platform or platforms, becomes much easier.
Simona Cotta Ramusino shares her experience and the lessons learned over the last six years working as a social media manager for several of our FinTech clients.
So many presume because they can happily curate their own personal feeds that the same rules apply when managing a corporate feed. But I have found the skills do not cross over as readily as you might hope.
Social media cannot stand alone
Social media is the mirror of corporate communications. It may be because of my PR background but for me social media has to mirror what the PR machine does: help communicate a clear profile of the company, of what it does and of its people and values; use the same key messages to help present a consistent and constant image of the company; and promote key spokespeople as thought leaders in their industry. I am quite lucky that in my current position I often cover both roles of PR and social media consultant so I am able to reflect the tone and type of language in social media posts. I know what news a client would be interested in amplifying and of course what owned content is coming out that we can repurpose for social media. It is likely that big global firms may have these two roles fulfilled by more than one person. If that’s the case, make sure you are only a desk or a Skype/Zoom/Microsoft Teams message away from the PR manager so that you can work in synergy.
Scheduling is the perfect mix of science and art.
Most scheduling tools provide suggestions on the best times to schedule a post on LinkedIn or twitter. Most of the time these are good and useful suggestions. However, don’t let the robots take over – this is where human intervention can make a difference. Who is the audience for this piece of news? Where are they located? Which channels do they favour? Is it a big piece of insight that may be better to read at the end of the day? Or is it a video that should be watched in your lunch break? Is this a good blog post to read as you sit at your desk in the morning? Where / when is this [virtual] event taking place? That’s at least what I think when scheduling posts: choosing the right time zone to make sure you catch your audience at the right time and picking the right social channels on which to post to make sure you reach the right audience.
Talk the talk of your audience
Using the correct language is key. I mostly cover corporate social media accounts where the audience mainly comprises journalists, analysts, entrepreneurs and financial services senior figures so for me it is paramount the language used by clients on social channels is appropriate to reach this audience. Here are my two key rules when writing posts:
- Eats, shoots & leaves. Avoiding grammar mistakes and typos is key, particularly I would say on LinkedIn since this is where your peers and your clients’ peers are.
- Appropriateness of tone. This is a tip you will probably see repeated in every social media guidance document or blog post and it is the most obvious one but…. you will be surprised by how many blunders are made daily, how often a brand (or an individual) has had to backtrack because of a tweet thought of as a joke but instead very offensive – see @PureGym post comparing a hard workout to ’12 Years of Slave’.
- Apply a common sense filter e.g. when deciding whether a piece of company news is for internal consumption only or whether you should shout about it to all. Does the whole world need to see pictures of the company Christmas party? No. Are you issuing a release about an acquisition? If you are a listed company you may have some time restraints on when to do this so make sure you are aligned with your PR Communications Team.
Different platform, same rules
For me, managing corporate social media channels is like any other role in communications – you need to build your experience and knowledge, learn from your peers and ensure you always follow corporate communications best practices. Maybe not as much fun as you imagined, but very, very effective.
Simona Cotta Ramusino shares lessons learned from her first year as a freelance PR and digital marketing consultant:
So it’s already been a year since I took the plunge into freelancing and it’s certainly been a crazy, scary, and self-rewarding time for me. As the summer approached, I remember starting off tentatively, double-double-double checking every email I was about to send out and running every action past Sam. But after a few weeks I found my feet …and my voice. As I started working with different clients and different accounts, I rediscovered the real me, a more confident “me” who could take an active role in new prospects’ meetings, could produce good writing, and could come up with interesting suggestions for her clients without being scared of saying the wrong thing.
1. Its Ok to be scared: being scared helped me to look at different options and opportunities; it helped me focus on the job; and, because it doesn’t come natural to me, it forced me to go out there and look for some local networking events.2. Find a good accountant: you won’t believe how important this is when you start off. S/he will help you:
- Decide whether you want to set up a Limited company or be a sole trader – there are different tax implications here depending on what type of business you are in, who you are going to work with etc so ask friends if they can recommend anyone or look on LinkedIn;
- Set up the Company for you;
- Recommend contacts for opening a business bank account;
- Set you up with accounting software or spreadsheets for recording your accounts
- Advise you on business expenses;
- Do your financial year end accounts:
- Recommend a pension advisor.
3. Set up a healthy and comfortable office space: again, from experience (back aches, neck aches, colds) it is important that you have a good size desk, not too close to a radiator and not too close to draughts; if possible, do invest in a laptop stand and a second monitor, (I found it free through a local company that was refurbishing their offices… you’d be surprised what gets thrown away). And if things are going well after a year, reward yourself with a new laptop.
4. Learn from your mistakes: like in any job, things sometimes don’t go to plan and when this happens as a freelancer you feel the blow even more. When this happened to me, I was able to look at why this situation had occurred and what could have been done differently. This has helped me take a different, customised approach for each of my clients, as each operates differently.
5. Be prepared to work on weekends or when other family members are on holiday. The myth that freelancers can take days off when they want it is not true. Especially at the beginning, you must be prepared to work long hours, be idle in the middle of the day and work late evenings. But…it is definitely a rewarding day – and that for me is what matters.
Digital marketing Pro, Simona Cotta Ramusino advises on how to manage interruptions when you work from home.
Before working as a freelancer, I spent over 10 years in various PR agencies where time keeping was an essential skill. You often had to juggle more than one client at once and more than one task a day and only had a certain amount of hours each day so a good time management was important in order to be productive and efficient on clients’ accounts. I have always prided myself on being a good timekeeper, being able to multi-task and on delivering work on time. But things changed a little bit when I took the plunge into freelancing and not through any fault of mine!
I want to share this with you – freelancers and freelancers-to-be – because you will experience this in some shape or form and particularly at the beginning of your new career.
Time management as a freelancer becomes more difficult because…people (and I mainly mean friends and family) don’t think you are working. They don’t really know what you do but they think you are at the computer for a couple of hours and then you do housework or food shopping or go to the gym (which I do but early morning or during my lunch break). Sounds familiar? This leads them to ask if you can go over for a coffee in the afternoon, or babysit or call you for a mid-morning chat.
So although I may have a strict work routine to be at my desk for 9.00, have a lunch break and be finished for 18.00 following normal office hours, other people don’t and that’s how my time management goes out of the window and ‘external sources’ disrupt my day. And because they are family or friends it is hard to say “I’m working, go away” without sounding rude. But you have to. The sooner you do that, the better. And stick to it. You will be hated for a bit but it will be your saving grace in the long run.
I have the added challenge that my husband also often works from home and Ihave to admit, we did have quite a few ‘discussions’ when I first started freelancing. Now, if either of us doesn’t want to be disturbed (even if it is “Just for a coffee”, “Just for a second…”, “Just…”), we close our office door. I know we both mean well when we interrupt each other but from my side I don’t want to spend an hour on the same sentence when I am writing something and get interrupted many times (“What do you want for lunch?” “When do you want lunch?” “What should we do for dinner?”…etc). One could say that if you were in an office you would get interrupted anyway but a colleague wouldn’t come near you if they saw you madly typing on your laptop and if they did, you can ask them to come back later and they wouldn’t think that was rude. And so should your family and friends.
So my advice is: treat your freelance working time as if you were in an office. Be diligent and respectful about it so that your family and friends will be too. Whether you work from 7.00 to 15.00, 10.00 to 18.00, or 12.00 to 19.00, that is business time. Like in any agency, at the end of the day your timesheets should show how hard you have worked that day.
From newest member of the team, digital marketing diva – Simona Cotta Ramusino
Reality has finally hit. I have updated my LinkedIn profile with my new job title so it must be true: I am a PR And Digital Marketing Freelancer.
After 20 years of working for top class agencies and in-house marketing departments of international brands I have decided to take the plunge into freelancing. Making the decision to go freelance was a scary moment and I am just beginning to get to grips with my new status. It is something that, in just a short period of time, I have already come to appreciate and enjoy and won’t change my mind any time soon. Why? Well you need to know how I got into freelancing.
It’s really thanks to Sam.
Sam and I worked together a few years ago, and one of her talents back then was the ability to read people’s strengths and personalities and make it work well within a team. When I asked Sam for advice on whether I should join her band of freelancers she knew my type well: I am not a risk taker, I am someone who always has to think things through, always needs to have a Plan B (or C or D). So Sam not only laid out the naked truth about the freelance world but she also made sure I didn’t have too much time to think over the cons the new path would entail and got me straight to work as part of the Comms Crowd gang.
The “plunge” came with an important life lesson. As I started reconnecting and talking to previous colleagues, they all agreed it was a great career move for me, some even wondered why I hadn’t done this sooner. It surprised me. They knew more about me, about my skills and talent than I did. At the end it was their support and comments that gave me that final push and made me realise it was indeed a career change, it wasn’t something temporary, something I could do in my spare time or just as I was looking for something else. It was my new job title.
To answer my initial question on why I wouldn’t change being a freelancer this is because it lets me use all the communications skills I have learned through the years and apply them for a variety of clients that an agency wouldn’t even have on their books. I also feel it has elevated me professionally and it is giving me so much satisfaction, both professionally and personally. Because the relationships I establish with my clients seem to be more on a par, the recognition I receive for my work feels more personal and genuine.
So while some people may decide to go down the freelance route because they want a better work/life balance or be their own boss, for me these are just by-products. Freelancing means doing what you do best and enjoying it!