As traditional advertising’s power continues to diminish and social media is becoming more important than ever, more business to business (B2B) brands are repositioning themselves as publishers, rather than advertisers, launching branded content in new channels to improve their value proposition for customers.
For many millennials, private social media or ‘dark social’, are the preferred channels. It refers to private social accounts which, unlike Twitter and Facebook that broadcast posts, allow users to select who their content is shared with individually. This presents a problem for advertisers as content is difficult to track and there’s a lack of analytics. As a result, marketers, and specifically B2B marketers, shy away as they struggle to prove return on investment from these apps.
However, as the mobile messaging and photo sharing apps WhatsApp and Snapchat continue to grow, they are becoming ‘enlightened’ and unlocked in terms of measurement potential from new technology and acquisitions they are making.
Snapchat stormed onto the scene in 2011. But it is not till recently that the platform has really taken off, and marketers have begun to take advantage of its popularity. Many are unsure of how to leverage the value, but the following stats help to highlight its potential – according to Bloomberg it now has more users than Twitter:
● Snapchat ads are viewed up to a million times per day
● 60% of US smartphone users are now on Snapchat
● 60% of users are between the ages of 18 and 34
● Users between the ages of 18 and 29 spend an average of 20 minutes per day engaged on the app.
Snapchat offers multiple ways for brands to engage with its audience, from video ads between stories they watch, to articles and dynamic content on the side bar or geofilters for location-specific events. These “behind-the-scenes” opportunities could be useful in B2B for thought leadership and educational campaigns, showing the audience how to use products or promoting a tradeshow or conference.
Snapchat recently announced it will be opening up its advertising application programming interface (API) and working with more measurement partners. As such, the potential return on investment will become easier to measure, allowing marketers to prove its worth.
The key to using Snapchat successfully in B2B is developing a strategy complementary to Snapchat’s core purpose and appeal: storytelling. Many B2B brands choose to allow an employee to act as a brand ambassador and promote their account via other social channels. This enables them to capture the personal connection Snapchat users seek, and overcomes the difficult hurdle many B2B marketers have when using social media: communicating without encroaching on their audience’s personal lives in a potentially frustrating way. Creating branded content that feels authentic or ‘native’ and that tells a compelling and relevant story can have real impact. The possibilities on Snapchat are almost endless and it pushes brands to deliver more creativity and flexibility than many other social platforms.
WhatsApp, the messaging app, has recently announced it is scrapping the paid advertising approach and encouraging businesses to contact its customers directly. This was previously prohibited in its policies, which stated that companies could only contact people who had the number saved in their phone book. This move is likely inspired by its parent company, Facebook Messenger, which is used by companies like Uber to interact with users.
WhatsApp can be used as a powerful marketing tool and promotion channel in B2B marketing, as it offers higher delivery chances and less restricted formatting than SMS or email messaging. This could be beneficial for sales teams to follow up via WhatsApp, rather than with a phone call. A recent study found that this method was 40 per cent more likely to receive a response, and could be a good way to reach and engage with the maturing millennial audience.
Previously, many B2B organisations deemed SMS campaigns too expensive or too technologically complicated, especially internationally. Opening up the free service allows videos, images and links to be shared with customers, whilst also creating a database of contacts, improving lead generation and proving the value of the data. The implications of using this in B2B could be boundless.
Balance in using B2C platforms
Snapchat has disrupted the social media landscape the way Twitter once did and there is a benefit to entering an emerging channel early. Commentators show Snapchat is at the tail end of the early adopter stage in the standard adoption curve (see graph below).
Source – Luc Galoppin
WhatsApp has been forced to evolve its commercial proposition and now offers the potential for B2B organisations to partake in the most modern, frictionless form of direct marketing for lead capture, nurture, conversion and even customer aftercare and market research.
If you are considering incorporating these once ‘dark’ social media platforms into a B2B marketing or social media plan, maximising their potential benefits in line with your overall plan is key. Do you have the strategy, content, resource, tracking abilities and agility to maximise your return? If not, dabbling in Snapchat because it’s hot is not a great idea.
Using any social channel in B2B requires a balance between reaching your audience directly and giving them something useful, interesting or fun, on their terms. Luckily for businesses, important emerging platforms such as WhatsApp and Snapchat realise that offering advertisers opportunities is central to their survival. As such, ‘social’ media users have come to accept and understand that advertising messages that are relevant to them are just part of the experience.
What do you think of B2B industries reaching out through these originally B2C platforms? I would love to hear your comments below.
Kate Howe is managing director of Gyro International.