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The 5 deadly sins of international B2B social media marketing

March 18, 2022

Everyone knows that smart use of social media is important for business. But then, everyone also knows that it’s a good idea to floss regularly. The “know-do gap” is just as wide in sales and marketing as it is in dental hygiene.

 

When it comes to international B2B marketers, however, it’s more accurate to talk about the “no-do gap”. Far too many B2Bs with international sales and ambitions never seem to get around to taking social media seriously. Or, if they do get started, they soon run out of steam or settle for rather unambitious programs and results.

But this hints at just one of the things that B2Bs get wrong when they try to cross the border with their social media efforts. As you’ll see below, there is a handful of other transgressions against best practice that marketers can commit – and often do. Fortunately, for each of the five deadly sins of international B2B social media marketing, there is also the possibility of redemption: just do the opposite.

Deadly sin #1: Failing to overcome inertia

What’s the most powerful force in the universe? What does Newton’s first law of motion describe? Why do so many B2Bs fail to harness the potential of international social media marketing? You guessed it: inertia. According to Britannica, if a body is at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line, it will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line at constant speed unless it is acted upon by a force.

International B2Bs: does this sound familiar?

Too many B2Bs simply don’t get started with cross-border social media marketing. They don’t articulate goals or strategies, dedicate the necessary resources, or make the necessary organizational changes. In short, they need some kind of a force to either get them moving or nudge them from the straight line of the usual and try something new.

Competition is one such force. Losing market share to competitors who are adept at social media marketing can be a powerful motivator. New people with new perspectives is another: sometimes a recently hired CEO, CMO, or that new twenty-something in sales or marketing can shake things up. And let’s not forget that there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned pandemic to disrupt what used to move in straight line at a constant speed. See for example our blog, Pivot from cancelled events to digital lead generation, for more thoughts on the hallowed trade show’s changing status.

So, how do you combat inertia and get started doing better international B2B social media marketing? Simply get started. We don’t know how you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but we imagine it involves intent, creativity, effort, skill, and consistency. Oh, and maybe some resources.

Deadly sin #2: Cultural ignorance

As Aldous Huxley noted long ago, “Facts don’t cease because they are ignored.”

Cultural ignorance in international B2B social media marketing takes on many forms. One of them is assuming that everyone in the world is just like you. At best, cultural illiteracy makes us think everyone will understand our allusions, idioms, references, and humor. At worst, cultural chauvinism convinces us that our way of doing things is actually better than others’.

Here in Denmark, where we are based, most folks hardly know what our neighbors in Sweden, Norway, and Germany are talking about and care about. How are we supposed to have our fingers on the pulse of decision makers on the other side of the planet? Too many companies, and this is by no means limited to Danish organizations, fail to recognize the limitations of their perspective and don’t bother partnering with people that have international and local expertise.

Unfamiliarity with how social media channels are used in other countries is a case in point. Businesspeople everywhere use LinkedIn, right? Well, LinkedIn recently announced that it will shut down in China and no longer try to climb over the Great Firewall. You might want to try MaiMai instead. XING boasts 17 million users in German-speaking countries, 70% more than LinkedIn. Russia banned LinkedIn in 2016 but does allow XING, E-xecutive.ru, Professionali.ru, and others.

The 5 deadly sins of international B2B social media2Completely ignoring channels like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (not to mention Snap, TikTok, and all the others) because “LinkedIn is for business, and we are a business” is another example of cultural and generational narrowmindedness. Few Scandinavian companies use Twitter, but this is not the case in the U.S or the U.K. A B2B’s choice to focus on LinkedIn for a lead-gen campaign may be well-founded, but not meeting people where they are, no matter how goofy you think that place may be, can have serious consequences for brand building in general and employer branding in particular.

Finally, let’s not forget the importance of language. For one thing, it’s important to remember that even though English has become the lingua franca of international commerce, 80% of the world’s population aren’t comfortable speaking or reading it. Most people – including university-educated procurement professionals – prefer reading in their native languages.

It should be no surprise that the quality of translation, copywriting, and cultural understanding matters. Nonetheless, many companies fail to consider the differences between translation, transcreation, versioning, adaptation, and localization, and take the easy (read: cheapest) way out.

So, how do you overcome cultural ignorance and ensure your campaign has its travel papers in order? First, you design your creative and media so that it either works in one language and culture or is ready to be adapted into others. Then, you find good international or local resources who can ensure writing quality.

CBC blog link: Unlock customer insights to improve digital lead generation

Deadly sin #3: Sloppy strategy

Knowing you need to have an international presence on social media isn’t enough. Neither is posting without purpose or plan. Good social media strategy for international B2Bs isn’t like uploading photos of your puppy whenever it does something cute—rather, you have to approach it with goals, a solid understanding of your customers and their journey to your door, and meticulous planning.

Successful social media strategies for business will reach several audiences simultaneously:

- Customers: Existing customers as well as sales prospects and leads
- Employees: Current employees as well as candidates and future talent
- Media outlets: PR-driven content for media outlets
- Competitors: Your rivals who want to keep tabs on what you’re doing

While you’ll probably focus your energy on customers, you should at the same time acknowledge that you’ll also reach the other three. This means being deliberate about images and copy – and knowing what you want your targets to do next.

Social posts are a means to an end, a step on a path. Your international social media strategy needs to be crystal clear on what you want your targets to do after they see a post that interests them. The clearer and easier the path, the more people you will lead to your goals.

BTW, social media strategies must include realistic budgets. Interestingly, companies that happily spend more than €50k on a trade show to meet existing customers and maybe a few new ones over a few days often balk at spending a fraction of that to meet people where they are every day. There’s a reason that “big tech” is big: they provide access to audiences. When you pay them to do it, that access gets better. The more intelligently you spend, the bigger the bang for your buck.

Deadly sin #4: Boring execution

Social media feeds are a waterfall: getting someone to notice a droplet can be a tall order. Stopping the cascade isn’t an option, so you have to stand out in order to get noticed. This is where creativity comes in.

In channels like Facebook and Instagram, consumer-facing businesses tend to use more resources than their B2B counterparts to create attention-grabbing content. That means B2Bs may have to do more with less and put quality over quantity. But there’s also plenty of competition for eyeballs on LinkedIn, where over 57 million companies try to engage with 810 million users every day.

Creative posts don’t need to be flashy, but they do need to stand out. They should also link to relevant, well-executed blog posts, eBooks, infographics, and other content that can help you make the most of your time and budget – and keep your customers moving towards your goals.

Deadly sin #5: Undisciplined operations

Many companies treat social media like a gym membership. It’s not enough to have an account. Sorry, but if you don’t show up and do the work—be it on Twitter or a treadmill—you’re not going to see results. Similarly, if you don’t follow some kind of plan with goals and strategies for achieving them, you’re likely to spend energy (and money) without getting any discernible outcomes.

Social media only works for you if you’re willing to be diligent about how, when, and who manages it. You should have goals before you start posting, and these goals have to align with your broader business strategy. In most cases, social media supports sales and marketing goals; therefore, your success must be measured in terms of how it helps attract leads and sales. This is even more important if you’re advertising on social media, as you’ll need to be sure you’re spending wisely.

A disciplined approach to social means prioritizing it within your organization. Determine the role your social channels will play in your overall marketing and business strategies. If the goal is to drive sales, for example, involve your sales team in social media strategy and execution. If you want to accomplish several different goals through social, consider who’s best suited to manage accounts—this person or department will have to negotiate different needs from each department as well as reporting and analytics. This is also true for national, regional versus international campaigns and accounts, which quickly get unwieldy if not managed properly.

Don’t forget how crucial it is for your own employees to get involved. The more you can turn employees into advocates, the more you can spread your messaging in an authentic way to a broader audience. Few things are more embarrassing than spending time, energy, and money into generating a social presence that goes ignored—particularly by your own staff.

The good news: salvation is simple

As hard as it may seem to salvage a flagging international social media presence, there are exits along the road to marketing perdition. The easiest and fastest way to turn around a wayward social strategy is to bring in experts, rather than guessing your way toward success.

Cross-Border Communications is here to help: our team of B2B marketing and social media professionals can help create the roadmap, strategy, and—most importantly—the results you’re looking for. In this sense, salvation is much closer than you might think. Reach out to Ralph Krøyer at rk@cbc.dk or +45 35 25 01 75 to get started.

Topics: Digital Marketing, LinkedIn