B2B marketing in social. Excited or enough to make you cringe? Probably a little of both, we imagine. The fact is, though, that it’s here. The Content Marketing Institute reported 87 percent of B2B marketers using social media to distribute content. The challenges are determining how B2B marketers use social, for what purposes and what can they do to make things better.

CMSWire catches up this week with some industry analysts on B2B social marketing challenges. Today, we start with Michele Linn, director of content development for the Content Marketing Institute, in the first of three features.

Success: What’s Working?

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According to Linn, those who are successful in social media are:

  • Focusing on specific channels and customizing their content to those channels
  • Telling a consistent story across the channels they use (even if the tone of the story and what they share is different based on the channel)
  • Providing a consistent experience for the user and being responsive
  • Sharing information from others as well as from their brand
  • Understanding if/how social followers are impacting their business goals

 B2B marketers often "try to do too much," she said, adding that it is a mistake to take a “spray and pray” approach. "Rather," she added, "you need to customize your approach and message for each channel."

At the Content Marketing Institute, for instance, readers respond well to information about careers and strategy in LinkedIn, but they gravitate more toward images and off-the-wall content in Facebook.

customer experience, B2B Social Media Marketing: Don't Do Too Much, Choose Channels Wisely

Don't choose your channels before defining your strategy.

"'Shiny new object' syndrome is common because companies see what others are doing and decide they need to do the same," Linn told us. "But, if you don’t know why you are there, you are likely to fail."

Further, organizations with multiple departments handling social media -- and not communicating with each other -- is a recipe for failure.

"The messages you see from the same company can seem conflicting," Linn said. 

LinkedIn Leads 

According to the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs "B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America" report, LinkedIn is the channel that has been adopted by the highest percentage of B2B marketers in North America:  91 percent. This is also the only channel in which the majority of users consider it to be effective.

"I think LinkedIn has been a very popular channel for B2Bs; they can easily find relevant groups to engage with them easily," Linn said. "However, there are high adoption rates of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as well -- and we see adoption rates for every channel grow year-over-year."

B2B marketers are using more social channels than they were in the past, according to Linn's organization's research. B2B marketers saw the biggest year-over-year increases with Slideshare, Google+ and Instagram.

"Personally, I hope we see B2Bs start to focus on a few channels," Linn said, "and dominate those instead of trying to be in multiple places at once."