3 ways B2B marketers can own social media

When it comes to social media, content and creativity win.

Many B2C companies push social limits to differentiate themselves from the overcrowded playing field of brands trying to break free. After all, it's that extra spark that turns a good campaign into a viral campaign. While B2C social strategy is often at the forefront of this evolving industry, B2B companies are gaining ground.

So maybe you're not pursuing coffee-consuming connoisseurs and battling #RedCup backlash. Or you're not reaping the benefits of #OptOutside with a 6,557 percent lift in social media mentions. (Bravo, REI.)

Still, some B2B companies are killing it on social media. Take GE's Instagram account, which has more than 199,000 followers. It showcases GE products in an unexpected way through mesmerizing videos, showing people a side of the company they may never see and taking them to places they may never go. Or look at Intel's Facebook strategy that broke barriers with #ILookLikeAnEngineer.

The key? Humanize the brand.

1. Tell stories and introduce a personality through imagery. In social media, stand for a purpose that transcends products. Xylem, a leading global water technology provider, is dedicated to solving its customers' most challenging water problems.

Here's how it plays out on social media: Xylem's Bell & Gossett pumps are installed at Levi's Stadium, the new $1.3 billion home to the San Francisco 49ers football team. The B&G-driven recycled-water pressure booster system ensures that when everyone goes to the bathroom at once, like during the halftime of a football game, there is adequate water available. There's a story to that. Instead of showing photos of the pumps, the social posts targeted football fans with stadium imagery and a behind-the-scenes story they might not otherwise know.

2. Get your employees involved. The days of banishing employees from social media use at work are long gone. If you have a dedicated and trustworthy team, you have natural brand ambassadors at your fingertips. Spend some time training them on how to properly use social media sites and how to advocate for your brand online. Then, create a social media strategy and develop guidelines around your company. If a small percentage starts sharing relevant content on Facebook or starts LinkedIn conversations, there's a ripple effect that can help maximize a marketing budget.

3. Use relevant hashtags. Rule of thumb: Use hashtags as a strategic decision to show up in a relevant feed. Put away the cutesy hashtags that don't add value (#amiright?) and delete the hashtags that only include your company in the conversation. Let's step back. Before using a new hashtag, do the research. Analyze what conversations are blossoming around that topic and which Twitter accounts are contributing to it. If you're not fitting into the mix, move on. If you've created a hashtag that doesn't have longevity to it, get rid of it. Always ask yourself: "What value is this hashtag adding?"

Now, every so often there's a chance to join a conversation your brand might not have originally intended to be a part of. Stay abreast of trending social topics and jump in where appropriate. Can you add a creative spin to a chatter-inducing topic without jeopardizing what your brand stands for? Go for it.

As you start to build out a social strategy for a B2B company, don't sell products on social — use it to achieve more. The moments and stories shared through social media will forge a stronger connection to your products and to your brand in the long run.

— Danielle Barr, senior digital strategist