While LinkedIn leads as a business-to-business platform in terms of penetration and scale, B2B social media engagement is actually highest on hip photo-sharing platform Instagram, according to a new study by TrackMaven, based on an analysis of 316 B2B brands across the major social networks.
Unsurprisingly, B2B brands have been busy on LinkedIn, building relatively large followings of vendors and customers; thus brands in the professional services category have a median LinkedIn audience of 1.2 million followers. They’re also active on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, with varying rates of success: for example, the median number of Pinterest followers was less than 3,000 for most of the brand categories studied.
However Instagram – not necessarily most people’s first example of a B2B medium – stood out for delivering high engagement across a range of categories, with measurement defined by TrackMaven as the number of interactions per post per 1,000 followers.
Here are the B2B engagement rates for the major social media networks according to TrackMaven:
- Instagram yielded an engagement rate of 22.53.
- Pinterest at 15.88.
- Facebook at 5.99.
- LinkedIn at 1.09.
- Twitter at 0.86.
Instagram was the biggest source of social engagement for 15 out of 17 categories, including aerospace and defense, chemicals, computer hardware, construction, electrical equipment, energy, engineering, logistics, machinery, medical, motor vehicles and parts, pharma, professional services, software, and wholesales.
Just two categories did better elsewhere, with biotech seeing bigger engagement on Facebook, while financial services’ highest engagement came on Pinterest.
The rise of digital, including social media, has had a disruptive effect on B2B publishers similar to the impact on consumer media. According to figures from Connectiv (formerly ABM), from 2008 to 2014 B2B print ad revenues declined from 34% of the industry’s total revenues to 24.4%, while over the same period, digital advertising increased from 10.3% to 21% of the total business. Data and business information services rose from 5.8% to 10.2%, and events increased from 42.8% to 44.4%.
COMMENTARY: TrackMaven's B2B brand social media study included a grand total of 508,060 social media posts and over 100 million social interactions. The 316 brands featured in their analysis include the leading B2B brands in the Global 500 and B2B leaders on social media as identified by the TrackMaven platform across 17 industries.
Which B2B industry has the best social media strategy?
Let’s start with a view of the complete B2B landscape on social media in one summary graph from the report. The graph below plots the average follower growth, average engagement ratio, and median social media audience size for B2B brands by industry across 2015.
Click Image To Enlarge
In a nutshell, you should aspire to land in the top right of this graph. Score high on the y-axis (follower growth) but low on the x-axis (content engagement), and your brand is growing but not engaging your audience. Score high on the x-axis but low on the y-axis, and your audience is interacting with your brand on social, but not bringing anyone new to the table.
So which B2B industries excel on social media? Here are just a few of the key takeaways:
- Biotech, engineering, and financial services brands are in the social media sweet spot. Brands in these industries have both substantial audience growth and high content engagement on social media, indicating impactful social content. The financial services industry’s 81.77 percent average follower growth per brand is especially impressive given the industry’s large median social following.
- Machinery manufacturers are adept at growing their audiences. Across the B2B landscape, brands in the machinery sector see the highest social media audience growth, with average annual follower growth across all five major networks of 129.02 percent. Engaging content is a correlated factor; social media content from machinery brands is ahead of the B2B pack, as indicated by its high engagement.
- Biotech brands know how to engage audiences. Across the B2B landscape, biotech brands have the most engaged social media audiences with an average engagement ratio of 12.46. Financial services brands are a distant second at 9.94
- Are software brands in a social media bubble? Software brands see fantastic social media growth — up 82 percent of total followers across 2015, on average — but the worst content engagement with a 2.62 engagement ratio. Is the allure of Silicon Valley attracting followers to top software brands without the content to back it up?
How to create a B2B social media strategy that works
Our analysis points to a major contradiction in B2B brand popularity. If you look at brand popularity based on follower count, then LinkedIn is the big B2B winner. Overall, B2B brands have the largest audiences on LinkedIn, according to our research. The median social media audience size for B2B brands is:
- 109,000 followers on LinkedIn;
- 34,000 page likes on Facebook;
- 18,000 followers on Twitter;
- 3,000 followers on Instagram;
- and 420 followers on Pinterest.
This finding probably comes as no surprise. After all, LinkedIn is B2B marketers’ social channel of choice. It’s used by 94% of B2B marketers, and the 10 most-liked brands on LinkedIn are all B2B brands. But is this a case of a self-fulfilling social media prophecy? I’m a B2B brand, therefore LinkedIn is my primary social channel?
Our research indicates that this might be the case — and it’s likely holding B2B brands back from newer, more impactful networks.
Let’s look at B2B brand popularity by a different parameter: content engagement. When we analyzed the average engagement ratio (number of interactions per post per 1,000 followers) for B2B brands on each social network, Instagram is by far the B2B powerhouse. The average engagement ratio for B2B brands is:
- 22.53 on Instagram;
- 15.88 on Pinterest;
- 5.99 on Facebook;
- 1.09 on LinkedIn;
- and 0.86 on Twitter.
We cover this finding (and many more) in detail in our report, but here’s the quick and dirty bottom line: Challenge the LinkedIn legacy effect for B2B brands. Explore newer, visual-oriented networks where there are high levels of engagement and less competition.
Courtesy of an article dated April 4, 2016 appearing in MediaPost Social Media Marketing Daily The Social Graf