22 June 2023 |

Social Files Declassified; Volume 5


Everything you need to know about building a B2B social media presence

Today I sat down with one of my favorite B2B Social Media Managers — Christina Le. Christina runs social over at OpenPhone and is doing great work there.

Got to spend some time with her and dive into her thought process around building a B2B social media strategy that isn’t stale.

Let’s open the file

If you’re in a rush, or just too lazy to read (it’s fine I won’t judge), here is the TLDR:

Note 1: Most B2B social media presences suck because they lack personality. They don’t have anything that makes them stand out on the timeline.

Note 2: The problem in Note 1 happens because B2B social presences are often too product-focused. This isn’t to say that a product-led approach to social media can’t succeed (look at Notion), but you need to give your audience a clear reason to follow and get clear on who your brand is on social.

Note 3: Getting buy-in from B2B leadership is hard. If you are a B2B founder or CMO, let your social team be creative. If you are on a B2B social team, don’t be afraid to push boundaries. Ask for forgiveness, not permission (but be smart here). An easy way to increase buy-in from B2B social leadership is to tie all social goals and initiative back to metrics they actually care about (revenue, leads, etc). Get good at telling a data story.

Note 4: Too many B2B companies expect their social team to have strict content calendars. Instead, lean into flexibility. Post evergreen content, but do not be afraid to tastefully mix in trends to make your brand more entertaining on social (and get customers to engage with you more).

Note 5: LinkedIn is where it’s at for B2B companies right now.

Ok. Here’s the full thing.

Tommy: Christina, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today. First of all, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what your current role is?

Christina: Yeah, so I am currently the Social Media and Community Manager at OpenPhone. I’m pretty much a one-man show, jack of all trades there.

I’ve been doing social for 5-6 years now.

That said, I feel like every social media manager’s experience in social has been predominantly the fact that we’ve all had our own social accounts. We just knew how to get it to work in our own favor. And I’ve had a passion for it.

It was something that I was deeply interested in and surprisingly it turned into a job. So it’s been great. I didn’t go to school for it.

I went to school for political communication, thinking that I was going to write political speeches, which now I feel like I’m always constantly trying to convince people to believe in the things that I’m saying and the stories that I’m telling. So makes sense.

I’ve had experience in all facets of social. It’s been great.

Tommy: Did you purposefully end up in B2B? What made you land on B2B social media for your current role?

Christina: Yeah, so funny thing is that I was working for this one fuel company, so that was direct B2C. And I remember looking for a job, I wanted to break into tech.

And I knew that the best place to do it was to look on LinkedIn and I’ve noticed people were hiring for social media managers. I didn’t even know what B2B was.

So I actually was interviewing for this one SaaS company. And they were like, ‘Yeah, so what is your experience in B2B?”

And this is one of those moments where you probably should have done your research before applying, right?

And I was like, “B2B means boring to bits, right?”

And I just remember the look on the girl’s face when I said that… and I lost the interview.

But from that point on though, because to me, when they say B2B or B2C, it doesn’t really translate in my head.

I never specifically was like, “Yeah, I’m working direct to consumers. I’m working for influencers.”

I’ve never want to categorize myself in that way.

It just so happened I ended up landing at PandaDoc, which has then landed me here at OpenPhone.

Tommy: Now, coming into B2B SaaS, what did you notice about their approach to social as someone coming in from direct-to-consumer?

Christina: I think for me, it was a lot to do around talking about our product and how we market it.

And it’s weird because from the social space, it’s all about attracting an audience, right?

But then there’s that other side of it where in B2B, it’s all about marketing the product, talking how the product, telling customers how the product can help you and et cetera.

When I came in, the main challenge on social was how do you get your brand to stand out?

Because a lot of B2B companies on social media aren’t super creative.

The language in a lot of B2B social content has always been more stiff. Whereas if you notice a lot of the other companies where it’s more direct to consumers, it’s very human to human, and they’re speaking in a way that any average Joe can figure it out.

I think because a lot of companies in B2B feel the need to sort of appeal to other brands by sounding smarter. And that, to me, has always been a problem.

I’ll never be the person who knows all those corporate lingo and technical terms, but I will be able to tell the brand story in a way that will resonate with people, that will make it sticky.

And that’s the whole goal — making your brand’s message sticky. A lot of B2B companies have trouble with that.

Tommy: Okay so building off of that, what makes the message stickier? What are some angles that B2B companies can use to actually stand out?

Christina: Inject some more personality into the stuff they’re doing?

Seriously, I think the whole facade of “Hey, we’re going to help all these small businesses because we’re here for you” and all the ultra-corporate lingo… it’s just not working.

B2B companies need a distinct personality. If you don’t have a distinct personality because you’re all over the place, how is anybody going to relate to anything that you’re saying?

Any time I join a company, my first priority is understanding what their overall goal is.

And then it’s like, “Okay, but who do you want to be? What brands do you admire most?”

And you always start seeing the trends, right? For example, if somebody were to say the really like PandaDoc, ChiliPiper and Gong…

You’re like, “Okay, I can see this unhinged humor coming out that’s like the type of style you like.”

And then you have people who say, they really like Notion and ClickUp — brands that have a more product-led focus on social media.

So you really start seeing sort of like these stereotypical personalities come out, and it’s all about understanding where it is that you want to stand, what makes sense for you and your company’s voice.

Because sometimes I feel like leadership or individual people in the company all have different ideas of what it is that they want their brands to stand for and what their personality is about.

And that’s when there’s a disconnect with your audience, because if you can’t figure out who you are on social media, how do you expect anybody else to know who you are?

And I don’t know about you, but I hate when people tell me I need to be just like XYZ. And I’m like, I’m not XYZ. I wouldn’t say OpenPhone is Notion or OpenPhone is any other brand.

My goal on is to be the only OpenPhone on social.

Tommy: You mentioned the importance of getting aligned with leadership and how leadership can have a different idea of what they think social ‘should’ sound like. I feel like that’s especially difficult in B2B.

How do you go about creating buy-in with leadership and getting everyone on the same page?

Christina: I’ve learned quickly in my career that if I want to convince somebody to let me do something, there’s a few principles to follow.

One is to just do it anyway without asking. That idea of ‘don’t ask for permission, ask forgiveness.’

That has worked tremendously well. You would know where your boundaries lie, and you should probably not jump over that. But you should be okay with taking some calculated risks if you trust your skillset.

On top of that, I always like to bring proof where I say, just let me experiment for a certain phase.

Social moves so quickly that if you don’t have the opportunity and the freedom to experiment, you can miss big opportunities for your brand to stand out.

Some of the best people who work in social make decisions off of a gut feeling. It’s hard to explain.

And I know people in leadership are like, “no, but I want XYZ strategy.” I can’t always give you a perfect strategy. I’m just telling you based on my experience, I have a feeling this idea might work.

But I think if we pride ourselves in saying that we allow our employees the opportunity to fail or experiment and test things, that’s when you’re going to get high quality work.

And so I always ask leadership to let me experiment for 90 days and see how it goes, or 60 days, whatever the timeframe is.

Once you get that approval, track the results and get really good at building reports.

Especially in the B2B space, get great at building reports because leadership cares about money and ROI.

Whether it’s driving more clicks to the website, getting more reviews on the blogs, or bringing more leads in — it all funnels down to the bottom line.

Leadership wants to know: is it going to increase our revenue? And if it doesn’t, then why are we putting effort and resources behind this?

So you need the skill to tell that story right.

Learn how to tell the Data Story.

And like I said earlier, don’t always ask permission to try new things. It’s a blocker.

When you’re asking and waiting for somebody to tell you it’s okay to try something, the trend is gone. You’re already behind behind.

Tommy: Absolutely. Now in those reports you mentioned, how do you structure those? And how often are you sending them?

Christina: We use Octopus at OpenPhone — but before that I’ve used Sprout Social and a few other tools.

So there are social media management tools that could pretty much auto populate all of your content and build a report and automatically send it out for you.

But if I were to build a report from scratch, it changes based around my goals.

You should have several different KPIs. You shouldn’t always rely one. And I think vanity metrics like audience growth and engagement rate and stuff like that can only tell a part of the story.

If you want to get buy in from leadership, it’s really important to say how it’s making an impact on the overall marketing or company bottom line.

For example: at OpenPhone right now, we have a goal to increase our sign up to trial number, but then we kind of break it up into three sections, right?

We have organic visits to our website and then from website is who would convert to a trial, from trial to paid. So you have all those three that you own.

And I make it clear in the beginning: what do you want Social to own?

Because that determines on how you structure your strategy, right?

So say you know social’s role here is going to be top-of-funnel.

Now the goal then is to increase brand awareness. But what does brand awareness mean for the company? Is that audience growth, is that engagement rate?

Tommy: Makes sense. Now, transitioning into goal setting — how do you think about setting effective goals on social media for B2B companies? What are you keeping track of and what are your targets that you try to work towards?

Christina: I always align our social media goals back to whatever the overall the business marketing goals are.

And again, for ours is to increase all the metrics that I’ve mentioned earlier.

And then it’s like, how do I make my goals make sense in conjunction with all of our other departments?

Because Lifecycle will have their own goals and Content Marketing will also have their own goals, but they should all be attributing to one bigger goal. And if ours is for brand awareness, because content, lifecycle, all of those stuff really all can relate in their own way.

For social, specifically, it’s very hard to just be like, yeah, my goal is to just grow followers by 20%.

Why do you want to grow your followers? What’s the point?

You need to make sure that it just aligns back to the business goals. How is what you’re doing in the the social department translating back to a business goal that leadership cares about (revenue, leads, etc)?

Tommy: Now, let’s talk about trends. Trending content is something that’s obviously relevant for a lot of social media managers.

But marketers can assume that trending content is only for B2C brands, or mass market brands like the McDonald’s, Netflix, or those types of brands that everyone knows about.

How do you think about trending content for B2B companies? Is it something that you use often? If so, what’s your criteria for when you hop in on a trend?

Christina: I love when I see B2B companies get involved in trending content, since the social media managers there don’t always have the freedom to lean into their creativity.

I love when I see these companies let their social team tap into whatever’s trendy — like if they use a specific meme or if they use a specific audio.

Like earlier today, I had attached a TikTok audio to one of our product videos, which was so weird.

If I’m tied to a legal team where if I have to explain to you what a meme is, I don’t want to work there. I really don’t.

I’m also starting to be one of those people who believe that you can’t necessarily batch content too far in advance. Content calendars are a crutch.

If your social team has to content batch 4 weeks ahead, you’re falling behind on trends.

Of course, lean into evergreen content, but evergreen content gets a little boring if you don’t add a little bit of flavor or lean into trending topics + formats.

Wouldn’t relevant, trending content be more impactful than to post a generic quote card?

I’m sorry, your quotes aren’t doing anything for me as a follower. It doesn’t make sense why so many B2B brands neglect trends for stale content.

So that’s been my whole thing with trends. Jump on them when you can and don’t miss the boat.

But also, there’s a skill in there, right? You also have make sure whatever trend you’re jumping on, it’s not like overly performative.

It’s a fine balance.

Tommy: Yeah. And that goes back to what we’re talking about before we started the actual interview — that idea of just ‘knowing’ what is going to hit and what could be received the wrong way, whether it’s more serious stuff, or even just like a meme.

Christina: Yeah, it’s just realizing when participating in a certain trend or topic would make us come off as tone deaf. We want to avoid that.

I’m all for some brands, like, pushing that boundaries, that’s great.

But when it goes a little too far, you can feel the inauthenticity about it and you’re just like, something about this just is giving me weird vibes.

As a social media manager, you need to have a good sense for how your specific audience will react to a piece of content.

Tommy: How do you go about developing that taste? There really is no curriculum for this. But different social media managers have different ways that they keep up with trends or stay in the loop. What does that look like for you?

Christina: For me, it’s being the consumer.

It’s always just being ingrained in social. I use it every single day.

I think the content which you create often reflects the content that you consume.

So things that make you laugh, you’re going to naturally mimic that. And I think that’s just human nature.

I think some of it is intuition. The other half is just like, if you’re in social, you should know what’s happening. You should be able to start adapting to it. You should.

Tommy: How do you think about platform selection if you’re a B2B company right now? What platforms would you say are the highest ROI?

Christina: LinkedIn.

And surprisingly, and I know people are probably going to cringe when I say this, but Reddit plays a big role for us, too.

I hate Reddit as a user, but there’s a really strong community building platform.

And Reddit has also brought in the most money for us in relative to all of our social pages.

The crazy part is we don’t even do much on social with Reddit. And it’s just a lot of UGC.

But if I were to say to choose your focus, it’s LinkedIn, Reddit and TikTok.

Right now, it doesn’t make sense for us to do Facebook or any of that stuff. So it really all depends on the company and your target audience.

That said, I would say you should only focus on building one platform at a time.

Honestly, if you’re a team of one, you can only be excellent at one platform on your own.

Because at the end of the day, if you’re overstretched, then what’s the point of creating content?

And not all content makes sense everywhere, right?

And the content that you create specifically for LinkedIn… it’s not going to work on TikTok.

You need to have focus because that’s the only way you’re going to produce good work over a sustained period of time.

Tommy: So, you guys are mainly focused on LinkedIn right now?

Christina: Just LinkedIn. Yeah, we’re keeping everything else alive in a sense of like, we’ll check it to see if there’s messages and stuff. But when it comes to creating content and doing things with purpose, it’s all for LinkedIn.

Tommy: And is that on the company page? Personal brand for founders? What’s the LinkedIn strategy?

Christina: Right now it’s just company focused stuff. And we have a couple of employees that have pretty strong personal brand that they like to talk about.

And I’m actually thinking about gearing more towards helping people build their personal brand because that helps the company propel themselves out.

Just look at Lavender. They’re doing such a great job with the amount of creators that they’ve hired.

Tommy: Awesome. Now, next question — what are a few B2B brands that you look at and you think, “Wow, they do a really good job on social” ?

Christina: Lavender, Chili Piper, and Apollo.io all do a great job. I also actually think an underrated one is Laudable.

Tommy: Follow up to that… what brands outside of B2B do you either look to for inspiration or you just consume their content and enjoy?

Christina: I feel like I always resort to the same thing that people always mention and it’s always Duolingo.

I think it’s the fact that Zaria was one of the first people who really unleashed on TikTok, and now you have other brands who are also wearing costumes and stuff.

I also like W Magazine. They do a lot of ASMR videos with the way they interview their celebrities, and it’s such a niche thing that I’m also considering testing it out for B2B content.

So I draw a lot of inspiration from interview styles and different magazines. I like to read a lot when it comes to thinking what content to write and how to be funny.

I’m also a big fan of Caraway, the cookware brand, on social. I like the way they style all of their videos and the content they post. Not just on TikTok, but Instagram, too.

Tommy: Awesome. This was a great interview. Thanks again for your time!

If you found this interview helpful, you’ll love Christina’s LinkedIn content, right here.