Professionals in business-to-business marketing have a challenging job. They usually market complex products, purchase decisions are often made within a group and trust and branding are important factors for the professional target groups as well. The good news: Digitization provides today’s marketeers with another useful tool to reach out to their audiences: social media.
In our new series, the B2B Cheat Sheet, we shed light on how successful B2B marketing works on social media. The first part of the cheat sheet focusses on Xing and LinkedIn, the social media grandmothers of B2B communication.

Social media today is not rocket science
Most B2B companies already have gained first experience in the field, identified their relevant channels and perhaps already placed ads on Facebook or Xing. Is that social media? A little! What is often missing is a strategic approach and the understanding of and commitment to a dynamic and open communication. Even if the challenges and opportunities are different for each company: There are a few basic rules no B2B communicator should forget.

Xing and LinkedIn – the channels of your colleagues
Let's take a look at the trailblazers of B2B social media channels. While Xing dominated the German market for a long time, LinkedIn has been targeting the Hamburg-based company in recent years. The active user numbers are not that different anymore. The old rule, to use Xing in order to reach German business contacts and LinkedIn to reach out internationally does not apply anymore due to increasingly globalized markets. So, carefully check in which network your employees and business contacts are active and base your decision on this research. If in doubt, use both platforms and review this decision in a year.

Special features: In contrast to channels such as Facebook, Twitter & Co., direct contact is key in professionally oriented networks. The primary task is therefore to encourage your colleagues to share content on their Xing and LinkedIn channels.

Messages: Communicate everything you also communicate on your homepage such as event notifications. If you announce company news or are looking for staff, share that as well. However, job advertisements should be shared primarily by the employees working in the respective department the new talent is needed for. Also make sure to check with your HR department first.

Who should share?: Everybody who would like to. Forget about long guidelines or training courses. Instead, simply create internal communication channels like the good old e-mail, inform your employees about new content on your website (provide a link!) and ask them to spread the news. Include not only the sales staff in your internal distribution list, but also employees from HR, marketing and other departments – and do not forget the top management. Check on a quarterly basis who gets involved – qualitatively and quantitatively – and revise your internal distribution list if necessary.

Target groups: Business partners, new talent... and not to forget: Your colleagues.

Frequency: A well-timed editorial plan for the news section of your website can be very helpful. When it comes to sharing content, an interesting mix of events, internal company information and sales and product-relevant content also pays off.

Expansion stages: Both platforms offer the possibility to present the company and share interesting content at the same time This can be particularly exciting for potential applicants; however, for business partners direct contact is more important. Inform your active networkers about successes and new activities and provide your network team with helpful tips and feedback.

Advertising: Various ad formats can also be booked. But careful: Make use of this opportunity only if your contribution allows direct conversion, e.g. for applications, trade fair invitations or whitepapers. If possible, integrate your campaigns into the analysis tool of your website and measure the success of the ads.

Conclusion: Business platforms such as Xing or LinkedIn offer you the opportunity to turn your employees into company ambassadors in the digital world. They give your company a face, inform interested parties about relevant topics and can inspire potential applicants. Therefore, improve your internal communication flow and make it easier for your colleagues to communicate actively.
If you turn your employees, potential business contacts and customers into active communicators for your company, you do lose some control over your communication. So be a thinker and a leader instead of a monolithic central organ.

Go to part 2.