Engaging customers on social media is a full-funnel strategy, and not just for consumer brands. Salesforce reaches customers and prospects on over 150 social channels.
The company partnered with social media management platform Sprout Social in 2022. Capabilities include social listening, analytics and managing direct messages. This boost in learnings from social media, and management of messaging on social, impacts the organization far beyond social media marketing and shows how B2B businesses can use these channels to grow awareness, sales and customer satisfaction.
The power of social media to drive awareness about consumer products is well-known. Witness the Stanley cup craze over the recent holidays. In the B2B world, key decision makers are also finding out first about a business on many of the same social channels. And they use social to conduct self-guided research.
“Now we see, no matter what type of company you are, when people are trying to learn about your brand, the majority actually go to your social media channels instead of going to your website,” said Marissa Kraines, vice president and global head of social media at Salesforce. “That’s a huge change from where we were a few years ago.”
As a result, Salesforce upped its investment in social media marketers and technology. Internally, the company uses Sprout Social to manage and gain intelligence from social. And for Salesforce customers, Sprout Social is integrated in Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Tableau.
When Kraines took on her current role in 2019, her team had four social media managers. Now there are upwards of 20 people on her team. The team is part of the corporate marketing organization, responsible for managing social branding, creative, community management, analytics and influencer marketing, among other tasks. They work collaboratively in supporting marketing, content organization and communications, as well as with external partners and agencies.
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“Social is such a unique space that we’ve also gotten into [leveraging] social listening not only for the marketing organization, but finding ways to bring insights to sales,” said Kraines. “How are we utilizing what we’re learning on social to impact the full company and not just the marketing organization? It’s new and exciting.”
What’s new is being able to streamline social media reports from all social channels and share them with key people in a form that automatically updates. Kraines and her team also present social media findings in a biweekly standup meeting so the other teams can benefit from insights and act on them. They can also access Sprout Social via app, which helps them monitor and gain approval for posts while out and about at one of Salesforce’s many events.
“A full 90% of potential buyers aren’t in market yet,” said Kraines. “When customers are first exposed to Salesforce through social posts, it’s very early in their journey and integrated in their regular stream of social media consumption. It’s a daily life situation where people are scrolling through Instagram, scrolling through Twitter, and you see a B2B company and you’re just getting to know them.”
In the early phase, a prospect might notice, for instance, that a company has prominent buildings or towers in big cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco. They might notice posts by CEO Marc Benioff on an issue affecting them.
This brand-driven social content is complemented by news of greater interest to prospects further down the funnel.
“During Cyber Week we were pushing out content across all of our channels,” said Kraines. “And the ones that were much more successful and had the higher engagement, had the higher click-throughs, had the most people interested in the content, were coming from those down-funnel channels. People were really connecting to that content.”
Understanding the voice of the customers
Social listening helps B2B marketers find out what customers think about important topics relevant to their business. It can also provide insights into campaign performance. Because it’s so immediate, social media is often the first data marketers can analyze.
“Social listening is real-time,” said Kraines. “You get feedback that’s so valuable that will take a lot longer in other types of marketing. Does this work? Does this message actually resonate?”
For instance, Salesforce is looking to social media to gain insights about its current campaign, “Ask More of AI,” starring actor Matthew McConaughey. They will use these insights to help inform later iterations of the campaign, Kraines said.
“Any brand, whether it’s B2B or B2C, really needs to be able to tap into social channels and understand what the real conversations are that are happening, either about [the company] or around them, or topics they care about,” said Scott Morris, Sprout Social’s CMO. “It’s super critical and, more and more, business-critical for organizations of all sizes.”
He added: “The insights you can get from your customers, and even those that might not be in your social marketable universe out there talking about your brand, that’s super important.”
The Salesforce social media team uses Sprout Social to set alerts and trigger actions when world events or business-related topics are being discussed. This gives the team a game plan so they don’t miss out on relevant conversations.
“There is a trigger within Sprout that, once there’s something mentioned at a certain level that has key words, even if we’re asleep we have messages come through that say ‘hey, this is happening,’” said Kraines. “It’s helpful and allows us to be a lot more clear and create a much more consistent process in how we handle crises.”
Increasingly, customers expect a two-way conversation with brands. Social users who reach out via direct messages or tags want to hear back.
So, in addition to social listening for messages from accounts that might not be followers, the Salesforce team also uses Social Sprout’s Smart Inbox. This tool streamlines messages from social media into a single flow that teams can prioritize and respond to. If messages received through social media are from customers, they can be transferred to customer care through the Service Cloud integration.
“Customer service was the biggest stakeholder in our decision to choose Sprout because they needed to have that ability to have a very seamless transition and have that partnership with Service Cloud,” said Kraines.
B2B marketers also have the opportunity to take the initiative on social media to respond to positive sentiment. “It’s not always those negative product moments,” Kraines said. “Within my team, we’re still very committed to community management with Smart Inbox to be able to congratulate people, engage with people and really build that community of advocates online.”
She added: “People don’t really like brands, they like people. So as human as we can make our brand — that is so important to creating those relationships. Yes, it’s coming from a brand, but people know there are humans behind the keyboard, doing the work, and we can have a voice and tone that makes it clear we’re not just ChatGPT-ing this stuff.”
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