As a B2B marketer, how do you respond to the disruption caused by Covid-19? Here I will go through each of the major channels: LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and WeChat. I will first benchmark them by giving you an overview of how they are generally used and a few useful metrics. For reference, the total number of estimated internet users in the world is 4.4 billion, so this provides the upper limit for the number of users that can use each social media channel. Then I will explain where we might be seeing the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown. Finally, I’ll give you some tips on how to respond so that you are properly braced for what is to come.
Why have I chosen these channels?
First, I discounted the social media channels that are chiefly B2C, like Instagram, then I looked at the social media channels used in Asia. With regard to social media use in Asia, traditional wisdom is that Asia has its own social media channels, with WeChat and LINE being pointed to the most. While this is true, and I've included WeChat in my analysis, the big global international social media channels all owe a huge portion of their activity and growth to Asia. For example, LinkedIn sees both India and China in its top 5 countries. 41% of Facebook monthly active users are based in Asia, the most active region for Facebook, despite the fact it’s banned in several Asian countries. YouTube counts Japan in its top 5 countries too.
Summary of the changes under lock
Increased usage of and engagement with social media across all the major channels in Q1 2020, coupled with reduced ad spending across all the major channels. At the beginning of Q2 2020, April and May, engagement and number of posts plummeted to all-time lows for those channels that did not adapt.
Credit: Rival IQ
WeChat is the stand out success. It has been by far the most agile of the social media networks by releasing a portfolio of game upgrades and new products. It has successfully deepened and broadened its role as China’s operating system and posted revenues at 26% higher year on year for 2020 Q1.
Other feature changes include:
- Facebook's small business stickers, so that you can show love to the small businesses you use
- Twitter's fact-check feature, to help you sort accurate information on covid-19 from inaccurate information
Companies are also posting jobs at "record levels" on LinkedIn. Normally they have about 20 million jobs listed at any one time with 3 million new jobs listed each month. LinkedIn has also been promoting its existing feature, LinkedIn Learning, and Facebook has been promoting its existing small business resources.
Topics of interest during lockdown include Food & Recipes, Gaming, eLearning, and Information/News.
- LinkedIn under lockdown
- YouTube under lockdown
- Facebook under lockdown
- Twitter under lockdown
- WeChat under lockdown
In each of these articles I benchmark the channel for you. I explain the market it addresses and purpose for the platform, some key statistics, how a B2B marketer should use it. Finally, I tell you the changes that have occurred to engagement, ad activity, and new features so far under lockdown.
Some theories about what is happening
At this point, it is hard to tell and these are only my theories. I studied human geography at university and this colours my thoughts.
Almost every community, no matter how digital, needs to be rooted in physical space to have vitality. Creative areas, such as Silicon Valley in the US (tech), the Guilford Triangle in the UK (racing cars), of Penang in Malaysia (electronic hardware), are fuelled by the fact that competitors are physically alongside each other. This attracts talent, triggers engaging conversations, and that's good for everyone. With lockdown in place, people cannot go out and meet each other to break bread, they cannot progress relationships that are in their early stages. It is this buzz of new connection and vital community that incentivises us to keep going back to social media. One of the reasons why WeChat has done so well is that it has linked it's new online creations to what was happening physically offline - homeschooling and people whiling away time.
Then there is the push factor of bad news and trolling that pushes people away from social media. People have only so much tolerance for misery before they disengage. Before, they were incentivised to keep coming back despite the negativity because of the buzz of connection and community, without the physical roots of social media this incentive is no longer working well.
In Q1 2020 we saw people engage to protect their mental health to drink in the vital energy of social. Now in Q2 2020 we see them disengage to protect their mental health from the draining negative energy of social.
How can you adjust your social media strategy as a B2B marketer?
- Expect 2020 Q2 & Q3 to be bad quarters and shift your focus towards short-term lead generation tactics to keep the money flowing. The volume of activity will be critical and conversion rates will go down.
- Everyone is cutting ad budget to save money, so focus on platforms with good organic reach, like LinkedIn. If you are fortunate enough to still have your ad budget, shift it towards Twitter and WeChat where there is rising ad engagement.
- Try a LinkedIn influencer campaign with niche influencers of 5000-10,000 followers (only 1% of LinkedIn has over 10,000 followers), they will often post for free if they feel that there is good brand alignment.
- Develop a LinkedIn content strategy – train your rainmakers on social selling and get them publishing LinkedIn articles – this will also make your business more future proof if we need to go into lockdown again in future peaks.
- Use Twitter to track news in market segments you cover, you can and should go very very niche. You should also be sure to share your PR and market updates on Twitter.
- Consider raw long-form content for YouTube such as recording a podcast-style discussion between you and an expert, or a roundtable of experts.
- Use Facebook to market online webinars.
- Larger businesses can show love to the smaller businesses that support them with the new Facebook stickers.
- Set up coffee meetings for a few months down the line so that you all have personal connection and interaction to look forward to, you can always move them. This will help to provide a physical root.
- Set yourself social media engagement goals. Go out and comment on 15 posts, publish an article every 2 weeks, thank anyone who comments on your content, try to create 100 iPhone video in 100 days. The divisive Gary "Vee" Vaynerchuck uses what he calls "The 99 Rule" where he comments 99 times a day via social media. Whatever you think of him, you can't argue with the results.
You get out what you put in with social media, so the more you can be a good member of your community, the better.
Follow me on LinkedIn for further insights.
Other references are in the specific channel articles.