For a while now, consumer brands have used social media to connect with customers in unique and valuable ways. At the same time, B2B marketers have struggled to master the social channel. Yet, this year, B2B brands are doubling down on their investments in social, video and other short-form content categories.
So, what’s behind the sudden push for short-form in B2B? Are brands simply caving to the zeitgeist and feeding audiences’ appetite for social and video content? Or is something more tangible driving B2B brands’ content investment strategies in 2019?
Short-Form Content Helps B2B Brands Achieve Business Improvement
In Walker Sands’ recent 2019 Future of B2B Content report, it was noted that B2B marketers’ top goals when producing content now includes boosting sales/converting customers (29%) and building relationships with new customers (19%) — outcomes are directly connected to revenue growth.
The study also showed that the greatest number of B2B organizations plan to produce more Social (72%), Website Content (65%), Video (63%) and Blog posts (49%) in the next 12 months. Long-form content assets (e.g. white papers and data reports) are still in the mix, but short-form content is clearly emerging as an investment priority.
The ramping up of short-form content investments reflects a growing urgency to demonstrate the impact of content. More than ever before, B2B marketers expect their brands’ content to achieve specific outcomes, usually in the form of topline business improvement.
Social, Video and Short-Form content enable topline business improvement by creating a more robust content ecosystem for brands’ integrated marketing initiatives. Marketers realize no single category of content can move the revenue needle on its own — it takes a mix of long-form and short-form content distributed across a range of owned, earned, shared and paid channels.
The current focus on Social, Video, Web and Blog content likely indicates a shuffling of the deck as brands play catch-up and, rebalance their content programs to include more short-form content.
Aligning Content with Today’s Purchase Process
Short-form content also helps brands adapt their content strategies to changing audience behaviours, allowing marketers to align with the way today’s B2B buyers gather information and make decisions. Specific types of short-form content (e.g., social, video and blogs) improve brands’ integrated marketing capabilities by responding to several trends that are reshaping the current marketplace:
Buyers Are Relying on Social in the Purchase Journey
Over half of B2B buyers search for vendor/product information on social as part of the purchase journey. Brands without a well-crafted social strategy miss out on valuable engagement opportunities, especially with young buyers who are extremely comfortable using social networks for professional needs.
While marketers typically think of LinkedIn as the go-to social channel for B2B interactions (and they’re not wrong), there’s value in pursuing more diverse social networks to reach a broader audience. Buyers now turn to traditionally consumer channels like Twitter and YouTube for peer recommendations, engaging content and quick access to brands. Social isn’t just for entry-level employees, over three-fourths of C-level executives/Vice President turn to social media to support their purchase decisions.
B2B Buyers Have Limited Time to Consume Content
B2B decision-makers are spread thin and tasked with completing increasingly complex purchases. When faced with a purchase decision, buyers are on a mission and quickly abandon companies that waste their time on irrelevant or useless content.
To accommodate buyers’ time constraints, brands can turn to ‘snackable’ content like videos and GIFs that excite buyers upfront and then remain on top of mind when customers are ready to convert. Highlighting a powerful statistic or customer testimonial in a short video can spark relationships with buyers and convince them to download a larger data report or case study later on.
Customers Favor Brands They Know and Trust
Familiarity is the foundation for successful brand-customer relationships. With so many options to choose from, B2B buyers are in a good position to take their business to companies they know and enjoy — 84% of North American business owners are more likely to consider/purchase from businesses they have engaged with outside of the office.
Although building a personal relationship with B2B buyers isn’t always easy, short-form content empowers companies to connect with potential customers in a way that doesn’t focus on sales. For example, a blog program can serve as an educational resource for buyers to learn more about topics important to them, while also offering a deeper glimpse into the company’s personality and values.
With trends like these already taking root in B2B purchasing experiences, no wonder more B2B brands are turning to short-form content investments like social and video to stay competitive. It’s also no surprise that more B2B companies are partnering with external agencies to develop result-oriented, short-form content programs.
Nearly all B2B marketers (95%) say it is a priority to work with external agencies for content strategy and production over the next year. For many B2B brands, building out new content touchpoints and specifically adding short-form content that complements existing initiatives like data reports and white papers — feels daunting. But the right partnership provides a resource to quickly ramp up content programs, while still maintaining close relationships with customers and industry expertise.
But whether you outsource content or not, there’s no denying the fact that social, video and other short-form content categories are on buyers’ radar. Ready or not, it’s time to rethink your content strategy and make room for more short-form content.
With thanks to Tom Morral