This post is all about how to generate ongoing, scalable brand awareness for your b2b brand on social media.
We will cover:
- What brand awareness is (and isn’t)
- Why it is so important to sales and growth
- The principles behind how to generate it on a sustainable basis
- The exact steps to take to start doing it today
Let’s dive in!
What brand awareness is (and isn’t)
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a B2B marketing professional – and I’m sure you already know a lot about brand awareness.
So when I give my definitions, it’s not to patronise or spoon feed you, it’s because I believe that clarity over a definition helps us to better use the thing we’re defining.
Brand awareness is a critical building block in sales and growth. Without it, we are invisible to those who matter most to us.
Without enough of it, we will be leaving money on the table.
Brand awareness is not your audience merely recognising your logo or branding. While important, this level of recognition is shallow and without depth, pretty useless.
What we need is meaning.
So when an audience not only recognises us, but also understands the value that our product/service brings, even broadly – this is what we want. This is brand awareness.
Without brand awareness, nothing else can happen. Done well, over the long term, it leads to mental availability – which is how likely our brand is to be recalled in a buying situation.
Brand awareness is an investment in long term growth
I’ve previously written about how the majority of a B2B audience (i.e. up to 95%) is not in the market to buy at any given time.
This means that there are FAR more future buyers than there are ready to buy now.
So, by approaching brand awareness in a strategic, long term manner, we are investing in future sales.
Because brand awareness activities are designed to reach our audience at scale and influence them to help remember us when it matters most i.e. in buying situations.
As time passes, members of our audience who are currently out of market will inevitably become ready to buy. Then, when faced with our offers, that familiarity will be a massive asset to getting a sale.
(Les Binet and Peter Field have done research that demonstrates how “performance marketing” improves if you have a strong and well known brand.)
But if we are invisible to our audience – if they do not know enough about our brand and are not familiar with us, the chances of us coming to mind as a potential solution are slim to none.
Imagine the advantage that your brand would have if it was the first brand that came to mind as those masses of “out-of-market” transition to being “in-market”.
This can be engineered and one of the key factors is the level of brand awareness that you’re generating.
But as with any worthy investment, it takes commitment over the long term.
This means that few will do it – however, it also means that for those that do commit, you are giving yourself a long term strategic advantage.
This sounds great…but how do we generate it on social media?
To understand the dynamics and elements of how to generate valuable brand awareness – that is, awareness that leads to mental availability that ultimately leads to more sales, we must ensure that:
- Our plan is for the long term
- It is designed strategically
- It is NOT brand awareness in a vacuum
- It’s sustainable
- We are tracking our progress meaningfully
When I say “brand awareness in a vacuum”, what I mean is random acts of brand awareness marketing.
This might look like boosting certain posts on social media – but with the content having no throughline that tells your brand story.
Or activities meant to generate attention and awareness that aren’t connected to an ongoing marketing program that’s sustainable.
Brand awareness campaigns should be ongoing and then scaled up and down in terms of activity, reach and intensity over time – depending on the messaging and content that’s being delivered.
Ultimately, any brand awareness activity should form a part of a larger marketing system that is designed to generate leads, sales and profits. Otherwise, what is the point!?
Right, let’s get down to the nitty gritty principles behind how we make brand awareness happen!
The Principles behind generating scalable brand awareness on social media
This image is super simple – but very powerful. I “borrowed” it from an awesome agency called Born Social.
What it shows is where our focus should lie when it comes to brand awareness.
The opportunity is clearly the massive orange section – i.e. that ocean of our market who do not know us.
Our job is to turn them on to us, what we do, and the value we bring. It would be great for them to become followers too (very useful for nurturing and nudging).
Also, when looking at this image, it demonstrates why measuring success via engagement is simply irrelevant when it comes to brand awareness.
Engagement is shallow and too easily skewed to have any real meaning and it should never be a KPI of your social media performance.
Both Nielsen Consulting and Facebook have published work saying there is no correlation between engagement and brand growth or sales intent.
So what should we measure? It entirely depends on our objective. In this case our objective is brand awareness. Below you will see the KPI we should be tracking…
But for now, back to the image…
If our priority is the orange square – and we cannot reach those in the orange square organically as they are not our followers – it suggests that we must reach them via paid means.
Also, the content we’re putting in front of our audience needs to be content that will really stand out on their timeline since they won’t be familiar with us.
So, in terms of the principles to generating brand awareness, we should consider the following:
Your content should be attention grabbing, brand storytelling or relevant and educational in nature.
Don’t be “self centred” and make content all about how wonderful your brand is.
It should be focused on how our brand makes change for our customers – the broad benefits you bring – how you make things better for your customers.
It should be useful. Highly relevant and generous in terms of being educational – even designed to help your ideal customer overcome specific problems related to their job.
The content must also leverage your distinctive brand assets – those shapes, patterns, colours etc. that belong to your brand. Use them creatively, use them consistently.
If you ever get to the point where you are sick of the sight of your distinctive brand assets – good – it means that your audience has a chance of noticing, recognising and remembering your brand.
You have to remember that our brands are mere blips on the horizon of our customer’s lives. We are not as “big” or as visible or as memorable as we like to think.
This is because we all have so much else on our minds other than work stuff.
This is why consistency is so important in terms of your visuals and your activity. You have to do both to stand a chance.
Given that we are wanting to reach people who fall out of our follower base, boosting posts to your audience will help us to do this.
The difference between boosting a post and running an ad campaign is that boosted posts do not have clickable CTAs. This means that you tend to get more “bang for your buck” in terms of reach.
And reach is all important when it comes to brand awareness!
On LinkedIn, for example, organic reach is around 5% of your follower base, on average.
If you have 3000 followers, then just 150 people are likely to see that post. Do you honestly think you can build a brand with those kinds of numbers?!
You want to be tracking reach within your target audience. It needs to be frequent, i.e. I would suggest at least once a week.
And also your audience should be growing with people from your target audience.
Your audience size isn’t the most important metric – but there are advantages to having a large following, especially when it comes to nurturing over the long term.
As mentioned above – do not put any stock in the engagement of your content.
It is overvalued simply because it is easy to measure and within the echo chamber of social, it seems like it’s what everyone does.
Using engagement as a KPI and then optimising for it is likely to do more harm than good since it’s not correlated with any meaningful objective.
Exactly how to generate brand awareness
OK, so now we have our principles laid out. Now, let’s talk specific actions about exactly how to generate awareness for your b2b brand on social media.
These actions will be created by you answering the trigger questions below. Questions here are important because it means the answers will be specific to your context and thus the actions will be 100% relevant to you and your situation.
The trigger questions:
Do you have a content strategy in place that will help to transform your social media (i.e. your LinkedIn company page) into an essential resource for your ideal customer?
- Are the pieces of content you intend to post:
- Useful and relevant to your audience?
- Do they help to tell your brand story in a non-self centred way?
- Are they clearly and well branded with your distinctive assets?
- How can you ensure consistency of posting this kind of content over the long term?
- Can you put aside a budget to boost your best work to your ideal audience on a regular basis?
- Are you tracking the reach of your content? Are you tracking the growth of your audience and are the majority of new followers from your target audience?
By answering these questions, you will have a solid plan and be able to take meaningful action, personalised to your own context about generating brand awareness for your b2b brand over the long term.
While there is more to brand awareness, such as how to structure your campaigns and transitioning awareness to mental availability, taking action on what’s in this article, will help and put you ahead of the competition who are likely not thinking, planning and acting along these lines.
I hope this was useful, thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any questions.