All About B2B Social Strategy
Featuring an interview with Emily Schultz from BentoBox.
B2B companies, I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you. Admittedly, most of my newsletters have interviewed B2C brand accounts—meaning they are using organic social to sell their product, services, or content to individual consumers. But, obviously, there’s a whole set of businesses that sell their product to other businesses. Brands like Slack, Docusign, and Calendly immediately come to mind. Even if I spend a mere 10 minutes thinking about how I’d run social for a B2B company, I can tell you that it looks wildly different from how I’d think about social for a B2C company. So it’s time for us to dig in.
Today I am talking to my old coworker and good friend Emily Schultz. She works in tech at a company called BentoBox, an all-in-one marketing and commerce platform for restaurants. In our chat I ask her about the differences between B2B social and B2C social, the importance of community-led social strategy, how B2B companies can work with influencers, and much more.
Rachel Karten: First, can you tell me about your current job and any past social (or not!) jobs you've had?
Emily Schultz: Currently I’m the senior brand manager for community at BentoBox. There are two big pieces to my role: one is that I oversee our social media manager and establish our social strategy, and the second is that I work on community programming, sponsorships, and collaborations.
I’ve been at BentoBox for a year and a half, and before that I worked at Bon Appétit as the social media manager. Before Bon Appétit, I worked at a social media advertising agency called 247 Laundry Service on the creative team.
RK: How would you describe the social strategy for BentoBox?
ES: BentoBox empowers the world's restaurants to succeed in their mission of hospitality. On social, we break our mission out into three categories:
Sharing our knowledge and expertise with restaurants online
Building a community that pushes the industry forward
Celebrating the wins and successes of the industry
Having these “pillars” that really define the broad goals of what we want to achieve with our social strategy then helps us build recurring content series, determine what is on or off brand, and allows people in the company and community to understand our mission.
RK: And how would you describe the BentoBox community?
ES: We’re a B2B company and we’re selling to restaurants—so our community is made up of restaurant and food industry professionals.
We service every type of restaurant business, from small independent restaurants all the way to huge restaurant groups with multiple locations. It’s important to be able to speak to all kinds of restaurant professionals.
RK: How would you say the social strategy for a B2B company differs from the social strategy for a B2C company?
ES: Your target true customer base is really quite small with B2B. Ultimately with B2C, everyone could technically be your customer. We’re a marketing and commerce platform specifically for food businesses, so anyone who isn’t in that space is not really who we’re talking to.
That being said, through our community-led strategy we’ve been able to really broaden our reach by driving home the broader mission of helping restaurants succeed. Everyone goes out to eat, which means everyone should want to help restaurants succeed. This has allowed our content and our community to broaden tremendously.
RK: What are some of the challenges of being a B2B company on social media?
ES: It’s incredibly challenging to do organic social for a B2B company, because while we’re marketing to a very specific group it’s important to make sure our content is broad enough to engage lots of people. Anyone who stumbles onto our content, whether they work in restaurants or love to support restaurants, has the opportunity to engage with it. So making sure our posts are relatable enough for growth and engagement, while still staying on message, is our sweet spot. We never want our content to be too sales-y or product-y (that’s what paid social is for!) but rather we keep it focused on supporting the restaurant industry as a whole.
RK: And some of the plus sides of doing social for a B2B company?
ES: Social media can be daunting and big. You can A/B test your entire life away and still not see the results you’re looking for. With such a specific niche, we’re able to dive super deep into this one specific topic: Restaurants. We are then really able to focus on current events and memes and people and places that restaurant workers really care about. When you have a really clear idea of who your audience is, it makes it a lot easier to speak their language.
Also, our community is real people and it’s important to view them that way. It’s Caroline Schiff of Gage & Tollner in New York. It’s Fermin Nunez of Suerte and Arjav Ezekiel of Birdie’s in Austin. It’s so cool to create real and meaningful connections with actual people in this industry, versus just hypothesizing based on location, job titles, and gender demographics of who we think our community is.
RK: I feel like it's not quite as common for B2B companies to run influencer campaigns, and yet you've done a really great job figuring out how to do this. Can you talk about what you've done in that space and how you select people to work with?
ES: Having a community-led social strategy really helps with this! Our influencer campaigns put restaurants at the forefront, where creators inspire their audiences to go spend money at and support restaurants through various creative ways. Ultimately when choosing influencers to work with, I want to make sure their audience includes people who are decision makers at restaurants. While it might seem obvious to work with the typical food or restaurant review TikToker, we’ve found that typically people who work at restaurants aren’t following those accounts. Restaurant workers and owners are often following other restaurant workers and owners—which is why we’ve worked with people like Evelyn Garcia or Zeb Stevenson. They’re following pop-up chefs like Susan Kim or Woldy Reyes, ex-media people like you and Alex Delany, or people who do great things for their restaurant communities like Steak Diane and Snacktime.
It’s also really important to just be super embedded in the industry. I’ve worked in and around restaurants for almost six years now and Colby Kingston, our social media manager, has worked in and around restaurants her entire life—check out The Clam Shack, her family’s restaurant, if you’re ever in Kennebunkport, Maine! We go to events, we consume media, we see who chefs are engaging with on social, and we make it a priority to work with those people.
RK: Talk to me about some of the social franchises you come up with that speak to the BentoBox community…
ES: I think something that is SO important to realize and accept is that not every post is going to hit all of your goals. That’s why having franchises, or different content series, is key to any brand’s success on social. For example, we do the Food Lover’s Guide, which encourages our audience to go out and try specific restaurants. Colby recently started this series called Ask An Admin, which really speaks to the folks at hospitality groups who work behind the scenes. Design is really important for us (BentoBox designs best in class websites!) so we have a franchise that examines any sort of collateral for restaurants, from the low-key sick graphic design of ice bags to choking hazard signs.
RK: Is LinkedIn a big platform for you?
ES: I like to think about it like this: On Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, we’re a brand. But on LinkedIn, we’re a company. On that platform we can flex that over 80% of our staff has worked in hospitality, and show those same staff members through our franchise, Let’s Get A Coffee. We can talk about the volunteering we do with The Isaacs Center or about the cookie bake off we held in our NYC office.
LinkedIn is actually a place to show company culture, because our audience there is people who would potentially want to work for BentoBox. On other social platforms, our audience is people who could potentially be our customers, since restaurant workers and owners aren’t typically on LinkedIn. Two fairly different audiences!
RK: Is there a post or campaign that you're particularly proud of? Tell me about it!
ES: Colby and I are comfortable enough with ourselves to know we’re not memelords, yet we know that’s an engaging format on social. So every Thursday we have an “inspiration” meeting where we talk about current trending memes, or share posts we saw from other brands we really liked and how that format/design could work for us. It’s been so helpful in really carving out time to address trends, and I couldn't recommend it enough. This post actually snowballed from a blog post about the night before Thanksgiving and what restaurants could do to promote it. It really is such an iconic night for people to go out to their hometown bars, so we wanted to capitalize on that mindset since it fits into our demographic perfectly. I thought it was so fun, uniquely specific, and timely.
RK: Any final thoughts?
ES: Carve out time to reflect on performance, find inspiration, and talk about social. Follow BentoBox on social <3. Get paid what you’re worth. Rewatch season 4 of Jersey Shore. Love ya!