The Medium is the Message

How ‘The Medium is the Message’ with Social Media

Marshall McLuhan is a Canadian professor and philosopher who was famous for his study of media theory. He is best known for coining the expression “the medium is the message.” Although McLuhan did not develop his theory in the digital age, his works can provide perspective to new communication platforms such as social media. He believed that the medium used to deliver the message has a significant effect on how the content is received and digested.

For B2B marketing professionals, McLuhan’s ‘The Medium is the Message’ theory shows that the manner in which a message is communicated is greatly influenced by the channel that it is being employed. The response of the audience will depend not only on what is being said, but the medium in which it is being delivered from. With the rising popularity of social media platforms, the same general rule applies, and it is essential that you deploy your message according to the nature of the platform you are using in order to be effective. Your B2B social media marketing must carefully employ a balanced mix across multiple channels to develop strong relationships with your audience and generate qualified leads.

We look into the 4 biggest social media platforms and your website to see how you can apply McLuhan’s theory to benefit your business:

1. Twitter

Twitter limits users to publishing 280-character posts (up from 140) to immediately capture attention in a concise manner. This bite-sized flow of information targets people who only have time to skim the news with the option to click a link to read further if they find the information interesting. Twitter is a medium made for efficiency and urgency. It lets people in on what is happening in the world at that very moment. People who regularly check Twitter are often in discovery mode. They are open to meeting new people and learning about new things.

This is a good opportunity for your B2B business to reach out to your target customer. It is easy to find them on Twitter, simply go to search.twitter.com and choose keywords that best represent your products and services. You will immediately find a list of people talking about the topic. Read the conversations and jump in when appropriate. But avoid being too salesy when interacting with your audience. Your aim is to be helpful and provide value, not deliberately trumpeting your company. Twitter is also an opportunity to showcase your expertise in the subject matter and build a community base. If you don’t know where to begin, it pays to visit your competitors accounts and see how they are relating to their customers. It will give you an idea of what content and resources to share to boost your credibility.

Periscope is a Twitter feature that you can take advantage of when you have major live events to share with your audience. This can include product demos, talks from the executive team or conferences that you are part of. This helps you develop stronger relationships with your followers by giving your company a more human feel to it.

By 2019, Statistica.com projects that Twitter will have 275 million monthly active users worldwide. In order to stand out, the key to an effective Twitter strategy is consistency in sharing. Since decision-making in the B2B sphere takes longer, it is vital that you communicate with your audience frequently. Twitter studies have concluded that B2B buyers are more likely to respond to messaging after repeated exposure.

2. LinkedIn

Promoting your business on LinkedIn connotes professionalism. LinkedIn as a medium is used for primarily business networking. Thus, much attention should be given to developing a strong company profile that captures attention. LinkedIn offers recommendations on how to optimize your profile. In a recent update, a company profile can now feature company leaders, more images, videos and testimonials.

Over the years LinkedIn has developed features to help advertisers better target the right audience. They have previously launched the LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Matched Audiences tool to deliver higher ROI for B2B marketing campaigns.

To ride the trend towards video content, LinkedIn now allows companies to include videos for Sponsored Content and Company Pages. These native video ads can help you capture the attention of key decision-makers throughout the buyer’s journey.

It is often a challenge for B2B companies to leverage social media to promote content or generate leads since most individuals use these platforms for personal activities. This is not an issue with LinkedIn since the context in which it operates is for professional networking. Boasting of 546 million professionals around the globe, LinkedIn is a very powerful tool and your best bet in improving your bottomline.

3. Facebook

Compared to LinkedIn, Facebook is a platform that provides a more casual and fun social media experience. The medium is the message of social connections. People don’t usually go to Facebook for business purposes although more and more people look to Facebook when they want to communicate with companies. Whether they want to ask a question or lodge a customer complaint, Facebook messenger has been a go-to medium.

Facebook has the greatest reach compared to other social media platforms and many B2C companies have found that it is an excellent tool for growing brand awareness. Still many B2B companies are skeptical about its ability to deliver ROI. Admittedly, B2B advertising on Facebook will be more complex and most B2B products and services involve lengthy sales cycles and niche clientele. But because of the sheer data that Facebook has on its users, ad targeting can prove to be effective. Facebook lets you gather pertinent information, build email lists, and create a lead nurturing program.

4. Instagram

While Instagram a great platform focused on visual content, B2B companies can still leverage the channel to build awareness and foster engagement. The medium is the message of visual interest. Instagram provides your company the opportunity to humanize your brand. This platform has a unique ability to connect your brand to your audience and build relationship with them. Showcase your company values, work culture and even satisfied customers. When you highlight things that your audience cares about, they will feel like they have something in common with you. Remember that at the end of the day, B2B decision-makers are humans too.

5. Websites

Your website is your most dedicated sales rep working 24/7 to promote your business. Your website must not only be aesthetically pleasing, it should also deliver a great user experience. It has a huge impact on the impression people will have about your company. The medium is the message of presenting the details of your company to your audience.

Your company’s website should offer adequate information on the features of your products/services as well as satisfy questions your potential customers may have about them. Nowadays, most people have very limited attention spans and your copy must immediately engage and convince the reader as succinctly as possible. Don’t expect your target audience to read though and digest long paragraphs. Offer “scannable” content and provide downloadable assets such as white papers and case studies for serious buyers. Focus on the customer and how it will help them solve problems and challenges.

Developing video content can also help shorten the sales cycle. According to a Google research, 72% of B2B buyers watch videos before making purchase decisions. The key is create a video strategy that provides information that matches every stage in the sales funnel.

McLuhan’s theories provide marketers insights when they develop their communications strategy. Each platform is unique. Knowing your audience will allow you to decide which medium will be the most effective in reaching them. After all, the medium you choose will be the message.

If you’re launching a new website or updating an existing website, download our guide, Introduction to Website Best Practices.

This blog post was originally written on July 6th, 2016 by Tabitha David. It has since been updated with recent information.