Social media for B2B tech marketers with Timo Pelz, VP of Business Marketing at Reddit

B2B tech marketing podcast

Millennials now surpass baby boomers in the B2B buyer demographic, so B2B marketers are turning to social media to meet them where they live online. 

On this episode of the FINITE Podcast, Timo Pelz, VP of Business Marketing at Reddit, shared his view on B2B social media marketing and how B2B marketers can listen closely to their audience by building communities and gaining trust.

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And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here!

Full transcript

Alex (00:06):

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the FINITE Podcast, where today we are talking with Timo Pelz, VP of Business Marketing at Reddit. Reddit is a network of over a hundred thousand communities. And although the majority of users remain anonymous, it's currently considered as one of the largest social media platforms with 430 million active users. 

And that's why Timo and I are gonna be having a conversation all about social media, marketing, community building, and how B2B marketers can leverage social in their strategies. Enjoy!

 

FINITE (00:36):

The FINITE community is kindly supported by The Marketing Practice, a global integrated B2B marketing agency that brings together all the skills you need to design and run account-based marketing, demand generation channel, and customer marketing programs. Head to themarketingpractice.com to learn more.

 

Alex (00:56):

Hello, Timo and welcome to the FINITE Podcast.

 

Timo (00:59):

Thank you, Alex. I'm so pleased to be here. Thanks for having me.

 

Alex (01:02):

No problem. Looking forward to talking. We are talking all things social media in the B2B world today, which I'm looking forward to diving into with you because I know you've got a lot of experience there. But before we do that, I'll let you tell us a little bit about your background, experience and your current role.

 

About Timo and his role at Reddit

Timo (01:19):

Happy to do that. So, prior to this role at Reddit, I worked at Instagram where I led global business marketing and that covered brand and product for the company's business and advertising solutions. And before that, I led vertical sales and marketing teams at Facebook. And so while I've been a B2B marketer for a while, I actually started my career in B2C on the agency side. I'm what you would call the classic generalist. 

I started in comms and I worked in creative agencies and integrated agencies. I did some account work, some strategy work and I did some in sales. I kind of bounced around a little bit. And then I found my true calling in marketing at the end of the day. So I've used social as a B2B marketing tool for myself, and in my role, I also get marketed quite heavily from B2B companies.

 

Timo (02:07):

So I find myself on the receiving end of a lot of B2B marketing and I see all the good, the bad and the ugly. And my experience is that at the end of the day, the key differentiators are the same as in the B2C market. Know your audience, pay attention to your consumer behaviour, focus on solving their problems, and meet them where they spend their time and don't be too sober and clinical. Educated and delight.

So I think the key takeaway for me is B2B, if I look back it's often too complicated and social. People are just trying to make it more complicated than it has to be. So that's a little bit about me. 

My current role at Reddit, right now, is I'm responsible for leading a team that connects Reddit to the larger business community globally. We're giving a voice to the value of Reddit to more than a hundred thousand communities, advertisers of all sides and verticals. And so I oversee business marketing for managing and self-clients of messaging, customer success, stories, market narratives, competitive analysis, marketing events. It's a pretty broad field, which I feel it's a dream for me because I'm a generalist and I get to dabble in all of it.

 

Alex (03:18):

Cool, exciting. And tell us a bit about the team that you oversee because I'm really looking forward to diving into the business side of Reddit because I'm a big Reddit fan.

 

Timo (03:25):

That's awesome!

 

Alex (03:26):

I don't always see it as a business environment. I see ads or Reddit and stuff and completely see the value. And I think we've had some guests on the podcast before talking about, particularly in like targeting developing communities and I guess sometimes there's some stereotypes which are maybe unfair, like the type of person that hangs out on Reddit are the easiest audience to reach. 

But I'm sure you can tell there's a lot more about some interesting brands that are working with Reddit. But what does the team look like? And in terms of the business marketing side of Reddit, what's your team structure and focus?

 

Timo (03:59):

The broader context I think is very important for me when I took this role is that this B2B marketing function sits within the larger marketing function at Reddit. I report to our wonderful CMO, Roxy Young, and that isn't always the case. 

If you look at how B2B marketing is handled in a lot of other companies, it sometimes sits outside of marketing. So I love that communications, marketing, B2C and B2B, we're all in the same team. And that just drives wonderful synergy and integration. And my team itself, then you have a lot of functions that cover the entire end-to-end spectrum. 

So from channel marketing, that really focuses on our long tail advertisers, all the way to product marketing, really making sure that we contextualise the solution suites that we offer to both to the outside audiences and make sure that the inbound works well, that we form our ads product organisation with right information about the problems that we need to solve for businesses. 

We have a brand vertical, insights marketing team and an event marketing team. And we're just now starting to build out our international market as Reddit continues to internationalise. So that's pretty exciting.

 

Alex (05:09):

Yeah, Sounds it. So we're going to be diving into a bit of touch on a few different areas of the B2B social world. You touched on in your introduction, the fact that you think often things can be made a little bit too complicated maybe in the world of B2B social. What else kind of forms your wide lens view of the B2B social media marketing world?

 

His wide-lens perspective on B2B social media marketing

Timo (05:30):

You know, Alex, I think it's pretty astounding to me that we still too often see the industry questioning the overall validity of this. You see these blog posts and think pieces, 17 reasons why social media is important for B2B. I feel like every year you get the same content and it just keeps getting recycled. 

But if you look at the research, there's a HubSpot study that says 76% of B2B buyers are ready to have sales conversations with social media. And 81% of buyers are more likely to engage with brands that have a strong, cohesive, professional social media presence. 

So a minute ago, you were talking just about the ad side, right? When you were talking about Reddit specifically, it's just so much more than just advertising on social media. It works for the entire life cycle, and it works as a full funnel solution, but here's the thing.

 

Timo (06:19):

It needs to be fully integrated for maximum effect. You can't operate it as a separate silo. You can make this the job of a social media team or a communications team. And you really need to look at your audience. Look at the demographics and the behaviour.

So millennials have surpassed baby boomers at this point as a dominant demographic group. And then, you know, they've lived a millennium themselves. We lived the majority of our lives online with social media. So as this cohort moves up the corporate ladder, millennials are just influenced by social media and purchasing.

So social media is an essential part of the research process and uncovering new B2B opportunities. And millennials, there're 73% in the US of them are involved in product or service purchase decision making at their companies. One third of the millennials are even the sole decision maker of their department at this point.

 

Timo (07:11):

So, you look at that and then I said this a minute ago, I find myself on the receiving end of a lot of B2B marketing cold outreach, trade advertising. It just no longer works as effectively in a culture so dominated by social media. So from the C-suite to the purchasing department, buyers are turning to social media for their buying insights. 

And so, the strategic use of social media marketing has to be a part of B2B digital marketing today. And I don't know if it's just digital, like marketing as a whole, it needs to be a key part of your overall medium. I know this is a very wide lens, but I kind of wanted to ground us there.

 

Alex (07:52):

Yeah. That makes perfect sense. And I particularly like the point around millennials being involved in, or even leading the purchase decision often. And I think as marketers, we're so quick to just default to targeting CEO, CFO, CIO, like we just love we're obsessed by C-suite personas. 

And actually we massively undervalue the role that others play in that, particularly the earliest stages. But as you say, the final decision maker all the time too. Good food for thought. I mean, there's a lot of research out there. 

You mentioned some stuff from HubSpot, are there other ways in which you see social media developing in response to that kind of shift in with COVID? We've seen everything become more digital, B2B environments that we're often very kind of trade show, heavy or business done over a handshake. I guess stuff that was maybe going to happen in 10 years happened in two years or something, but things have changed, right. Not just from a COVID perspective.



Has the development of social media shifted consumer behaviour?

Timo (08:49):

Oh, absolutely. So much has been accelerated in terms of not just how the tactical pieces of our business is done, but also how we as humans behave and consume. So consumers are now more savvy than ever, and they're expecting more from brands that they support. And such two-way engagement and a real value exchange, I think is more important than ever to be. 

And I'd argue that this probably would've happened without the effect of the pandemic. The pandemic just put a huge magnifying glass on it. And so if you look at this in the context of the world we are in today, social platforms are really filling a void for these kinds of brand consumer exchanges. Specifically online communities have emerged as an integral part of the consumer path to purchase, especially throughout the pandemic.

 

Timo (09:39):

For recommendations. People often turn to online communities because they really can engage with others who are really passionate about the same things. They don't really have that freedom to touch, taste and try in like a real life shopping environment anymore. And so online communities increasingly become a place where people go research, discover, recommend, ask questions, another video, what's your experience been and why? And why is that the case? 

Because communities just drive trust, unite people around things they're interested and passionate about rather than just as you mentioned yourself than looking at demographics. I think when you really brought it down, there's a certain realness. They're real, very real. People sharing real experience and some recommendations. And so there's no reason to be anything, but completely honest because it is about the thing that you're interested in, is about the passion that you share, right?

 

Timo (10:32):

There's no reason for you to try to be something you're not. And so as a result, communities have this power to influence and impact purchase decisions. They have become places to discover new products. They help people research. They help them consider a much wider range of options during their final consideration period of buying. And so, you know, we did some research at Reddit around this and the evolution of the consumer purchase and how online communities really aren't an integral part of them. 

We found that for Reddit, people who visit Reddit and their purchase path have more conviction in their decision, they decide nine times faster. They spend 15% more in, and their 12% more loyal. So they become a really high quality new customer. And so social media as a whole, this is the bottom line. Social media as a whole can help brands build product awareness and promote trials, coupon codes. But people are just so much more likely to rely on real genuine conversations to help them with their decision making progress.

 

Alex (11:30):

We often see, when you talk about B2B social media minds, default to LinkedIn, maybe, and that's often just a about it. I think I've seen plenty of B2B businesses in quite enterprise deep niches, like fintechs and compliance tools used like Facebook ads really successfully and other things. We know that it's possible. 

Ultimately I think humans are humans. You can reach them in all kinds of other places. What's your perspective on, I guess, you know, our listeners are typically B2B tech software, SaaS marketers. How do they go about reaching their audiences through typically more, what might be kind of categorised as more B2C channels.

 

How can B2B tech marketers reach their audiences through traditional B2C channels?

Timo (12:13):

Before I dive into the answer, the more direct answer to that question, I think it's important for us as marketers, even if we consider ourselves B2B marketers or B2B tech marketers, just keep the aperture wide. Make sure that you keep in touch with your B2B colleagues, make sure you try to hire diverse talent into your teams that continuously bring in perspectives that are not just from the same bubble.

So we tend to follow the same influencers. We tend to consult the same sources and they give us the same tribe and true B2B tech marketing tools. You know, they just keep talking about them. So I think that's the point we're making on. So quoting on research, either Comscore in 2020 did a study and they realised that over 50% of tech decision makers are more likely to use online communities for product research.

 

Timo (13:04):

And so I've seen several unique strategies that have been proven to amplify messages, drive action, and reach a really targeted audience for B2B tech marketers via online communities. So I think that's the first thing to kind of change. You don't just fall into this one way of doing things based on just demographics, demographics, demographics. Right? 

Think about the power of community. We just talked about this. So you've got interest based targeting and Reddit is a good example here. I think people are connected by interests and passions and not demographics. And so those interests are incredibly varied. You talked a little bit about this in the intro of like the misconception that people often have about a place like Reddit. It's so wide from parenting, skincare sports. And if you wanna go into the more professional field, you've got for all of the marketing disciplines, you've got very lively and engaged communities where people are coming together and connect.

 

Timo (13:59):

So you've got interest based targeting, which I think is a really, really important toolkit here. And then two-way engagement really. So it's not just about one way of communicating. Brands should find the communities for their brand that's already being talked about. And if it's not your brand, it's the category you're in. And go and understand the individual customer needs and pain points. 

People are very vocal about what they need and what they get and what they don't get. And once this understanding is there, I think we just need to jump into the conversation and engage in a two-way dialogue. And there's different ways of doing this. And an easy way is what we see a lot of brands already do is just leave the common on their ads. And they use the ads to try the conversation. And that oftentimes is an investment that ultimately helps the brand cut through the crowd of marketplaces that they find themselves in, especially when they just compete in a very confined space with the same players, with the same tactics. So I think that's a way to really differentiate interest based targeting, two-way engagement and think about it for the lens of community.

 

FINITE (15:02):

The FINITE community and podcast are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with fast growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.

 

Alex (15:22):

And do you see brands like if they're taking part more in kind of existing subreddits or communities that they want to engage with or relevant to what they do at, are they engaging as their own brand?

Like, are they literally using like a brand account almost, or is it more individuals within the company that might be representing them in those types of places? Or is it a bit of a mix?

 

Do brands engage with audiences by individual or brand account?

Timo (15:42):

Well, you know, that's really hard to say because on Reddit, we believe that privacy is a fundamental right. So we don't require you to give your name. You could be anyone in a subreddit, unless you officially disclose IMT or from Reddit. No one will know that I work at a certain layer and I have a certain job. 

And then that's actually pretty good because it makes it about the issue. It makes it about the topic. And so the way that we see brands dive into this traditionally has been through advertising on Reddit because that's a way to engage in a way that is scaled because you engage people around an interest or a cluster of communities and you don't have to be surgical about engaging them in one specific place.

 

Alex (16:34):

Yeah. Makes sense. The community aspect of this is fascinating because this is kind of what we're building at FINITE to some extent is a community. So I spend a lot of my spare time, as sad as that sounds, thinking about communities and how to make great ones, and looking at all the tools and their technologies and for like communities are in themselves going through a bit of a Renaissance period on Twitter and wherever I let people are just talking about the value of communities and community marketing a lot more than a few years ago, which is fine.

 

Timo (17:08):

But that's I think is a good thing, but it's also, we need to be really pay attention to how we're talking about this. We as marketers have a tendency to oversimplify things or to turn things into jargon. So I think community is a good example of something that I feel is being used a lot, but we've starting to kind of lose track of what is it that we really mean when we say that? What role does it play for you? It's one of those things that you just feel like: "Yeah, we're just, you know, that doesn't hurt. We're just gonna throw it out there." 

It has to be part of our positioning today, but it's more than just saying community. You have to think about what are we doing with these communities? What role do they play? How do we connect to them and what's happening in these communities? So that, I think I just wanted to make that really clear. It's like, I agree with you communities are having a little bit of a moment, but it's our responsibility to make sure that we keep each other honest about these kinds of topics.

 

Alex (18:03):

Yeah. And I think at the core of any community is trust to some extent.

 

Timo (18:08):

Absolutely, yes.

 

Alex (18:10):

Strong kind of interest and focus on particular niches and topics. But I feel like trust is kind of fundamental to any community.

 

Timo (18:18):

It's trust and you know who's bringing that community to you and what do they offer you? I oftentimes feel when I'm being marketed to that, I'm being offered to do something to a community, turn them into an active customer, you know, for example. But I think the important thing is don't we wanna be doing something with them rather than to them, you know, that's oftentimes where like at the very first moment I'm like: "Ah, okay, you don't quite get it."

 

Alex (18:44):

Yeah. Makes sense. And I guess we've seen again, I think at FINITE as well, as COVID arrived, that desire for a sense of community became even stronger. I think people wanted to figure out how their peers were getting through things and making decisions and just dealing with everything that was happening. I'm always wary of talking too much about COVID because I think everybody's kind of sick of it at this stage, but has there been a COVID kind of multiplier on community as well? 

 

How has COVID impacted the online community culture?

Timo (19:14):

So the online community, I think has long been on the rise. I think it almost rises with social as a whole if you look back at the history of that way of communicating with one another. And you look at Reddit, Reddit is 16 years old after all. It's not like one of the predominant community of communities that has just started to exist in the past two years. 

So it's definitely proven its worth in a whole new way though. And throughout the pandemic, I think that's absolutely true. We've seen people flock to Reddit for exactly that. The community, belonging, advice, and distraction. And so, it's a time of unprecedented disconnection that we're in right now that obviously drives us to communities.

 

Timo (20:04):

And why is that the case? Because in times of uncertainty communities provide this valuable information. It's quickly responds to people's needs. They provide positive, emotional support and all that through digital interaction. Today more than ever A it's very accessible, and B just very convenient. So online communities by nature are just continuously evolving to meet people's needs. And this is absolutely, and certainly accelerated throughout the pandemic.

But I think that most interesting is that the world is really starting to understand the value of these online spaces as a result. I think we're just have a whole new appreciation for what it means when we do find that place. Like this is my tribe, these are my people. I connect. I think there's something I'm getting out of this.

 

Alex (20:49):

What about ABM? It's hard to have a B2B marketing focus discussion these days without somehow touching on ABM. It's where I think everyone in B2B, even if it used to be maybe more of an enterprise sales motion thing where just only massive companies, but now with all the technology and the data and the targeting, one to few, one to many as possible in the kind of account based world. How do you see social media playing its role in ABM marketing activities generally.

 

What is the role of social media marketing playing in ABM?

Timo (21:16):

I think we're often too quick to dismiss social as an ABM strategy. At the same time I want to be real and say, it's not probably not the first thing you do when you think about a company's marketing, so to bring it back to the fundamentals. It starts with understanding the needs and pain points of your target accounts. How well do you know what they need? What are they struggling with? What are their pressure points? 

In general, as a company, what they're trying to solve. And then when it comes to adopting or buying your product or scaling on with your services. And so once that foundational understanding is there, I think that's what really helps you to adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. And an integrated multi-channel strategy today is just very crucial for success in B2B.

 

Timo (22:04):

And so the buyer journey that drives both brand awareness and meets demand KPIs needs to be really end to end, right? You really need to understand that journey. So what that means for socialists, you need to really balance your approach between thought leadership, educational, there's some culture related content. So it's a variety of content that you offer. And then you go one level and deeper, and you look at the formats that you deliver these in. So you should offer a variety of formats, and this could be just video or images, but also, you know, get people to engage in polls, ask them questions.

And then, this is the hard part, make sure you can measure and attribute those efforts. And that's, I think where the rubber meets the road on ABM is like it's how good is your tracking? How good is your CRM? So while it absolutely needs to be part, I think of your ABM strategy today, I want to acknowledge that it's probably one of the harder things to fully unlock, but there are ways to layer in it. As I said, make a part of multi-channel strategy, balance to kind of content you deliver, and the variety of formats that you deliver.

 

Alex (23:12):

I'd love to know a bit more. We are gonna kind of head towards wrapping up and talking about some examples, case studies, campaigns in the B2B space that run on Reddit. But maybe you can touch briefly on the app platform itself and the type of, what you see working in a brand, a B2B brand going to drive awareness. Is it lead gen? I don't know whether there's like a retargeting aspect of the ads platform within Reddit or not, but maybe you can give us a bit of a, almost like a, a product overview.

 

Examples of B2B social media marketing campaigns

Timo (23:40):

I think at the end of the day that overview doesn't take me very long because we do have a full funnel end to end solution at Reddit. We support all of your objectives. We have a solid measurement stack, and we service all the different segments from small, medium business, all the way to really large enterprises. So whatever you are used to, we have that. I don't wanna overcomplicate it. I don't want to make it sound like Reddit is special or different, or in the way that you buy your ads, we have what you need.

 

Alex (24:12):

Cool. Makes sense. And maybe some examples then, because as I said at the start, I think the only people we've had on the podcast had examples of Reddit coming up is running ads to Reddit. And some focus has often been on the developer in a community space, whether they're working like a DevOps product or a monitoring solution, or they're basically trying to reach developers and it's come up there. 

But as we said, and acknowledged, I think there's a misconception unfairly that Reddit's the place to find developers. And as you said there's so much more to it in terms of communities and interest areas. So maybe you can give us some examples

 

Timo (24:47):

Of course. There's a US publicly health business cloud communications provider called Vonage. They have a pretty remember memorable jingle here in the US. If you know what I mean, it'll be stuck in your head. They engage business and technology audience. It's just very clever creative on Reddit. So they stood out from the crowd by utilising Reddit to position themselves as a provider of straightforward business cloud communications. 

Not very exciting, right. But this is what I said before. It's not just about being there. It's two-way communication. It's how you engage. How do you show up? And so Reddit offered massive reach to target audiences. You know, they're looking to make business builders and users who enjoy their quirky creative. So there's a retargeting aspect there as well, resulting in traffic to their side and success across their brand metrics.

 

Timo (25:35):

They drove mass brand awareness through a homepage takeover. What we led to you take over our homepage with a guaranteed by they boosted targeted awareness through category takeovers that are more target around specific interests. And they layered in promoted posts just for scaled efficiency. An interest targeting plus authentic creative resulted in click rates that outperform their platform benchmarks. 

And I know this is, we're not showing anything here, but I wanna talk through this. Like one of their creatives is when you look at their ads, they have a picture of a pie and they say: "Pies rhymes with APIs. So here's a picture of a delicious pie. Maybe it will make you think of your sweet communications APIs, and then you'll try them." Seems logical. You know what I mean? That is listening to the community, reading the room and then meeting people where you need to meet them.

 

Timo (26:24):

Right. So I think that's a great example of a brand that does it very well. And then, you know, we have, we have B2B tech communities. So we tend to think about B2B communities being just as you said, developers, engineers, tech roles, but you can also narrow it down to marketers. We have creative professionals and salespeople, they all get together and they exchange tips and tricks and they help each other. And we target both interest groups and specific separated audiences. 

So there's a separated our slash ask programming. It's for people discussing programming questions. There's our slash sales, our slash grow business. It's a place where people go to find creative advice to optimise business growth. So that's a pretty broad angle, but it's generally speaking. That's a key target audience for a lot of B2B marketers, right. There's one for IT. A lot of IT related topics, there's a creative services, computer sciences, all of these have career questions.

 

Timo (27:18):

So, you know, there's people mingling in that are in a specific field. And then HP is a partner we work with and they started working with Reddit a little over a year ago and have collaborated on a number of campaigns already, including a promotion of an ongoing series that they have, it's called the Wolf. Focused on their HP Wolf security and new breed of security that they're marketing. 

And they were interested in Reddit is because they wanted to embed themselves in real authentic conversations with self qualifying audiences that included its decision makers. So they're currently on their fourth season of the Wolf series and they've seen great success using this creative on Reddit. So we have two interesting examples here that are going beyond just targeting developers.

 

Alex (28:03):

Absolutely. Well, it's got me thinking, I can think of lots of people I've spoken to recently that it feels like there's an obvious opportunity for them to think about Reddit as a community, as a channel. So, yeah. Interesting. Lots of food for thought. I think I need to check out the create a business account or is that where people head to. Is that how it works? You head to Reddit and find a business or ads platform link. Is that the kind of the way in?

 

Timo (28:31):

If you want to advertise? Yeah. You just go to website, Reddit ads, or just go to Google Reddit ads. You'll find us. And that's the way in.We have a self-serve platform. And if you just wanna poke around, probably offer a lot of material to a self guide, but then of course we do have teams that help you if you're little bit more sophisticated. And we're happy to get together, connect, learn, learn about your business, learn what you wanna do, and then help you make Reddit work for you.

 

Alex (28:58):

Yeah. Sounds good. I think I might check it out. Thank you, Tim. It's been a pleasure talking. I appreciate you sharing everything. Hopefully keep in touch. And we may ask you to feature again on some future FINITE events.

 

Timo (29:10):

Yeah. Thanks so much for having me, Alex. That was a really great conversation.

 

FINITE (29:17):

Thanks for listening. We're super busy at FINITE building the best community possible for marketers working in the B2B technology sector to connect, share, learn, and grow along with our podcast. We host monthly online events, run interview series, share curated content and have an active slack community with members from London, New York, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Melbourne, and many more to strengthen your marketing knowledge and connect with ambitious B2B tech marketers across the globe. Head to finite.community and apply for a free membership.

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