It’s called business-to-business, not business-to-boring.

Long gone is the reputation of B2B brands needing to be stiff, formal and stodgy. People now want to connect with brands on a more personal level, even within the B2B sphere.

Sure, there is still an air of professionalism that needs to be maintained (and that B2B customers want). But with the advent of new marketing tactics, B2B organizations must focus on how to speak to prospects in an engaging and more familiar way.

In this evolution of marketing, social media has quickly become an effective tool for B2B marketers to achieve the goal of more successfully communicating with users. However, some brands still struggle with finding the right balance between being informal as well as professional.

If you’re too familiar with users, you risk turning them off from your business. If you’re too reserved, you’re not going to establish a valuable, long-term relationship with them.

So what’s a B2B marketer to do?

Below, Senior Social Media Strategist Walt Clark explains just how you can build a successful B2B social media campaign, what lessons you can learn from B2C, and how you can strike the right tone that will attract users.

Take a page from the B2C book

Yes, your B2C counterparts have the ability – and leeway – to be more personal and informal with their social content than perhaps you do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t useful takeaways for your brand.

Walt said that many B2B companies often feel restricted in how creative they can be due to their industry. However, focusing on your products and services is a great jumping off point for building an effective social strategy.

“With B2C brands, it always comes back to the product they’re selling,” he explained. “B2B companies should keep this in mind as well, and not look at it as a limitation but as a structure to base your creativity around. Just like a playground provides a structure for children to explore, that shouldn’t stop you from going to outer space or on a jungle adventure.”

Another lesson to be learned from B2C is to get rid of the abstract imagery. B2B brands are more likely to offer conceptual products and services which can be harder to visually convey.

But as Walt explained, replacing abstract aspects with more concrete ones is going to be more beneficial.

“Selling a basketball is straightforward because you can show a basketball,” Walt said. “If you are offering a service, try to visually represent this somehow in an easy-to-digest format.”

He offered Google as an example of this. In this video, the “service” is the search bar, but it has been made into a symbol for itself:

If you’re looking to find the right tone for your B2B audience, Walt suggested using images of people.

Showing the audience you are trying to reach is important on a psychological level, and studies show that ads or social content with people in them have a higher click-through rate.

It’s vital to keep in mind that at the end of the day, you’re talking to a person, not a suit. Your social media presence should be about being professional as well as thinking about your prospects as people with hobbies, interests and goals.

Look to the big B2B players

Although your budget, audience or products and services may not match a larger corporation, there’s a lot to be learned from the big names in B2B.

One concept that works well for big B2B brands is using social media to create and share events.

“Twitter is driven by reacting to things in real time,” Walt explained. “Facebook is pushing Facebook Live, which allows anyone to be Anderson Cooper.

Generating excitement while mixing in content about your business is a winning strategy. One great example of this is Salesforce, which has an annual conference that it promotes on social media and gets tremendous social benefits from the effort.”

B2B marketers should not forget about the human element, Walt added. By including this human aspect, companies can effectively build trust with their content.

This is something that many larger B2B brands do well, such as Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes, who regularly posts content on his LinkedIn page to engage his network.

“For B2B businesses, the human element is a huge part of the equation,” Walt said. “Brands that can build trust get a leg up on the competition. These companies highlight how they succeed in getting business done, but not just abstractly. They give direct examples that people can relate to.”

Structuring your social strategy

Although social media is a fast-changing medium, you’ve got to have a solid plan in place before jumping in if you want to see success.

One of the first steps you need to take, as Walt recommended, is to clearly identify your objective and figure out how you plan to measure your efforts.

“Social media gives you incredible insight into how audiences are responding to your campaign, but many companies just run campaigns with the hopes that business will just come from it,” he said.

The B2B guide to successful social media campaigns

He explained that it’s all about creating S.M.A.R.T goals, or goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound. This approach helps hold you and your team accountable while also allowing you to smartly adjust your tactics based on the feedback you get from the campaign.

Next, you’ll determine which social networks to target. The 2016 Content Marketing Trends report from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs revealed that 94 percent of B2B brands use LinkedIn, 87 percent use Twitter, and 84 percent use Facebook.  

Of course, the social channels you target should depend on which platforms your target audience is using the most.

If you’re not sure which network will work best for your business, Walt suggested looking at your site traffic and choosing the sites that bring in the highest number of visitors.

Ask yourself how you can improve this number and how can you target users effectively on these networks.

To get from boring to great, you’ve got to think outside of the creative box and focus on adding the human element if you want to see B2B social media success.

Tressa Sloane is the Sr. Manager of Editorial Development in Boston. Born a Southern belle, she now resides in the chilly (but wicked awesome) Northeast, and when she's not learning everything she can about content marketing, she's obsessing over Elvis, Auburn football and France.