December 14, 2009

Why B2B companies should be using social media

It’s about targeting the right few, not the undifferentiated many

SMBs

Ayelet NoffMany B2B companies ask me whether social media is right for them. This post is all about why social media and B2B go hand in hand.

Social media is all about conversational marketing, and that’s why it works so well with a B2B strategy. Social media is not about the masses. It is about reaching your target audience. Listening before selling and hearing before talking.

Often businesses like to measure a social media campaign’s success by the number of followers its Twitter account has or the number of fans their Facebook page has. However, these measures are not necessarily the signs of a well-executed social media campaign.

Social media is all about the few rather than the many. The community you build up is ideally made up of the people who are most interested in your brand. If we apply the 80-20 rule here, we are speaking of the 20 percent who make up 80 percent of your business.

I find that B2B and B2C social media campaigns are quite similar in that they both target the opinion leaders whether they be the consumers or the business executives. These influencers lead the way for the rest of their followers.

B2B strategy, just like B2C strategy is all about networking — conversing with the right people, at the right time. The more in tune you are to things that are happening in your network, the more you increase your chances to be at the right place, at the right time.

According to eMarketer, in 2010 these will be the results for online marketing spending:

B2B Marketing Increase

As you can see, website spending is forecast to rise 71 percent and social media spending will increase 60 percent in the next year.

It is apparent that companies are understanding that they need to: 1) create a social presence within social networks, and 2) create a website and/or blog that reflects an active online presence.

Why B2B companies use social networks

As to the reasons most B2B companies are using social networks, eMarketer had the following results:

Reasons B2B companies use social mediaAs you can see, companies turn to social networks to show their leadership in their field, to find new potential customers by communicating with the community, to receive customer feedback and give customer service. There’s no better tool these days than Twitter to handle real-time customer service issues, and many brands do this beautifully, including ComcastCares, Dell, and Starbucks. They also advertise and do market research via social networks.

What about the reasons that companies use social media?

Reasons US B2B Companies use Social Media The top reason B2B companies (just like B2C companies) use social media is to generate awareness about their brand. The second top reason is to engage with customers on an ongoing basis. And the third top reason is to engage with top influencers on the Web.

Monitoring online conversations and responding to feedback is an extremely important element of social media, which only 14 percent of companies seem to understand.

B2B companies that are not using the social tools they have available today will find themselves at a major disadvantage against other B2B companies that are using LinkedIn, Twitter and similar networks to extend their reach and create better communication between the brand and their customers and potential customers.

Next time you doubt whether social media is right for B2B companies, think about what B2B strategy is all about: It is about the relationships and partnerships you build with your colleagues, and there’s no better way to do this today than through social media.

Image credit: StickyMessageAyelet Noff is a partner in Socialmedia.biz and founder and Co-CEO of Blonde 2.0, an award winning digital PR agency with branches in Boston and Tel Aviv. Contact Ayelet via The Blonde 2.0 website , email, or follow her on Twitter and Google Plus.

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  • Thank you. I love your point about social media being about the critical few rather than the many . Great to keep Pareto in mind.

  • Thank you. I love your point about social media being about the critical few rather than the many . Great to keep Pareto in mind.

  • Ian

    The vast majority of B2B marketing is about targeting so there is no reason why social media shouldn't be any different. Businesses need to check that their target customers are using the social media they select before they expend any time and effort.

  • Great post! Just want to emphasize the importance of your last point – think about your B2B strategy.
    Don't set up profiles because it's the 'thing to do'. You need a social strategy to be effective. What platforms are your targets most likely to be 'on'? Will the type of conversations you're looking to have resonate on that platform?

  • ElizabethL

    Great information Ayelet! I agree I think it's extremely important that B2B companies begin to focus on implementing social media into their marketing tactics.
    I found some information on how to start doing it at this site
    http://www.gatewaybizdev.com/blog/2009/12/adaptin

  • Thank you for the interesting post. I agree that B2B and social media go hand in hand particularly as you indicated if it is viewed as a conversation. We find with our business and with our clients that it is a terrific way to establish thought leadership, dialog with others of like mindset and expand one's network and sphere of influence. It can be doubly powerful when combined with offline marketing.

  • Well said Ayelet. B2B social media is about reaching their target market and engaging them in the apprpriate way, it's not about trying to appeal to everyone and but in the end not appealing to the right people. Our business has found the use of custom social networking technology to be effective because we can attract our target market and communicate in a meaningful way with them.

  • Thanks for writing this post. We have been talking about B2B Social Media for a while now. Things like targeting, social search, and social CRM will be major factors for B2B social media adoption.