While B2C companies use social networking for a variety of purposes, B2B marketers often wonder if simply having a basic company website is good enough; isn't social media more suited for B2C interactions?
Data from Forrester research indicates otherwise. According to a recent eMarketer study, Forrester Research predicts that B2B firms will spend $54 million on social media marketing in 2014, up from just $11 million in 2009. As more and more B2B companies understand the benefits of social media, the use of networking tools for marketing purposes is steadily increasing. As a B2B marketing professional, here are some reasons why your company should have more than a just a website:
- B2B company websites that are not backed by social media may appear like brochures; this could put-off prospects, resulting in lost sales and opportunity for companies.
- Social media is where your contacts are; therefore you need to have more than a static web presence in your company wants to stay competitive online.
- Recent studies show that most industrial buyers use social media to research buying decisions.
- Marketing is all about being customer-centric and involves interactive information sharing.
- Besides acquiring new customers, social media can drive traffic to the existing company website and can convert prospects and customers into 'brand advocates'.
Getting the Most Out of Social Media; Do I Tweet, Blog or Post?
Before engaging in social media, it is vital for B2B companies to figure out what tools are most suitable and likely to offer maximum returns. Although there are numerous tools out there, each with its benefits and limitations, the general consensus is that LinkedIn is an excellent networking tool and the most popular choice for B2B companies. The fact that 72% of B2B marketers currently use LinkedIn makes this tool the undisputed king of social media marketing for business purposes. According to a recent study by the B2B magazine:
- LinkedIn was cited as the most important channel, with 26% marketers favoring it.
- Lead-generation was the main reason why companies used LinkedIn. Other advantages include generating web traffic, building influential business relationships and for recruitment purposes.
However, other channels also have their advantages. Our research shows how B2B companies can use other social networking channels (besides LinkedIn) to add value to their businesses:
- Facebook Can Be Useful Too:
Does Facebook benefit B2B companies? Absolutely! With 71% B2B marketers favoring Facebook, this is the second most widely used social media platform after LinkedIn. By having a Facebook presence, you can:
- Generate Quality Leads: Yes, like LinkedIn, Facebook can also help generate quality leads that could later transition into sales. When business contacts check out your company's Facebook page, chances are that they are either looking for information or are interested in purchasing your product or service. By presenting them with free trials or special offers on Facebook, you can convert 'prospective customers' to 'buyers'.
- Build Brand Advocates: Facebook is a great platform for business communities to come together and share positive experiences. Oracle's fan page, for instance, features valuable professional content, news and discussions. The +107,640 happy fans engaged with the company's products and services function as the ideal brand advocates for Oracle.
- Publishing Research Findings & Studies: In addition to promoting its events, Gartner also publishes whitepapers and research material on its Facebook page.
- Winning with Twitter:
Although the B2B industry continues to be skeptical of twitter, this networking channel does have certain advantages. Here are some interesting case studies that show how B2B companies are 'winning' with Twitter:
- IBM: The company's @ibmevents Twitter account is a huge success. This account allows clients and customers to connect via a 'back channel', enabling them to participate in an event remotely. These 'events' include company presentations and webinars.
- Capgemini: Capgemini uses Twitter to communicate with alliance partners, clients, employees and most importantly, for keeping a check on competitors.
What makes Twitter the #3 social media tool for B2B marketers is its simplicity, which provides marketers with a wide range of options on how to use it. In addition to the benefits discussed above, having a Twitter account also helps B2B companies share research data, publish PR material, facilitates employee interaction and serves as a great customer service platform.
- Blogs, Videos and the Other Social Media Tools:
While B2B companies rely heavily on popular channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, the use of other social media tools such as blogs and videos is also on the rise. The 2011 Social Media Examiner Report shows that:
- Besides LinkedIn, B2B companies are utilizing blogs and videos more than ever.
- 73% B2B companies use blogs, compared to B2C companies, whose blogs usage is 63%.
As a B2B marketer, if one or more of the following are your primary objectives, then blogs could be the ideal social media marketing tool for you; a) show the human side of your organization b) brand building c) customer demand and generation (more blog content=more customers generated) and d) creation of educational and not promotional content.
When IBM created their blog, the company capitalized on the intelligence of their employees to give consumers insight into what happens behind the scenes. By giving a voice to the industry experts they hired, IBM was able to highlight the people behind their products, showing the human side of the company.
While videos are known to be powerful marketing tools for B2C companies, innovative and informative videos can also be an important part of a B2B company's marketing arsenal. For a business audience, videos serve as a condensed, appealing way to absorb content. The December 2010 Forbes Insight Report shows that:
- 75% of senior executives view work-related videos on business websites at least once a week.
- 52% watch work-related videos on YouTube once a week.
While most companies use YouTube to upload good content, Business-to-Business marketers should not only deploy their content on YouTube, but also syndicate it on other business sites. This gives the necessary visibility, increases brand awareness and ensures maximum reach. When Canadian supply chain management company, Kinaxis, wanted to spread fun and informative content around their business, the company produced seven video series. Additionally, the company launched KinaxisTV, a more serious channel that featured analyst, customer and company videos on best practices for supply chain management issues, trends and solutions.
Social media tools such as StumbleUpon and SlideShare may not be as popular as Facebook or LinkedIn; nevertheless we recommend B2B marketers include them as part of their marketing plan as they are proven to be highly effective in driving website traffic and generating leads.
- StumbleUpon: If you're looking to drive B2B traffic to your website, then StumbleUpon is your answer. Once your business gets noticed on this social bookmarking site, you could give your website a little boost by starting a StumbleUpon Champion. For just 5 cents a visitor, you can drive your target audience to the company's homepage. In fact, some studies have shown that StumbleUpon actually attracts more traffic to your website than any other social media site outside of Facebook.
- SlideShare: What makes SlideShare one of the most important and highly used tools for businesses and professionals? SlideShare enables companies to not just share their business presentations with clients and partners on the web, but also allows for others to directly view your company's marketing presentations instead of depending on Google for industry related information. This in turn, attracts business users and functions as an important tool for lead generation. In 2009, team SlideShare.net launched two business services; i)Adshare, which allows users to promote their presentations on SlideShare by paying a pay-per-click rate ii)LeadShare, a service that lets you embed a form in your slide show to capture potential leads.
The fact that over 90% of B2B buyers are already using social media tools to research and execute purchases shows that B2B marketing via social media is poised for significant growth in the future. Industry experts predict B2B social media marketing budgets to skyrocket over the next five years. Statistics such as these are prompting business marketers to broaden their marketing mix to include social media, instead of simply having a web presence in the form of a static company webpage.
Using Social Media for B2B marketing also has other rewards; B2B companies looking to leverage social media to its maximum potential are going that extra mile by monitoring their social media activities. Our research shows that social media monitoring for B2B companies is not just about listening; the insights gained through social media monitoring is enabling the B2B industry identify new offerings, helping them establish revenue generating partnerships in the process.
With more B2B companies using popular networking channels such as LinkedIn, followed by Facebook and Twitter, the myth social media is not for B2B marketing is gradually being dispelled. StumbleUpon and SlideShare are also very popular tools that can significantly help marketing efforts. As companies understand the opportunities these channels offer and how they can benefit business, we expect both large and small-to-medium businesses to use these platforms for greater returns. LinkedIn and Facebook maybe huge now, but video, blogs and smaller networking sites are expected to be the new frontiers. Unlike static websites (now considered to be passé), the direct engagement model social media offers is set to transform the business-customer relationship in the years to come.