The B2B Social Media Party is in Full Swing

Ben Parr over at Mashable wrote a great article a couple of days ago on how B2B uses social media. Essentially, here’s the dilemma:

"Business-to-business (B2B) social media is a different animal [than B2C]. B2B and enterprise companies aren’t trying to convert millions of individual consumers into customers — they’re trying to convince a smaller group of companies with bigger budgets to buy their products or services. Social media’s power to spread a message across the web isn’t as relevant."

We’ve heard that argument before from some of our customers. “We’re B2B, so social media just isn’t relevant for us.” They see it as a waste of time and resources. However, as Parr points out and our own experience at HRmarketer shows, social media is definitely relevant for B2B companies. In fact, a study last year showed that more B2B companies are using social media than their B2C counterparts:

"75% of B2B companies participated in Twitter (compared to 49% for B2C), 74% hosted a blog (compared to 55% for B2C), and 66% engaged in online discussions (compared to 43% of B2C companies)."

Our just-published Trends in HR Marketing report had similar findings. Over 60% of supplier participants said they participate in social networking. In fact, nearly 95% of HR vendors said their participation in social networking and social media marketing increased in 2010 and will continue to increase in 2011. Additionally, they will increase the number of networks with which they are involved.

Another very interesting point we discovered is the fact that last year, 82% of HR vendors didn't measure the ROI of social media but in the coming year, 69% will attempt to do so. This could spell doom for a lot of companies’ social media efforts (or decrease them), because social media is next to impossible to “measure” for B2B companies. Social media activities for B2B aren’t about the typical, analyzable returns we’re used to measuring for traditional sales and marketing initiatives.

Which leads us to the key question: Why are HR vendors active in social media? According to our research, the top four goals are:

1-online visibility 50%

2-thought leadership 46%

3-increased website traffic 32%

4-creating referral relationships: 32%

Let’s look at each one of these for a moment.

1- Online visibility. In this age of company Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Diggs and so on, ad infinitum, a static company website just won’t cut it. In a culture that has come to expect interactivity, you simply have to reach your prospects in ways that they can respond to. Social media presence increases your online visibility in a way nothing else can.

2- Thought leadership. How can you be a leader if no one can hear what you’re saying? You can be the smartest, hippest, most revolutionary thinker in your industry segment and it won’t matter one fig if you don’t broadcast it. Social media is the essential vehicle for thought leadership. Write blogs. Read and comment on other thought leaders’ blogs. Start Twitter conversations. Join groups and engage in dialogue. Make yourself seen and heard.

3- Increased website traffic. There are so many ways, some of them yet to be dreamed up, to use social media to drive traffic to your site. You can tweet links to your latest content, send company blog readers to the site for bonus content, or create an integrated plan like the Golden State Warriors. Go here to see how they used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to roll out a logo and increase their Web traffic by 66%.

4- Creating referral relationships. On the Internet, as in the 3D world, you just never know who you’re going to meet, or who knows someone you need to meet. Friends of friends can become some of your best customers or greatest strategic alliances—people you would not have discovered without an active social media presence.

So, if you’re currently involved in social media, keep going! And if you haven’t yet joined the party, the social media realm is still relatively new. There’s still time to put on your party shoes and make your entrance. You’ll probably be surprised when you show up, though, how many of your competitors are already there.

Ultimately, social media is not a lead-generating marketing tactic, so companies should not try to measure it like they would a lead-generating tactic. Doing so would likely put an end to your social media efforts, which would be a mistake. Social media is a branding and relationship-building tactic (it’s also a great way to monitor what others say about your brand) – both very important as you move prospects along the buying process from awareness to purchase. But don’t overdo it. A lot of HR vendors make the mistake of allocating too many resources to social media at the expense of other, more traditional marketing and PR. You need a blend. In fact, Hubspot is holding a webinar on this very topic tomorrow. But don’t under-invest, either. Dedicating too little time to social media (e.g., one tweet/blog post per month) can actually hurt your brand. Social media is no longer just an option for B2B companies; it has so pervaded our cultural consciousness that it’s a requirement. So think it through, experiment until you find the right balance, and keep doing it.

Labels: , ,