B2B Social Media Marketing
Small business owners seem to intuitively understand the benefit of using social media marketing to reach consumers but what about other business entities? As a social media marketing agency, one of the most common self-imposed limitations we encounter is the failure of a business to make full use of all that social media marketing has to offer; including business to business exchange. But business to business social media marketing is not only on the rise, it has actually outpaced that of business to consumer interaction with 86 percent of B2B firms using social media as compared to only 82% of B2C firms.
Unfortunately, simply providing access is only half the story and this is where things become difficult. Research has demonstrated a desire – especially among small business owners – to remain in contact with partners, suppliers, vendors and other providers via social media. Unfortunately, B2B correspondence drops-off considerably with only 1 out of every 3 small business owners engaging in social media communications on a daily basis. Compared to the 52 percent that engage with consumers on a daily basis, it becomes obvious that simply setting up a social media account is only half the story. Business owners must actually use the technology to gain competitive impact otherwise, there is a risk of falling out of favor with the same B2B concerns which you hope to establish routine communication.
Why the Disconnect?
If business owners want to communicate with one another via social media and the capacity is actually there – why is there a disconnect between desire and delivery? Well, surprisingly, most small business owners actually fail to understand the demand; in fact, 1 out of 3 actually rate executive interest in social media as “low” compared to fewer than 1 in 10 among B2C marketing experts. Even worse, just under 50 percent believed social media was “irrelevant” to their company as compared to only 12% of B2C firms. However, underestimating actual interest is only part of the problem; roughly 60 percent of respondents indicate they simply do not have sufficient staff to handle social media marketing and outreach. Could it truly be that simple? Yes. Only 10 percent of small business firms actually outsource their social media to an agency or independent expert despite the growing B2B demand and lack of internal staff.
A Growing Problem
Unfortunately, small business owners that delay the implementation of social media marketing may find the long term outcome more costly than ever anticipated in lost revenue, failure to reach meaningful relationship and the escalating cost of “catching up”. The same study estimates spending on interactive social media marketing is expected to double within the next five years, swelling to an unprecedented $4.8 Billion dollars by 2014. It’s not surprising given the growth experienced between 2010 and 2011 (the last full year of data). For instance, among B2B participants…
- Facebook usage swelled from 9 percent to 16 percent
- Twitter went from 3 percent to 11 percent
- LinkedIn doubled from 7 percent to 14 percent
- Online events and webinars soared from 10 percent to an eye-popping 27 percent
Of course, every small business owner understands that increased demand typically translates into higher cost, reduced effectiveness and greater competition. Early adopters realize the greatest returns on their original investments so it’s important to ask what the current status of social media marketing is for small business owners. It is effective or not? Yes – more than half of respondents indicated that Facebook was “Extremely” to “Somewhat” effective despite the fact that nearly 50 percent fail to formally analyze metrics to compare cost or actual ROI. Among those that perform regular analysis, social media marketing actually performs even higher!
Lead Generation Modes
B2B uses a wide variety of lead generation modes that range from a hybrid approach with traditional marketing to transformative exclusive social media methods. In general, leads come from a variety of web forms, free information such as white papers or newsletters, trade shows with QR codes and appropriately designed landing pages, extensive use of social media including Facebook and LinkedIn. While that sounds rather drab, the reality is much more exciting and creative. For instance, the simple act of sharing a Press Release is given new life when performed in conjunction with a strong social media marketing strategy. Instead of the piece appearing in a newspaper – with declining subscription rates and no way of tracking actual viewership – it can now be collaboratively released via blog posts, LinkedIn status updates, Facebook and other sites of interest. Not only are other B2B entities more likely to actually encounter the news or information, the reach is increased exponentially with minimal additional time or cost.
The Future of B2B
Wondering what the future holds for B2B? It’s a valid concern given declining loyalty, increased volatility among providers and the need for new ways to service customers. B2B is increasingly viewed as more than a technicality; instead, it’s increasingly viewed as a strategic investment into the client list, reputation and long term viability of a business. As business goes social, so does the reputation and word-of-mouth marketing among clients. Just under 70% of participants indicated an “eagerness” to test new approaches and digital tactics to reaching clients. Just under 90% view customer retention as a top priority and 42% view social connections as a positive impact on brand sales.