Nov 2, 2010

B-to-B Social Marketing--More Robust Then You Would Expect

Promoting a brand through social media is no longer unique or novel — it’s simply the norm. From Starbucks to taco trucks, the use of social tools like Facebook and Twitter to spread awareness about a business to customers is widespread because that’s where brands find prospective customers and engage with existing patrons. But what about the use of social media between businesses?

Business-to-business (B2B) social media is a different animal. 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.

That doesn’t mean social media doesn’t have a place in the B2B world, though. On the contrary, a lot of these companies have found social media to be extremely useful in generating leads, performing market research and establishing themselves as thought leaders.

We’ve already written about ways to use social media for the enterprise, but now we want to explore a different topic: how B2B companies will use social media in the future. To do that though, we need to explore the current state of social media in the enterprise.
What B2B Marketers Use Social Media For

While you might assume that B2B companies are less engaged in social media than their B2C counterparts, you’d actually be wrong. In a study of social media use conducted by last year, it was revealed that North American B2B companies are more likely to be using social media tools when compared to B2C companies.

Here are some examples from eMarketer:
  • 81% of B2B companies were likely to maintain company-related profiles on social networks, compared to 67% of B2C companies.
  • That gap stayed true for a wide range of social media activities; 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).
  • B2C and B2B companies were just as likely to be monitoring user reviews (B2B: 49%, B2C: 51%) and manage a community dedicated to customers (B2B: 49%, B2C: 51%).
  • One of the only areas where B2C was more active than B2B in social media was advertising on social networks (B2B: 42%, B2C: 54%).
  • In terms of the tools B2B companies use, 77% used Facebook (compared to 83% for B2C) and 73% utilized Twitter (compared to a shockingly smaller 45% for B2C companies).
Why are so many B2B marketers using social media, though? According to a study by eMarketer, the majority of B2B marketers (60%) said they use social media to provide “thought leadership” for their brand. Another 49% said they used social networks to generate leads, 46% for customer feedback, 35% for advertising and 29% for market research.

The inescapable conclusion is that the use of social media in a B2B setting is more popular than most people would expect. Businesses are mostly using it to develop thought leadership and customer service.