BHW1 Advertising, Design, & Interactive

B2B and Social Media: Luke, Meet Warm

A “State of B2B Social Media Marketing” story and infographic on Mashable illustrate some of the barriers still existent in the world of social engagement–within the realm of B2B marketers, of course, but also quite prevalent among B2C marketing at the regional and local levels.

First, a couple of caveats: The data referenced in this infographic comes from a March, 2010 research study; in the world of social media, that’s several cycles ago. On a related note, the methodology for the research isn’t clear: sample size, scope, markets surveyed, and so on. So in no way should we look at this data as a quantitative, representative look at the whole world of B2B and social media.

However, we can make a few qualitative observations, backed up by our experience working with both B2B and B2C brands engaging in social media. Let’s look at a few of the statistics:

• 86% of B2B firms are using social media, compared to 82% of B2C companies. (This seems somewhat high, in our experience, unless “using social media” means having a Facebook presence or a Twitter account. But it’s interesting to note that B2B usage is at least equal to B2C application.)

• 46% of B2B companies say social media is perceived as “irrelevant” in their organizations, while only 12% of B2C companies say the same thing. (Again, while we might disagree with the overall numbers, it’s probably safe to say that B2C brands are more comfortable with social media than B2B brands.)

• 10% of B2B companies use outside consultants for social media, compared to 28% of B2C companies. (Again, those figures are probably overrepresented in regional and local circles, but there’s a definite DIY mentality that exists in social media…and that mentality is probably much more prevalent in B2B settings. We surmise it has a lot to do with that “irrelevant” factor mentioned previously. Marketing people at these firms undoubtedly know social media is relevant, but if they feel they’re battling a misperception about such relevance, the most logical step is to take matters into their own hands.)

When we see information and data like this, we come back to a few of our oft-repeated mantras. First, we’ve yet to work with a company that can’t benefit, in some way, from social media. In fact, we think social media may have even more utility for biz-to-biz firms, because the markets tend to be more vertical, and therefore easier to track. For starters, biz-to-biz uses for social media include reputation management and monitoring, tracking of marketing activities, unvarnished market research, employee recruitment, and competitor analysis. How is any of that irrelevant?

Finally–and this holds true across the board–we still sense a general “look, but don’t touch” attitude toward social media in general. That is to say, many companies are interested in the research and numbers, but have a difficult time leaping into actual engagement. Our response is: the only sure way to fail at any business proposition is to never do it in the first place.

Business implications:

  • Find the current state of social media in your spheres of influence. What are your competitors doing? What are people saying about you and your brands? Who are the opinion leaders in your niche?

  • Don’t get analysis paralysis when it comes to engagement. It’s already an oft-repeated cliche: “Social media is conversation.” That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start the conversations. Often, it simply means finding existing conversations, listening, and contributing in a meaningful way.
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