Business to business companies still lag behind business to consumer companies when it comes to social media use. In fact, 68% of B2B companies reportedly use social media compared to 79% of B2C companies (King, 2013).
What’s the reason for the gap? Ramos (2013) attributes it to the fact that “you just don’t see the big reach, eye-popping creative or exuberant engagement with B2B social marketing that you do with programs focused on consumers. Money and resources are clear limiting factors, B2C outspends B2B by leaps and bounds…the specificity of B2B audiences and differences in social behavior and expectations while on the job will likely cause this gap to remain for longer than B2B marketers would like to admit.”
In terms of social media platform preference, Stelzner notes in his 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, that B2C companies are using Facebook more, whereas B2B companies are focusing more on LinkedIn and Blogging. In fact, 78% of B2B companies plan on increasing their use of LinkedIn as compared to only 54% of B2C. Additionally, 71% of B2B marketers plan on increasing their blogging activities vs. 62% B2C (p. 30-31). The report goes on to say that “B2C marketers are more interested in learning about Facebook (64% B2C vs. 52% B2B), Twitter (54% B2C vs. 50% B2B), and Pinterest (52% B2C vs. 43% B2B) than their B2B counterparts, who are far more interested in learning about LinkedIn (63% B2B vs. 51% B2C)” (p. 37).
Marketingcharts.com reports that LinkedIn was the most effective channel for B2B companies with 65% indicating they had found new customers through the platform as compared to B2C companies at only 51%. Furthermore, 77% of B2C companies indicated that they had acquired new customers through Facebook vs. only 43% reported by B2B companies.
Linked is one of the most popular global social media sites for B2B companies. It is available in 19 languages with 225 million members. Users can create detailed profiles complete with work history and education. They can upload videos and presentations as well as recommend each other for skills and expertise. LinkedIn has evolved into more than a recruiting site, and is now a powerful business tool. In fact, LinkedIn is now focusing on the mobile market and offers apps like Cardmunch, a tool that allows you to scan business cards to upload contact information, and Contacts which merges all of your contacts into a single data base making organization easy. The company is also reinventing itself as a publishing platform with the introduction of its daily digital newspaper, LinkedIn Today, which has become a source of referrals for business periodicals like the Wall Street Journal (Hempel, 2013).
Businesses can create groups where they can leverage key content such as white papers, articles, and videos to encourage conversations around relevant topics. These conversations originate with the users, thus enabling businesses to become thought leaders at the forefront of key topics. The critical point here is that the individuals involved in these discussions generally have similar profiles creating an entire ecosystem. LinkedIn is a great tool for businesses to interact with people on a professional level, and in many ways, the platform has replaced “cold calls’ since chances are, someone in your network is connected to the person you are targeting (Howells, 2013).
Watch this video on how B2B companies can use LinkedIn to generate leads with Wayne Breitbarth.
Blogs are also used frequently by B2B companies with 60% reporting new customer acquisition through blogging according to Marketingcharts.com. Blogging is a great way for businesses to publish compelling content that readers will find valuable and want to share. Meaningful content helps businesses become thought leaders and trusted resources for industry related information. Keyword-rich content will improve search engine optimization, resulting in high organic rankings on search results pages. Other social media channels can be used to drive readers to a blog post, because that’s where the deep content is. An effective way to generate leads is to offer a call to action that refers readers to a landing page to retrieve something of value such as a white paper, article, e-book, or free pass; or to a website to make a purchase. Blogs can also be used for customer support, thus eliminating phone calls. In addition follow buttons can be added to the blog as well as Like, Tweet, and +1 buttons for readers to endorse and share the content (Bodner & Cohen, 2012).
What does the future hold for B2B social media marketing? The Social Media Examiner predicts big gains this year in social media spending, a focus on the basics of ROI, customers, leads and sales, as well as gains in both content and visual marketing. Keep an eye on Instagram, Google+, Slideshare, and podcasts.
What are your social media predictions for 2013/2014?
Bodner, K., Cohen, J. (2012). Why you are already a business blogging expert. In The B2B social media book. (p. 77 – 96). Hoboken: NJ. John Wiley & Sons.
Hempel, Jesse. “LinkedIn: How it’s changing business”. Fortune, 01 July, 2013: 69-74. Print.
Howells, C. (2013). Social media in B2B marketing: Publish or perish! Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/insead/2013/06/21/social-media-in-b2b-marketing-publish-or-perish/
King, C. (2013). 21 Social media predictions for 2013 from the pros. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-predictions-2013/
King, R. (2013). Manufacturers sign on to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2013/01/05/manufacturers-sign-on-to-facebook-linkedin-and-twitter/
Marketingcharts.com (2102). Frequency of blogging makes a difference for customer acquisition. Retrieved from http://www.marketingcharts.com/direct/frequency-of-blogging-makes-a-difference-for-customer-acquisition-21276/
Ramos, L. (2013). Live from B2B magazine digital edge live. Retrieved from http://blogs.forrester.com/laura_ramos/13-03-21-live_from_btob_magazine_digital_edge_live
Stelzner, M. (2013). 2013 Social media marketing report [pdf file]. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/SocialMediaMarketingIndustryReport2013.pdf