Business.com recently published the results of a survey they conducted on Social Media Marketing, or SMM. You can read the complete set of results here, but I’m betting that the results will surprise you.
In summary, Business.com asked B2B and B2C companies to respond to 21 questions regarding their use of Social Media. The surprise was that B2B companies were more active than B2C companies in 15 of the 21 categories by a substantial margin!
For example, the results for the first 5 questions were:
1. Maintained company-related profiles on social networks:
2. Participate in Twitter:
3. Host blog/s:
4. Monitor brand mentions:
5. Engage in discussions:
Why is all this so surprising? Obviously, in the absence of facts like these, we all think that B2B is serious stuff and not something to socialize about. We also seem to believe that SMM is useful only to consumer brands, and thus only something a B2C company will spend time on.
About six months ago, the number of companies participating in SMM was around 51%. Now, this more recent survey reveals that more than 80% of B2B companies are active in SMM. Why such a rapid pickup? I think there are three reasons:
- The easiest to measure statistic is Traffic and SMM – done well – acts like a turbo-charger, potentially igniting on every comment, tweet or LinkedIn discussion.
- If word of mouth is King (and most of us think so), you must talk to be heard.
- Inevitably, a bunch of companies are doing this because everyone else.
Lets look a few more results, this time drilling down into the specific social platforms used and for each one I’ll throw in my two cents as to the why?
The surprise here is that this many B2B companies are on a platform dedicated to Friends. The adoption rate increased significantly when Facebook added Pages for business fans. More than three quarters of us B2Bers are on there now, but how many of us know how to make it work? We’ve done what we can do easily, which is to link our blog to our Facebook Page, and it does indeed send us some visitors. But not many: a few a month.
We spend a fair amount of time in LinkedIn discussions – answering questions, stating our points of view (we’re not that shy, in case you hadn’t noticed) and learning new ideas from different perspectives. Engaging in the conversation, in other words. On a good day we direct around 30 visitors to our site from these carefully aimed blog comments, and because of the quality of these leads, we’ll convert at least one. So the surprise to me here is how few B2B companies are using this compared to Facebook where success seems more elusive. But then, maybe it’s just me? What do you think?
Don’t be misled by the low numbers. I believe B2B companies use Video more frequently than this. Take a look at the average B2B business site these days, and you’ll find at least one video, but it’s probably embedded in the page and hence not “on” YouTube. And then there are other video viewing sites, too. And why is video becoming so popular? Edutainment is the future. Whitepapers are work. Getting the overview in a video – if well done – is much easier to digest.
MySpace has obviously lost the war to Facebook for both B2B and B2C companies. The audience demographic (younger on MySpace) and better marketing of Facebook would be my votes for why.
Monitor/support user ratings and reviews…
This was one of the five categories in which B2C companies were more active than B2B, the other four being Facebook, MySpace, Other, and the next one in this list. I think the numbers of B2B support teams using Twitter is already on the rise and how far behind that can a forum for a B2B product’s users be, or for that matter a Facebook User Group and a dedicated Twitter stream?
Advertise on social networks:
What conclusions can we draw from these results?
- A B2B business, trying to grow its revenues via its website, has to participate in SMM. I believe the reasons I cited to begin this post are sufficient to justify the expense of running a SMM campaign, but to throw in one more: Google’s Twitter Search function and its fascination with relevancy and “freshness” mean that your Tweets are bound to influence your Search Engine Results Page Rankings – if not now, then in the future.
- That hosting a Blog is no longer a luxury, because clearly your peers are starting to do so. No longer the realm of early implementers, blogging is now used in the mainstream B2B market. Why? If you want to be seen as a thought leader, you do have to lead with your thoughts. Yes, you can do this with your Content – a White Paper can reek of authenticity – but a blog post is quicker to publication, and can be dashed off (if you’re a real expert) in response to a specific request, trend, or keyword insight.
- Three quarters of B2B businesses use Twitter versus a little over half of B2C companies. Why? I think its because Twitter is an instantaneous medium. Unlike SEO, for example, which can take months to make its effects felt, a great Tweet can send people to your site immediately. And if the tweet is good enough to get ReTweeted (go viral), it can send thousands of people to your site in an hour. In case you need one, this video is a short and good intro to Twitter. Although it’s geared to consumers, it’s fun and provides a great overview. And here’s a link to a post which is Twitter Primer for B2B users.
The results of the survey are clear enough: Social Media Marketing is now an official marketing channel for the vast majority of B2B companies. To help you derive maximum benefits, we’ll post B2B Tutorials for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook over the next few weeks. And we’ll follow those with your individual requests for tutorials on other platforms.