B2B Marketers Still Uncertain About Social Media

According to research from Accenture, almost two-thirds of B2B marketing executives view social media as an important marketing channel. However, only 7% felt that they were leveraging social media very heavily while 9% were not using social media at all. Business-to-business marketers have been acknowledging the value of social media yet have been slower to adopt social media strategies compared to business-to-consumer marketers.

Another study that compares B2B and B2C social media involvement showed that 12% of B2B companies are not using social media compared to 2% of B2C companies. B2B marketers say that technology, tools, metrics, and collaboration could be useful to strengthen their social media programs. Uncertainty of social media is definitely a factor in holding back B2B marketers in getting serious with social media. The fact that it is still a relatively young marketing channel has B2B marketers taking the wait-and-see approach.

It boils down to the age old sales and marketing question, “How much has it contributed to our bottom line?” Like many other marketing efforts, the number is tricky to quantify with social media. Thus, marketers are apprehensive in putting too much time and effort into social media at this time.

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B2B Social Media: Four Essential Ingredients

Using social media to promote a brand or company has become something businesses incorporate in their every day operations. The use of Facebook and Twitter is nothing new involving businesses to consumers but what about in the business to business (B2B) environment? This is a different concept. B2B companies are not trying to convert potential consumers into customers, instead they are trying to convince other companies to buy their products or use their services.

So how does social media for B2B companies actually work? Here are four ingredients that should be in a company’s B2B social media strategy:

# 1: Build a reputation of expertise
Why would a business buy from you if you don’t know what you are talking about? The implementation of a blog has a big impact on how knowledgeable you are. While a B2B blog may not have many followers, it still will impact decisions of your customers. For example, if a potential customer comes to your company’s website and sees an active blog with insightful posts on your product or service benefits or industry knowledge, they may be interested in coming to your business for their needs. Having knowledge and expertise shows credibility.

# 2: Research your customers
Social media is no longer just a communication tool, but a research tool as well. A vast amount of data is produced every day on social networks and blogs which can be used to learn a variety of things such as current trends, customer profiles, and even competitor information. The ability to know what your customers are saying and what your customers’ customers are saying can help you be one step ahead and give you a competitive advantage.

# 3: Increase networking
A business should always be working to gain connections and build relationships with other businesses and potential customers. The use of social media is a great way to increase networking for your business, because you never know when a contact can turn into a customer or an advocate for your business. There are many tools that can be used to network using social media. A new social media site seems to surface every day. The options are endless.

# 4: Learn from others
Social media is also a learning tool. Every business should want to learn more about their industry, competitors, trends, and anything else that pertains to business. Social networks are filled with useful information, the only effort needed is to actually look for it. Blogs and publications that relate to your industry are filled with information. Or you can even connect with people who comment on your own blog. Twitter is a great place to follow business leaders and learn from them. There is so much useful information on the web. The only effort needed is to take the time to find it.

B2B social media is all about networking and listening. Although we are more used to seeing B2C social media, businesses should not underestimate the power it has. Social media is evolving every day and business should take advantage of its benefits.

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Effectiveness of B2B Social Media Marketing

Social media in a business setting has begged the question…how does this whole thing translate into sales? It’s a great yet complex question.

Now that social media has been around for a short while, marketers are beginning to understand how to use the medium to its full effectiveness. And hard selling via Facebook, Twitter, etc. is not the way to go. In fact, it’s a definite no-no to over-saturate your company’s blog, Twitter, & Facebook feed with advertisements and overt sales propositions. Using these social networks tastefully for business requires one to “know their audience”. It’s ok to inform your social networks about your company and engage in conversation- that’s the point. Show your personality.

Social media for business gets even more tricky in a B2B arena. Businesses are especially less patient with other businesses blatantly selling on social networks. B2B companies need to look at their social media strategies as branding devices rather than a virtual member of the sales team.

A recent social media marketing survey shows what B2B companies are identifying as the most effective uses of social media. The sample size was approx. 1,800 people.

Most Effective Uses of Social Media for B2B Companies

Influence brand reputation- 39%
Improve search engine rankings- 38%
Increase brand awareness- 37%
Increase website traffic- 33%
Generate leads- 17%
Improve internal communications- 17%
Increase online sales- 13%

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