The simple answer is yes.
A lot has been said about the differences between how marketers are using social media in B2B vs B2C. Some say that social networks favor consumer-facing engagements only. Some say that B2B marketers need crisp, demand-generation tactics and that is not social media's strength.
The truth is that so many people in the US are creating or consuming social media that your B2B targets are out there. And social media is proving itself effective against all levels of the funnel especially when integrated with your other PR and marketing tactics.
“More than four out of five online Americans are active in either creating, participating in or reading some form of social content at least once a month .”
Josh Bernoff/Forrester/August 2009
Consider these points:
- Let's face it, Social Media spans all age groups. If your customers are 50 year-olds, you'll find them consuming and participating in social media.
- The Social Web is a gathering place for all types of affinities whether drawn from their shared interest in paint manufacturing or virtualization. It's a perfect place to find and engage your customers as they are likely to already be assembling somewhere online Many people continue to blur the lines between their personal lives and their business life and interests.
- Unlike trade magazines (which in many industries like the tech sector are fading out)social networks are not just for one type of information. I might be on Facebook one moment to connect with a friend and responding to a trade event invite at another moment.
- Some 74% of all marketers surveyed said they use Facebook; 60% of B2B marketers said so. Twitter also ranked higher among B2B marketers than B2C marketers: 70% vs. 46% (These stats are from a great Marketing Profs article).
- 8 in 10 B2B marketers (81%) use LinkedIn, vs. 25% of B2C marketers. If you wanted to find people by their professional interest, what could be more useful than Linked In.
- Many B2B marketers have reasonably sophisticated approaches to more traditional forms of digital marketing like search marketing, email, and content marketing. Using social media simply to extend these activities (Tweet out the new white paper), is pretty straightforward stuff.
- Many B2B businesses have deep commitments to customer service. The role of social media in customer service is becoming clearer and clearer every day most notably with the growth of cgm listening programs and the use of Twitter for rapid response.
Probably what is happening is that, in general, B2B marketing is driven by lead generation and demand generation (oh, and sales, of course). These have become the domain of strict marketing ROI measures based upon a static understanding of what 'reaches' and motivates buyers. Social media's 'causality' in a sale or conversion event remains a work-in-progress - i.e. did it cause a customer to purchase or contribute in some lss-than-obvious way.
Consumers vs. Creators
Are B2B customers as willing to create content and engage in that deep way that consumers often do given the right context (think Ford's Fiesta Movement)? No. But that doesn't mean that they are not engaged in meaningful ways with social media. Forrester's Social Technographics profile now has 2009 data in it for B2B customers and it reveals high scores all around (except "Inactives") with very high scores for Spectators - those reading blogs and consuming other social content.
Trust Critical for Big Sales
Beyond the fact that B2B audiences are consuming and participating in social media, that social media is a great place to find target affinities, that trade print is fading, that the trneds for social media adoption in the B2B sectors are all incredibly positive, and despite the known impact of social mdia on serach - the new homepage for your products and services, you may still remain doubtful.
An insightful point comes from the comments of Chris Brogans blog. The post is about the similarities of B2C and B2B and the calim that the real difference is between major and minor purchase. most B2B sales will be major and require deep consideration.
“However, and here's where social media comes into play, the defining element between the major sale and the minor sale is TRUST. Major sales require a LOT more trust on behalf of the purchaser! See how social media comes into play?”
Time for more B2B social media.