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How B2B marketers use social media: new research

Mike Majestic, Kaye-Smith Marketing Manager: “I was asked when I first arrived if we should leverage social media in our effort to reach new clients. Well, yes. We should. But not until we’ve developed a plan and determined how we will produce the engaging content we’ll need to make it successful. When we do build a plan, it will focus on LinkedIn first, then perhaps Twitter.” This article, by Phil Mershon, appeared on the Social Media Examiner, and compares research statistics from B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) contributors.

In a 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, Mike Stelzner asked marketers how they’re using social media. More than 1900 business-to-business (B2B) marketers shared their insights on what’s working with social media marketing and where they’d like to improve. In this article we’re going to focus on those areas where B2B marketers have significantly different experiences than their consumer-focused counterparts, B2C.

B2B marketers show confidence in social media

Of the B2B marketers who took this year’s survey, over 93% use social media to market their businesses. While that’s slightly below their consumer-focused brethren (95.2%), there’s been a significant increase since the 2010 survey when only 88% of B2B marketers responded affirmatively.

B2B marketers have more experience

Based on the results of this survey, marketers from B2B brands are more likely to have 3 or more years’ experience than their B2C counterparts (18% of B2B vs. 14% of B2C).

Social media is getting results

When asked about the benefits of social media marketing, B2B marketers noted the following:

  • Over 56% of B2B marketers acquired new business partnerships through social media (compared to 45% of B2C marketers)
  • Nearly 60% of B2B marketers saw improved search rankings from their social efforts (compared to 50% of B2C marketers)
  • B2B marketers are more able to gather marketplace insights from their social efforts (nearly 69% vs. 60% of B2C marketers)
  • The one area where B2B marketers significantly lag behind their B2C counterparts is in developing a loyal fan base. 63% of B2C marketers found social media helped them develop loyal fans, compared to only 53% of B2B marketers.

What tools do B2B marketers use?

While almost all B2C marketers (over 96%) use Facebook as a marketing tool, a significantly fewer 87% of B2B brands do the same according to this study. This barely surpasses the adoption of LinkedIn (86.6%) and Twitter (84%). B2B marketers are also more likely to use blogs (65% vs. 57%) and Google+ (44% vs. 36%).

Where will B2B marketers invest more time?

There is little difference in how B2B and B2C marketers will increase their time investment except when it comes to Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging.

In 2012, B2B marketers are far more likely to increase their use of LinkedIn. In fact, over 76% of B2B marketers will increase their use, compared to only 55% of B2C marketers. These are both increases from 2011 (71% of B2B and 51% of B2C).

71% of B2B marketers plan to invest more time in blogging (compared to 65% of B2C marketers).

A significant majority of marketers will increase their use of Facebook this year, but B2B marketers (68%) lag behind B2C companies (76%).

What do B2B marketers want to learn?

If you offer educational products or consulting for B2B marketers, you’ll be interested to know that B2B marketers want to learn about Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter, in that order. Only in the case of LinkedIn does their interest surpass that of B2C marketers (56% of B2B vs. 50% of B2C).

The top topics B2B marketers want to learn about (compared to B2C) are:

  • Measuring effectiveness of social media (77% vs. 78%)
  • Converting activities to sales (72% vs. 69%)
  • Discovering best social media tactics (69% vs. 74%)

Only in the case of converting activities to sales do B2B marketers exceed B2C marketers in their desire to learn.

Other forms of B2B marketing

It has been properly noted that many other marketing tools (like event marketing) are very social. Social media didn’t suddenly make marketers social. Nor does it replace such valuable tools as email and search engine optimization.

Heidi Cohen quips that we couldn’t have social media without email; how else would you log in to all of these platforms? That understood, B2B marketers have a somewhat different experience marketing outside of social media. Only in the areas of email and press releases do they invest similarly.

B2B marketers are significantly more likely to use search engine optimization (67% vs. 62% of B2C), event marketing (68% vs. 60%) and webinars (28% vs. 12%). B2B marketers are much less likely to use direct mail (37% vs. 45%), online ads (33% vs. 43%), sponsorships (25% vs. 31%), television ads (4% vs. 17%), radio ads (8% vs. 25%), and print display ads (25% vs. 47%).

In terms of future plans for these platforms, B2B marketers plan to increase their use of search engine optimization (69%), event marketing (62%) and email (61%). These are similar to B2C marketers’ responses, except that event marketing is far less important for B2C (51%).

Businesses are social too

In studying history, one can see countless mistakes made by governments and businesses when they forget to view citizens and employees as human beings. In social media marketing it’s important to remember that other businesses are comprised of real people who behave socially (online and offline).

As demonstrated by this year’s industry report, many B2B marketers have found ways to connect with their audiences. Do you know where your customers spend their social media time?

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