While b2b companies initially lagged their consumer counterparts in the use of social media marketing, that has changed.
According to a recent online study, “B2B Marketing Goes Social: A White Horse Survey Report,” conducted by digital marketing agency White Horse Productions, some kind of social media is being used by 86% of b2b companies, compared to 82% of b-to-c businesses.
“Contrary to the widely held perception that b2b marketers have been slow to adopt social media marketing, our survey found high rates of adoption or planned adoption,” the study said.
The study surveyed 104 marketing professionals who were asked about their companies' degree of social participation, measurement, staffing and resources devoted to social marketing. For the study's purposes, social media included the “big three” platforms—Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter—as well as blogs.
White Horse's results reflect the remarkably fast rise of social media in the b2b marketing world, as companies figured out how to turn the pervasive technology to their advantage. One reason for that advance is that loss of branding control is not much of a worry among b2b companies. The study indicated that only about 12% of b2b marketers worry about loss of brand control when using social media, compared to about 26% of b-to-c marketers.
B2b companies are also less worried about social ROI: 42% compared to 48% for b-to-c companies. This has prompted b2b companies to dive into social more readily, the study concluded.
According to Kathy Baughman, president of influencer marketing company ComBlu Inc., there's a good reason for this: Social media allows businesses to address three specific “pillars,” which Baughman identified as advocacy, online feedback and support.
Advocacy, the Web equivalent of word-of-mouth, dominates online social communities. And an increasing number of marketers are seeing themselves as publishers, looking for ways to amplify and extend their brands through such advocacy.
Where social media has really caught on in the b2b community, however, is in customer feedback, Baughman said.
B2b companies increasingly are building social bridges to their customers, allowing them a greater voice in product development.
“This is really more of a co-creative pillar,” Baughman said. “I see a lot of [marketing] teams operating in a collaborative model.”
These kinds of relationships are no longer strictly marketing, nor are they confined to any single department. Rather, said Baughman, the most effective b2b companies have discovered that social media is most effective when it's allowed to penetrate every department and function.
However, Baughman still sees plenty of room for improvement, particularly in the area of staff support.
“As far as we've come, [the use of social media] is still very young,” she said. “Currently, there are not enough people to bring this skill set to their next organization. In the next few years, I think we'll see an explosion in the number of people who know how to implement this even better.”