Social media, at first a curiosity for many b2b marketers, has evolved into an increasingly important avenue for marketing interaction between marketers' brands and their customers and prospects, according to a newly released study from BtoB.
“Social Media Marketing: A Surge in Adoption” found that this year 32% of marketers are “very” or “fully” engaged in marketing through social channels, compared with 21% in 2011. For 2013, the study projects that 53% will be intensely engaged in social media marketing, with 97% of all marketers involved with social media to some degree.
“A lot of organizations have maxed out their head count and now are trying to figure out how to shift to a center of social media excellence,” said Erin Estep, service director-strategic community management at marketing consultancy SiriusDecisions. “Marketers are realizing it's not about just setting up a Twitter account. It's really beyond training, governance and enablement. This isn't just another thing. It's a better thing.”
Nevertheless, there's still a significant portion of marketers wary of social media marketing: Last year, 46% of marketers surveyed considered the channel not worth pursuing; today, 35% still have little or no involvement.
“We've seen social marketing being a huge pain point, and it's linked inherently to content,” Estep said, citing the concern that many marketers have about feeding the social channel with compelling white papers, videos, product fact sheets and other compelling “lead bait.”
The study indicated that almost two-thirds of marketers that have embraced social media have done so because of the burgeoning popularity of social sites. Marketers also found the ability to network and collaborate an essential benefit of social media, cited by 30% of respondents. It's a finding that doesn't surprise John Mannion, exec VP-director, client relations at marketing agency Doremus, San Francisco.
“People have been socially communicating for decades; it's called trade shows,” Mannion said.
“What's different about social is, those conversations we used to have in the hallways are documented and searchable. Now, companies are publishers and wrestling with the obligations that come with it.”
According to the study, social media is primarily viewed as having “soft” marketing attributes. Seven in 10 marketers said branding is their top goal for social marketing, followed by website traffic-building (58%), product promotion (56%), search engine optimization (45%) and competitive intelligence (also 45%).
To achieve these goals, marketers view the “big three” social sites as their key channels. LinkedIn (83%), Twitter (80%) and Facebook (79%) top YouTube (60%) and blogging (50%) as the social media channels used most often. However, when marketers were asked on which channels they place the most importance, blogging trailed only LinkedIn.
“LinkedIn is a fantastic network for b2b marketers, with more than 2 million LinkedIn company pages and more than 1 million LinkedIn groups,” said Bryan Brown, director-product strategy at marketing automation company Silverpop. “It's a great outlet to introduce your brand to prospective customers.”
BtoB's study, conducted online in March, garnered 622 respondents. Companies of various sizes were represented, from small businesses (64% reported annual revenue of $25 million or less), to midsize companies (19% reported annual revenue of $25 million to $499 million) and large enterprises (17% reported annual revenue of $500 million or more).
In addition, the industry verticals responding were diverse: Advertising companies comprised 26% of respondents, followed by technology companies (17%), publishing/media (12%), consulting (11%) manufacturing (7%) and financial services (5%).
For information about obtaining the complete research findings, go to www.btobonline.com/2012socialreport.