Is B2B Social Media possible?
Business-to-consumer companies are starting to generate a fair amount of headlines for how they use Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube videos to get closer to customers, generate unique content, enhance their brands and jazz their sales. But business-to-business companies still tend to get lost in the news shuffle when it comes to social media marketing. A new study from Accenture goes a long way in explaining why.
Accenture surveyed approximately 100 domestic B2B companies with annual revenues of $1 billion or more and found that only 8 percent of them were actively using social media. As you might expect, what investments they are sinking into social media are mostly for marketing – not in sales, customer service or partner/vendor collaboration. Certain B2B sectors were more active than others; financial services, media/technology, consumer products/services. Resources/logistics? Not so much.
Yet the same executives surveyed said they know that social media is here to stay and that they should be investing more in tactics and strategies. They just don’t know how, hamstrung by lack of knowledge about the technologies involved, the skills and training required, how to measure results. In this respect, the Accenture survey becomes a psychological profile of sorts about those controlling the budgets at these large B2Bs – they can read the headlines like anybody else, but they lack confidence in the social media arena, so they would prefer not to spend as much as they could at this time. In this economic environment, who can blame them?
It’s about this time in the blog post that some of you might be thinking, “Here comes the commercial for your agency.” Sure, we do that B2B thing; there are handy case studies elsewhere on this website. But it’s incumbent on all social media marketing companies to convince those selling to businesses that their investments won’t break the bank, will kick-start customer service and give a real-time advantage to the management of vendor relationships. One data point in the survey showed how B2B managers are very curious about how social media can help them with innovation – the creation of new products and services. The creative types at marketing companies should be salivating over the opportunity to help realize that goal. If done right and ethically, there will be plenty of clients to go around for everybody.
If anything, the Accenture study should be read by marketers and B2B companies simply for its own case studies. Bank of America and HSBC created social media communities and help forums targeting small businesses and entrepreneurs. Social media plays a big customer service-centric role in the Oracle Partner Network. The next must-have Cisco product may come from the tech giant’s I-Prize network, which crowdsources ideas for innovation.
Social media and B2Cs are well along in their courtship, but B2Bs remain coy. The chance to react quickly and more effectively to vendor issues, the possibility of being seen as a go-to expert resource within their industry, the ability to make customers happier faster; those arguments can all help push B2Bs into a deeper social media commitment.