One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to developing an effective b-to-b social media marketing strategy, according to a recent study of more than 2,300 people and the social media resources they turn to for business-relevant information. Our “B2B Social Media Benchmarking” study, conducted between Aug. 11 and Sept. 4 last year, found the following were the five most popular resources people turn to at work to get the information they need for their day-to-day jobs:
- Webinars and podcasts;
- Online ratings and reviews of business products or services;
- Company pages on social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn;
- Company blogs;
- Searches of business-related information on social media sites.
However, use varied considerably across company size, job role and industry.
For example, using social media channels to reach and engage prospects at mid-to-large-size companies is likely to be most effective. Small company participants (fewer than 100 employees) were less likely to use almost all social media resources for business, with one exception: online ratings and reviews. Also, while the use of Twitter for business was 60% lower than for webinars or podcasts overall, Twitter is indeed a viable channel for reaching senior managers at mid-to-large-size companies. Among those using any type of social media for business, 41% use Twitter. Certain industries (advertising and marketing, computers and software, and the Internet) and job roles (marketing and consulting) are also heavier users of social media for business than other industries (health care, legal and retail) and roles (accounting, finance, customer support and sales).
Detailed benchmarking statistics covering these and additional findings are available in the report (http://www.business.com/info/b2b-social-media-benchmark-study), but the research suggests several key take-aways for b-to-b marketers:
“What,” not “if”:
A cell phone can be a critical business lifeline during the week and a way to socialize with friends after hours. Social media is the same. Today, people are finding valuable, business-relevant information efficiently through channels that include social networking sites and webinars. Focus on what types of social media your target audience uses for business.
Keeping up with rapidly evolving communication channels such as social media requires continual testing—what is true today will change tomorrow. Search Facebook for your competitors. Set up a business account on Twitter. Participate in business Q&As on Business.com Answers or LinkedIn Answers. Whatever you do, keep testing.
One of the most troubling insights from the study is that b-to-b companies appear to be dedicating too little staff or agency time to too many social media initiatives. Let's be clear: Social media is not a miracle cure for your marketing ills, and more established online marketing channels, such as search marketing, should still take priority.
That said, this is the year for most b-to-b companies to jump into social media with one foot, not two, and learn the best opportunities to engage their target audiences through this emerging medium.
Ben Hanna is VP-marketing at Business.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.