Re-evaluate b-to-b social strategy to reach tech buyers

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Kim Celestre, senior analyst-technology marketing at Forrester Research, saw opportunity when she looked at the results of the “Forrester Q1 2011 U.S. & European B2B Social Technographics Online Survey for Business Technology Buyers.” The online survey, conducted during the first quarter of the year, painted a picture of the social media preferences of about 1,000 business technology buyers. The data pointed to the value of developing conversational social media forums that can serve as a next step to the broadcast achievements of social networks. “Where technology marketers have kind of missed the boat is thinking that social networks are strategy,” Celestre said. “You use the social networks at a specific stage, and then you create other social media tactics to better engage at later stages of the technology adoption cycle.” She spoke to Inside Technology Marketing about the insights, recently published in the report “Socializing the Technology Adoption Cycle.” ITM: How has the social media channel evolved? Kim Celestre: Over the last few years, we've gotten consistent data on how business technology buyers are using social media. We found that popular social networks are not primarily used for making technology purchase decisions. You can look at that in two different ways. First, Facebook and other popular networks have been primarily used for awareness. It's all about getting the brand out there, not [engaging] business technology buyers to help arm them with information for their decisions. The second thing we noticed: Some social media tactics do have higher influence for business technology buyers as they are making purchasing decisions. Technology marketers have been heavily using Facebook and other social networks to engage business technology buyers. However there is a misalignment because the buyers are looking at different social media sources that are providing more value. Community, for example, is a good tactic to engage with buyers. Business technology buyers like to engage in discussion forums and social media channels where they can engage with thought leaders and experts—folks who can help them solve problems. ITM:How can technology marketers improve social media strategy? Celestre: Marketers need to understand customer social behaviors. We found that 86% of business technology buyers use social media during work. Business technology buyers are very social in how they interact with peers and go to online sources to get information. So knowing that and diving deeper to get an understanding of customer preferences will help the technology marketer start getting really strategic. It could be one particular tactic, like using video in the select phase where [buyers] are trying to select a certain technology. Or technology marketers could use a mix of tactics that apply across different phases of the adoption cycle and take a broader-brush strategy that is going to help their customers be able to find valuable information at each stage of the cycle. The bottom line is ensuring that the technology marketer is engaging with its customers in the places where they are finding value. If technology marketers want to take it a step further, it's understanding the difference in business technology buyers' roles and how people in those roles are going to those social media channels to gather information. The business analyst, for example, is going to be involved in a different technology adoption stage than the developer. If you take that into consideration, in addition to the general differences and preferences for getting information online, technology marketers can start to get very targeted in their approach. We're going to see a lot more examples of that going into the future. We're starting to understand the social media behavior of technology buyers. I think we're going to get better at making social media a viable strategy for b-to-b. That's been lacking over the years. We're going to start seeing a lot of creative strategies around communities and using communities to build deeper engagement with business technology buyers and providing them with different information that is going to help them progress through the different stages of the technology-adoption process.
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