BtoB

Forrester's Bernoff underscores social media 'imperative'

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Chicago—B-to-b customers and prospects are even more inclined to use social media—both as content producers and content consumers—than their b-to-c counterparts, said Josh Bernoff, VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research, in his presentation Tuesday at "B-to-B Marketing in the New World," an Association of National Advertisers/BtoB conference.

Bernoff, coauthor of “Groundswell: Winning a World Transformed by Social Technologies” (Harvard Business Press, 2008), cited Forrester studies of b-to-b technology buyer decision-makers showing the percentage of those participating in social media—both as content-creators and so-called “spectators”—was higher than that of the U.S. population in general.

In an indication that business marketers are aware of this opportunity to reach audiences through social media, Bernoff cited a budget study showing an increase from 2008 on planned spending on video and podcasts (46%), forums or communities (34%), other Web 2.0 media (29%) and blogs (28%). The same research also showed budget declines in traditional media, including outdoor, print and TV.

Bernoff also offered the audience an acronym—POST—for getting started with social media marketing: People, or assessing customers' social activities; Objectives, or deciding what the effort seeks to accomplish; Strategy, planning for how relationships with customers will change long-term; and, finally, Technology, or picking suitable social media platforms after completing the previous three steps.

During the Q&A session, conducted by BtoB Senior Reporter Kate Maddox, Bernoff was asked what common mistakes marketers make when it comes to using social media. He said the No. 1 mistake was companies' pursuing social media initiatives without establishing business objectives first. Another mistake, he said, was not putting in metrics to measure execution against objectives, or neglecting to tie the social media effort back to other channels (for instance, a company uploading a video to YouTube.com but neglecting to include a URL back to a microsite).

A related problem is failure to make organizational changes that map to the social media architecture. “It's one of the biggest problems, because their apps touch so many parts of the corporation,” Bernoff said. For this reason, Bernoff recommend starting small, with one product or customer group.

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