There are an estimated 200 million users of Twitter and more than 600 million people using Facebook. Those big numbers have led b-to-b publishers to experiment with developing new audiences through social networks with varying levels of success.
“The use of social media in our market is very minimal at best,” said Kim Clothier, director of audience development at FMA Communications. “We're not seeing any new or renewing of subscriptions through this media at all, purely the strengthening of relationships.”
John Rockwell, the director of events at IHS, said social media hasn't directly driven subscriptions or renewals. “Social media seems to keep us "attached' to existing users/subscribers on a real-time basis, but we don't see a direct connection to sales,” he said.
But it's still important to be where your market is, said Sue Geramian, senior VP-communications officer at the Direct Marketing Association, noting that marketers should be where their current and prospective audiences are, whether it's on a social network or a mobile app. “All social media platforms should be channels in your marketing arsenal,” she said. “They are tools to be used in alignment with a business strategy; part of the mix. They are not "the plan' as standalone items.”
IDG's CIO.com has a strong presence in social media, according to Brian Carlson, the editor of the site and head of IDG Enterprise Social Media Task Force. The website uses social tools to promote stories and grow site traffic, he said. “Over the past two years, inbound traffic to IDG Enterprise sites from social media has grown by over 100%, so this contribution to our audience is significant,” he said. Carlson added that social traffic accounts for anywhere from 5% to 20% of total site traffic for all IDG Enterprise sites.
Kiplinger.com plans this year to use social media more effectively to maintain previous and create new audiences, according to Amy Pollak, audience development specialist. Currently, the site gets from 3% to 6% of its daily Web traffic from Facebook and expects that number to grow rapidly, she said.
“Social media [networks contain] a mix of demographics and interests—why only appeal to your existing audience?” Pollack asked. “If you only stick to a small pond, you're doing yourself a disservice. Better to cast a wider net, not just cementing our bonds with loyal readers and subscribers but reaching out to new ones.”
Pollak suggested using social media to create conversations. For example, featuring polls can help to gather audience opinions. “We did a Stock Market Madness to echo basketball's March Madness,” she said. “We had 16 top-performing S&P stocks go head-to-head to see which one our viewers liked better. The stocks competed against one another until we got our champion.” With each poll, people were also posting comments on Facebook and clicking on related content. “People innately have an opinion and want to share it,” Pollak said.