Social media as brand builder spurs BMA-NY discussion

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New York—The burgeoning use of social media marketing to fortify and extend brand reputation topped the agenda at the New York chapter of the Business Marketing Association's 2010 BtoB Outlook Breakfast Wednesday. At issue, in particular, was how it can best be used and measured.

“Among those using social media marketing today, only one-fifth attribute any ROI to it,” said Geoff Ramsey, CEO of digital marketing research company eMarketer. “That doesn't mean it's not valuable, however. We'll begin to see better measurement evolve.”

Ramsey projected that overall b-to-b ad spending would decline by about 8% this year, compared with last year's 16% fall-off. Meanwhile, online ad spending is predicted to increase 5.5% this year following a 4.6% drop in 2009.

“The question is: Are we in a cycle where we eventually go back to something normal or is it a cyclone, where things never get back to normal?” Ramsey said. Noting the rapidity of change, he added, “I believe it will never get back to normal.”

Monte Beck, VP-business marketing at Verizon, detailed his company's use of social media via its new online portal for small-business owners, the Verizon Collaboration Center. The center offers customers and prospects a means of sharing files, networking and conducting online meetings.

“We have found that our online presence is not just for online ordering but also as a go-to resource,” Beck said. The portal's major benefit, he said, is enhancing the trust users place in the Verizon brand.

“If your brand is not supported, other tactics won't work,” he said. “You need to focus on your brand first.”

Beck said Verizon maintains a cadre of monitors who listen in on the social interchange among portal visitors and address problems or complaints as they arise.

“There's a great value in having live monitors who watch customer interactions,” Beck said. “In solving problems quickly, the information spreads throughout the network. They can turn that negative into a great positive that way.”

Unlike Ramsey, Michael Rooney, senior VP-chief revenue officer for The Wall Street Journal, said he expects b-to-b advertising to rise 10% this year.

“Advertising optimism was up sharply in the fall,” Rooney said. “Companies are starting to build back inventories and have to drive business to sustain themselves.”

The panel discussion was moderated by Bob Felsenthal, publisher of BtoB and

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