However the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Social media has even more relevance for the B2B companies, because the potential number of customers are smaller and more niched, the products are more complex, require more education, have longer sales cycle and can have longer pre and post sale support.
According to recent IDC research “… we are entering a time of significant cultural and process change for businesses, driven by the emergence of the social Web.” According to the IDC survey, 57% of U.S. workers now use social media for business at least once per week. And they use them primarily to acquire knowledge and ask questions from a community.
Today managers connect to their peers within and outside of the corporate firewall and use their connections via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to access, filter and share information on vendors, products and services.
But there remains some misconceptions among the B2Bs with whom I speak. Here are a few of the most often heard.
#1 Social media is not something that B2Bs do, much less their customers,
I can not think of a large B2B company that does not use some form of social media, and a great many small ones. For the later it maybe the most cost effectiove tools they use. By now we know that the majority of the customers use, indeed rely on social tools to get answers to their questions, identify and find key products and services. If you are not already talking to your customers via the networks your eco-system reaches, your competitors certainly are.
#2 A Facebook Page, Blog, Twitter account is a social media strategy.
These are simply tools and no more effective than the planning and effort put into them and part of a cohesive strategy of which they were selected to address a specific outcome. I wish I could count the number of times I have been asked to come in and help a company develop an online community, blog or Twitter account without the upfront planning as to what the tool is to accomplish, how it will be measured, developed, sustained. (A topic I will address in an upcoming blog post.)
#3 The ROI from using social media tools can not be measured
Ironically, new social media tools are among the most quantifiable of the marketing tool kit. Digitally speaking you can measure just about everything on the web: how many people come to your website, blog post, Facebook Fan Page, how long they stay, what action they may take.
#4 The cost is too great to justify the return.
All of the new tools have a cost, although it is often the time and effort required to implement them, but think about how important it is to keep a relationship going with your B2B customers, to be able to learn what they like or need AND to be able to go back to make another sale. In fact follow on sales to existing customer are far more likely to result in success than in a new sale to a customer you do not know. Social media tools -- when effectively applied – can deliver their cost and then some.
Social media has even more relevance to B2B companies. They enable a B2B to extend their visibility and brand, reach niched, highly focused customers, help educate on products tht may be more complex and more costly, provide ongoing pre and post sales support, and ongoing comunication and collaboration with customers, partners and employees.