In this article, you'll learn...
- Research findings about the social media use of one B2B segment
- Four opportunities for B2B marketers to maximize social media ROI
The utility of social media tools within the consumer marketing environment is fairly obvious. Consumers have adopted communications vehicles such as Twitter and Facebook en masse, and they are not only using those networks to engage brands but also expecting a dialogue in return.
The challenge for consumer brands is not whether to maintain a presence on social media networks, but how to best handle the influx of conversations. In return for their investment, organizations gain access to a robust new form of measurement that informs sales, marketing, customer service, and other critical functions.
For B2B, the return on investment (ROI) from those networks is less clear. Buyers of professional services, in particular, pose an interesting challenge for marketers. Such customers are aware of these social networks and are most likely engaging consumer brands on them—just like many others. But to what extent are B2B customers willing to engage with business service providers via social media? What is their level of engagement, and which social media tools are most effective?
For the B2B marketer looking to limit her time and resource investment in search of an efficient approach to social media, the research we conducted is likely to disappoint. Now in its second year, our study finds that buyers of professional services, specifically in-house counsel, tend to engage social media networks that contain robust, well-developed content that requires both an investment of time, and, perhaps even more daunting, a willingness to take a thought leadership position on issues of high importance.
How ingrained in social media are B2B buyers?
We recently decided to pose that question directly to in-house counsel, the buyers of legal services—and among the most sophisticated purchasers of business services. The current survey of 334 in-house counsel, released in January 2012, was conducted in partnership with Inside Counsel magazine and the Zeughauser Group. (Read more about the findings, here.)
The results were surprising, and, in many instances, they ran counter to what marketers are seeing in the consumer environment. Survey respondents engage the "Big Three" social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) in their personal lives, but they value LinkedIn, Wikipedia, and blogs as sources of information for their professional lives.
Although in 2010 we found a large generational gap, with a wide disparity in overall social media use between those age 30-40 and those age 40+, that gap closed significantly in 2012, creating a "leveling off" trend.