Many B2B marketers are still avoiding social media, wondering, "When business customers do participate in social media, how can we tell whether it works?" OK, let's put that excuse to rest once and for all.
Social media is for socializing—just as when you go to a tradeshow and strike up a conversation with a prospect or attend a seminar or interact with any professional group in-person.
So how do you know those channels produce business? Just because you didn't instantly chalk up a sale, or you merely distributed some company literature or got a business card, doesn't mean you didn't make an impression that will pay off at some point. Yet you do it. Why? Because dialogue with peers and potential buyers is important.
LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, blogs... they're dialogues—just like the conversations you have at industry events. They're an opportunity for you to influence thinking and perspective and bring new ideas and new solutions to the table.
Which is why social media has just as much a place in a B2B marketing plan and budget as tradeshows. Maybe more, since—unlike tradeshows—social media is an ongoing opportunity that continually attracts "e-attendees."
The numbers back up that contention, according to a recent Thomas Industrial Purchasing Barometer (IPB) study:
- Exactly one-fourth (25%) of industrial buyers turn to the professional networking site LinkedIn when sourcing industrial products and services.
- In addition, 11.8% find market-specific forums to be useful resources.
- Nearly half (46%) of buyers would advise potential suppliers looking to gain new business to use LinkedIn, while 39% would recommend using forums.
"Social media has made it easier to see more about the services and tools available and helps us make our purchases," one buyer participating in the study said.
Philip (Phil) Paranicas is director of new product development at ThomasNet.com. He is responsible for creating new products and services that support ThomasNet's mission of helping bring buyers together with sellers. Reach him via firstname.lastname@example.org.
LinkedIn: Phil Paranicas