Should b2b marketing be social?

According to Forrester b2b social media marketing spend will grow from $11m in 2009 to $54m in 2014 – and with the rapid growth we’ve seen in b2c social media marketing spend that would not seem to be an exaggerated estimate.  But how should brands approach interacting with business decision makers (BDMs) online and through social forums, and as researchers how should we be measuring the success or impact of these initiatives?

The way I look at it is BDMs are generally looking to achieve 3 things when they turn to an online information source:

  • INFORMATION: Learn about products or services available
  • FEEDBACK: Gain knowledge or understanding about products or services
  • SUPPORT: Improve their product or service experience post-purchase

This means that whilst brands may have any number of objectives they really need to deliver on these core requirements in order to engage their customers and provide a meaningful platform.  To do so any social media platform or marketing campaign needs to achieve one or more of the following 3 things:

  • COMMUNICATE: Provide open & honest information about products and services
  • COLLABORATE: Openly engage with both customers, prospects & 3rd party moderators of social forums
  • TRANSFORM: Deliver something extra that tangibly improves the customer experience

And in researching the needs, use and effectiveness of b2b social media initiatives this provides a core framework with which to measure success. Whilst not every brand seems to take the time to consider their customers aims and requirements before devising and launching their social media campaigns, there are some great examples out there of brands that are hitting the mark, many of which are highlighted in this article from eConsultancy.  Some of my favourites are:

  1. COMMUNICATE: PayPal’s YouTube channel for its Merchant customers delivers concise and useful videos to help their b2b customers get more from the service, whilst also providing avenues for comment, discussion and viral sharing of content
  2. COLLABORATE: The forums section of the TES website is a great example of a disparate community that has a real hunger and need to share ideas and information in a virtual environment.  And with 1.6 million members spread across 196 countries it certainly seems to be delivering.
  3. TRANSFORM: In support of its Facebook page, American Express ran an online competition for its small business customers where they could win a trip to Facebook HQ for an business make-over and $20k to fund their own social-media strategy.  Thus promoting both brands, engaging with small business customers and providing them with an opportunity to improve their own businesses.

I’d be fascinated to hear about any examples of B2b social media campaigns that you’ve come across; good or bad.

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Ian Ralph
01962 842211
Article date - 29/02/2012
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