Jon Hoel | May 3, 2012
In response to a reader request, let’s discuss selecting the right channels for B2B social media marketing. Here are just a few pointers. You’ll need some research of your own to get exact answers.
According to Forrester, U.S. and European technology buyers are using web and community resources to complete nearly 70 percent of their buying journey before they engage with a sales resource. While this may not yet be true in Asian markets, if you want your company to figure in the buying cycle, getting in early is critical.
For many technology vendors, the value of a lead is potentially huge. Your buyers may be helping themselves, but they aren’t necessarily getting the right quality of information. Filling this gap can be an effective way of generating and nurturing leads.
But where exactly should B2B marketers start? First, be aware of some pitfalls in selecting social media channels:
- The “build it and they will come” mindset
- Over-reliance on published studies
- Not knowing your buyers’ behaviors
The “Build It and They Will Come” Mindset
Like marriage, social media is easy to start, but requires commitment over time. Many companies fall into the trap of thinking that somehow the magic will happen automatically, but you need to target effectively and you need a sustainable way to stand out against competitors.
Over-Reliance on Published Studies
Publicly available data on the popularity of social media channels is plentiful and can give a broad-brush indicator of relevant trends, but it’s no more than a starting point. Keep in mind that much of it relates to consumer, not B2B social media usage, and wasn’t created with your specific situation in mind. It’s often “soft” panel data, not “hard” usage data provided by Internet service providers.
Also, published social media statistics may lack depth of insight into social media usage. For example, the numbers for blogging are impressive in Japan, so should you devote your Japan B2B social media marketing budget to a blog campaign? The knowledge that a high proportion of blogs in Japan are anonymous and that B2B blogging in Japan is less well established would affect your decision, but these kind of cultural insights are hard to find in most published studies.
Not Knowing Your Buyers’ Behaviors
The key question is where buyers in the industry verticals you wish to target are active and how they behave. For this, primary research is necessary. Be prepared for the possibility that some of the people you wish to target may not yet be active on the channels you’re thinking to use. If your competitors are less active on social media in a particular Asian market, you have the challenge and opportunity of educating buyers as to how you can add value to their decision process using social media. If you are seen as unbiased, you will stand out.
Social Listening Helps Makes Things Clearer
Getting a picture of what is being said about your brand, your competitors and your product and industry category helps you decide where you need to play, and what content, messaging, and program of interaction is likely to be effective.
“Historical” social listening involves using sophisticated software to gain both quantitative and qualitative insights by “mining” as much as 12 months of stored social media conversations to help steer social media initiatives. There are many useful packages that can do this in English, but despite vendor claims, coverage in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean remains limited. But in any language, “gated” social networks require a manual scan and search, and there is only so much even the best tools can do – a trained human has to operate them, interpret the results, and extract actionable insights.
In addition, surveying your buyers and prospects, along with actually talking to them and keeping informed of their needs can help you decide where you need to play and how you can best add value.
What You Can Do Now
- Examine published data, but take it with a grain of salt.
- Look at competitor (or similar industry) best practice in relevant markets.
- Perform original research specific to your own situation to establish how you can use social media to help B2B buyers and win them over.