The use of Social Media in the consumer space is widely written about. Success in the B2C space frequently garners good media attention. It has been difficult to crack the puzzle of social media in the B2B space though. Most B2B firms who have engaged in Social Media do not typically see immediate impact from their investments whether it be in terms of generating leads or increasing their market reach. Not surprisingly, this lack of success has left most B2B marketing managers wondering if they should include social media campaigns in their marketing plans. It is not difficult to fathom the reason behind the lack of success.
First, B2B organizations typically operate in highly specialized industries and tend to offer advanced products/services. In terms of sheer number of interested users, there will likely not be as many of the B2B product/service relative to a product/service in the consumer space. When you start with a smaller audience set overall, the number of individuals engaging in the social space tends to be lower as well. B2B marketers who invest in social campaigns may be surprised when their efforts do not lead to a large volume of active users.
Second, the B2B audience is typically a much more sophisticated and intellectually advanced user base, than your typical consumer. These users tend to invest time & effort in collecting, collating, and processing information especially when it comes to evaluating products/services for consumption. Currently available social tools do not provide the required level of out-of-the-box functionality and are simply not sophisticated enough to effectively target these users and keep their attention.
Thirdly, products and/or services offered in B2B tend to to be complex and intricate by nature. As a result, sales and suppport cycles are typically quite long. Farming the lead and converting them into a customer in the social space will take time, effort and energy just like in the real-world. B2B business managers who might expect immediate successs from the social campaigns can become disillusioned when things take just as much time as in the real world or longer.
Fourthly, in this new age of business where ROI is tied to every needful business investment, social media can be a hard one to measure and make a business case for. This is primarily because measureable business metrics are not yet well-defined and those that are tend to be more consumer-centric (e.g. no. of facebook or twitter followers). When business managers find it hard to make a business case, social media investment tends to be hard to come by. Without the right level of investment, social campaigns can be very generic and poorly setup, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Having said all this, should B2B firms simply not shy away from including social media within their marketing mix? Not necessarily. We believe there are effective strategies that can be adopted to make social media work in the B2B space. In our series of forthcoming articles, we will highlight some of these strategies and tactics that can lead to a more effective use of the social media for B2B firms. Stay posted!