Social media plays a significant role in digital marketing. In fact, both consumer and business marketing that is not fully engaged in social media is destined to become a second rate player in the multi-billion dollar eCommerce arena. The basis for that conclusion comes from numerous studies conducted by both independent and platform owned organizations.
As of December 2014, there are over 700 social media sites worldwide. Needless to say, not only is it impossible to participate in them all, but many are ineffective from a marketing perspective when the product or service offered is considered.
This article is focused on discussion of both the top social media sites and the viability for B2B marketing. Consumer based marketing has a broader reach and appeal but in many cases, the strategy is quite detached from that of a B2B initiative. Before commenting on the specific sites, it is important to strategically view the audience that social media marketing will be directed to.
Pew Research Center’s Internet Project shows the high level of internet user participation in social media. Some of the demographic data from that survey is shown on the table below:
Age, college education, and income levels all play a role in the analysis. Taking into consideration that decision makers in companies, small and large, will have a tendency to be between the ages of 30 and 65, this becomes an important metric. Data from the above table suggests that 65% or more of social media users fall into that category. Having both a college degree and higher income levels have a direct correlation to the decision maker positions.
When combined with age, it is apparent that the B2B prospects fall directly into these categories.
Similar conclusions are reached when analyzing the use of mobile devices to access social media sites. Senior and Executive Management have high workloads and are many times out of office.
From a Forbes article published in July of 2014, some data critical to social media marketing was presented.
First, the investment in Social Media will become a necessity, not a luxury. Business can’t afford to be invisible to 75% of internet users.
Second, Google+ is a major factor. 61% of businesses are active on Google+. Chances are your competitor has presence on Google+.
Third, Image-Centric networks have increased in popularity and impact. The old adage of “a picture speaks 1000 words” is sage advice in the digital world.
Fourth, Micro-video platforms allow the business to simplify their message. A two minute video has much more impact than an article that takes two minutes to read.
And fifth, LinkedIn is the major player for B2B Business Growth. While LinkedIn may not be a top player for the B2C crowd, it’s currently surpassing all other networks (even Facebook and Twitter) for B2B marketers. According to Social Media Examiner, 33% of B2B marketers are using the platform, as compared to 31% for Facebook and 16% for Twitter. And while both the B2B and B2C crowd plan on increasing their use of the platform, a whopping 77% of B2Bs plan on increasing their investment in the network this year.
Overall Monthly Usage for top Social Media site.
Monthly activity continues to grow across many of the social media sites. Rankings such as this combine the social interaction of the user and any marketing, be it B2C or B2B. The numbers of all are very impressive but take on different meaning when analyzing for B2C vs. B2B marketing purposes. As an example, Facebook’s 1.3B monthly users seems to indicate that business needs to be heavily invested in the Facebook site. To a certain degree, that hypothesis is correct. However, when factoring in the high level of social commentary and that the typical Facebook user is a consumer, it becomes clear that B2C marketing has the potential for large scale success while the B2B audience has much less presence on this specific site.
Social Media Site Ownership
Like other enterprises with a global reach, competition for the user is very high. Each company has a multi-million dollar advertising spend with the goal of growing market share. Marketing entails targeting the general and more specific users.
But that is not enough. The need to own multiple platforms becomes a requirement in capturing market share. There is no such thing as “one size fits all”” in social media.
What does this all mean to the company and staff when developing a marketing strategy? Stealing a phrase from the commercial real estate world…it’s all about location, location, location. The research should not only be robust but in-depth. Before investing in particular platforms, be sure that the ROI and cost/benefit analyses have been done! This is not the time to play blind-folded darts and hope that you hit the target. Also, be sure to recognize the fact that you will be engaged in more than one social media site.
Breakdown of Uses Within Social Media
There are a number of responses that one hopes to elicit by participating in social media. The major areas of focus are:
- Identity – Both the individual and the business needs an identity and brand. What and how you post determines what that identity will be. Building a brand is not an overnight accomplishment, nor should it be a haphazard attempt to create an identity that doesn’t currently exist.
- Conversation – Is this network primarily social in nature? Business related? Is there a specific theme within the site as a whole or individual groups? All require thought in order to gain acceptance.
- Sharing – similar to conversation (postings), be sure that what is being shared is relevant to the network. Otherwise, forward to individuals and avoid sharing.
- Presence – As mentioned a number of times, be sure that your presence and activity is warranted. Do not invest time in networks that have little return.
- Relationships – Like personal relationships, social media relationships require nurturing. The best approach is to offer assistance; don’t ask for it. You will find that over time, this process will lead to others offering to help you. The value is in the relationship over time and not a single action.
- Reputation – Being respected takes time. Review the five areas above. Each plays a role in the reputation that you have and maintain. It can take time to build a positive reputation. One bad post can wipe that out in a day. Never post anything on social media, from a business perspective that may have questionable impact. If you don’t want your mother to read it, don’t post it. Your potential client is no different.
- Groups – many social media sites have groups where those with like interests can gather. This activity can create an aura of expertise that is not achievable in the general homepage feeds. Make a difference in the group and that will spill over into other areas in which you participate. Be cautious. Expertise is not the same as “know-it-all”. The groups are sophisticated and they will quickly determine which category you fall into.
What steps should be taken by the individual or business seeking to utilize social media in their digital marketing strategy?
Foremost, it is necessary to develop strategy based on data rather than gut feeling. Pilot or beta tests which gathers response from the intended B2B entity is critical in the validation process.
Once the chosen direction is determined, a purposeful engagement needs to be initiated.Engagement must include thoughtful utilization of the selected platforms and participation should include more than just one or two individuals in the organization.
Originally appeared on LinkedIn in December 2014 and featured in: Marketing & Advertising