Why are business-to-business (B2B) marketers spending more on social media? For many, they can’t afford to. Their prospects and customers are already using social media to connect and engage with audiences. The use of social media now surpasses e-mail as the most popular Internet activity, according to a March 2009 study by The Nielsen Co. Further, the report says two-thirds of the world’s Internet users visited a social networking site in 2008.B2B companies are also spending more because social media marketing and public relations campaigns cost less than traditional campaigns. According to a 2008 survey by eMarketer, 51 percent of respondents said the main benefit of a social media campaign was low cost.
There are many reasons social media marketing can be useful for B2B marketers. Some additional reasons include:
- It’s fairly easy to engage—to have real discussions—with prospects, customers and employees on social sites. On Twitter for example, a B2B company can quickly gain a loyal following simply by following users in the community and regularly “tweeting” issues to keep audiences informed of its thought leadership, corporate news and more.
- Improved search rankings. The social media elements found in everyday search engine results are becoming more highly relevant. According to blogger Kipp Bodnar on Social Media B2B, user-created content on social sites is continuing to flood the Internet. This results in social media elements like a YouTube video, message board thread, or blog coming up higher or in the same rank as searches with content that could be considered more traditional, like websites or news stories. “If your business continues to print sales collateral and brochures,” he writes, “and your only data online is a five-page company website, then you will we be lost in the mountain of search data and become irrelevant.” In order to be included in search results moving forward, businesses will need to be engaged in social media.
- Listening and talking. Communications programs often focus on communicating to audiences, not with. Social media enables B2B companies to listen better to its customers, and to serve them better. Many organizations are discovering that social media can help them improve customer service, often for very little investment. Customers want to know you’re listening.
B2B companies that continue to conduct marketing and public relations the old-fashioned way will find it more difficult to compete. Social media is here to stay. B2B companies that want to better engage their target audiences need to seriously consider their social media marketing strategies for today…and tomorrow.