It has been another hot year for social media in the B2B space. While B2B companies are known for being relatively slow in adopting new trends, 86 percent of them are using social media today, and 69 percent of B2B marketers planned to shift more of their budgets towards social media in 2011. Looking ahead, Forrester Research reported that B2B companies will spend $54 million on social media marketing in 2014, up from just $11 million in 2009.
B2B marketers used social media in a number of ways in the past year to connect, collaborate and share more directly and effectively with their communities of stakeholders, customers, prospects, fans and other influencers in their respective industries. As B2B marketers became better at listening and engaging with their communities online, many have managed to harness the full potential of social media to improve business functions internally, provide their communities with immediate service and information and boost visibility and reputation for their businesses across multiple channels.
While this list represents only a handful of the B2B social media marketing trends in 2011, I felt, through my own research over the course of the year, that these were paramount.
Here are the top five B2B social media marketing trends of 2011:
B2B marketers worth their salt have known for a long time that the unfortunately named “spray and pray” style of messaging never garners the success that considered and focused marketing efforts do. This year, savvy B2B marketers began shifting away from these primitive “message blasting” tactics we saw rampant in 2009 and 2010 and instead adopting a hyper-focused approach to communications.
This shift ran parallel with the availability of new social media tools and channel features that enabled marketers to hone in on specific groups within their communities. Facebook rolled out Timeline, which allows users to shape their profiles to reflect who they are and share all their best moments in one place, allowing businesses to learn more about prospective customers and nurture relationships with them. In the B2B environment, where one prospect can have the power to change a business’s financial course, a personal touch can be just the right encouragement to make that crucial sale. With the launch of Google Plus, marketers were introduced to a new feature called “circles,” which allows users to group followers in specific categories, providing businesses with the ability to target messages to specific audiences. Hootsuite also improved its analytics features this year, allowing businesses to focus their social media efforts by tracking Twitter mentions, examining Facebook likes and demographics, and overlaying social link clicks and website visits from Google.
B2B companies moved past “dipping the toe in the water” stage and dove into social media with full force this year, establishing visibility on multiple channels. According to this recent study by B2B Magazine, B2B marketers overwhelmingly favour the “big three” social media channels, with LinkedIn being the most-used channel (72%). Facebook (71%) and Twitter (67%) are close behind, with those three channels forming the core of most B2B social media marketing efforts. The other channels used by B2B marketers include YouTube (48%), blogging (44%) and online communities (22%). I look forward to hearing how B2B marketers employ Twitter’s new brand pages and if more B2B marketers value Google Plus as a social media channel in the coming year.
We’re not perfect yet, but B2B marketers are beginning to put the pieces of the social media ROI puzzle together. In this Social Media Explorer article, “social media ROI” was the trending topic of 2011. Social media measurement coach Nicole Kelly explains that “to measure social media ROI you need to figure out how to pass data between your web analytics software, your customer relationships management (CRM) software, your online marketing software, your social media engagement platform and your company’s reporting system/data warehouse.” Furthermore, measuring ROI must be considered as a “long-term brand building strategy” and the effects, in isolation, may be difficult to correlate.
Brian Solis explains that you can’t measure what it is you do not value or know to value. For B2B marketers, ROI is now determined by first setting goals. The goals help us determine the metrics, benchmarks and key performance indicators that need to be measured over a period of time. It is through measurement against benchmarks and KPIs that we determine ROI. Katie Paine’s Defining Social Media ROI report helped pioneer this concept back in 2010, and I suggest you read it in full for details.
Mobile marketing has been regarded by many as a B2C channel, but B2B businesses have also begun taking advantage of mobile marketing and it’s predicted by Forrester that B2B mobile marketing spend will reach $106 million in 2014. Professionals tend to rely on their mobile devices more heavily than consumers to receive news of breaking company and industry developments and respond to time sensitive issues. B2B professionals are using social media apps to buy items for work, receive information quickly and communicate and collaborate with their communities as well as to reach prospects. But mobile is not for everyone. Jason Falls wrote a great post that I suggest you read on how B2B marketers can know if mobile is important to their social media strategy.
Bridging real and virtual worlds through social media
I credit David Armano, who wrote about convergence on the Harvard Business Review, for highlighting the importance of “trans-media” experiences that, he says, are likely to define “social” in the year to come. Businesses have already begun experimenting with new technologies that use social media as a bridge between virtual and real worlds. For example, B2B marketers have been using QR codes to drive people to their social media profiles. Business 2 Community suggests that if you’re a local B2B company, you should link your QR code to Foursquare to reward frequent visitors with special discounts. In addition, B2B professionals are increasigly using social media to organize meetups with prospects.
Did I miss anything important? What B2B social media trends do you think were the most important in 2011?
Image: Kloud Social
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