Does social media influence B2B buying decisions?
A raging debate within marketing departments is how to use social media to drive sales leads. Unfortunately some marketing teams view social media as merely another way to SPAM us. They completely blow it when it comes to social media.
Because social media is cheap
As a B2B marketer you’re probably trying to figure out how to use social media in your marketing mix. You’re trying to stretch your marketing budget as far as you can - and let’s face it - you see social media as a cheap marketing channel. But you don’t want to screw it up. A small misstep and it could backfire.
It’s about thought leadership
For B2B marketers social media is about thought leadership not about generating leads. Thought leadership supported through social media will drive interest in your products and services, because it presents your company as an expert at solving a problem.
It’s about driving traffic
In addition to supporting thought leadership programs, social media is viewed as a tool to influence search engine rankings and increase inbound links.
What do the numbers say?
As a quantitative guy I look to numbers to provide guidance on which marketing programs are working - or not. Thanks to a post by Mac McIntosh at the Sales Lead Insights blog, I viewed a presentation by Forrester titled Using Buyer Social Behavior to Boost B2B Social Media Success. The presentation is a summary of a Forrester survey. One of the questions asked was “Which of the following sources of information impact your decision-making process?”.
Not surprisingly the highest response - at 84% - was “peers and colleagues”. In other words, Word of Mouth. You could conclude by reading these results that social media is irrelevant. However, I believe the question is too broad and doesn’t reveal what we need to know as B2B marketers. Perhaps the question “What sources of information do you use to initiate your search for a solution to a problem?” would have been more revealing. Many people read blog content they reach through search engines without even realizing they’re reading a blog.
Social media should be a component of your marketing mix. It will impact on your ability to influence the buying process. To what degree you may not be able to quantify initially, but over time and with some careful experimentation the answer will present itself.
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