Is B2B Social Media Worth The Effort

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There is a mass of information online, and it seems endless seminars, about the power of social media for business but what is the truth? Is B2B social media really worth the effort?

In my humble opinion for lead generation for SME’s in B2B, markets no it is not. There I have said it, you need read no further. That said, there are other reasons to have a presence on social media but they are perhaps less obvious.

Social Media For B2B Markets – The Numbers

Assessing B2B social media success (or otherwise) for lead generation is a simple numbers game you can try out for yourself. How do you generate leads? I guess part of it is making potential customers aware of what you offer, part of it is building the perception of those that are aware, but not customers, that you are a credible supplier with something that sets you apart from the rest and part of it is to keep touching existing customers.

All of the above assumes you can actually reach out in some way to prospects (not engaged), prospects (engaged) and existing customers. Without getting bogged down in the detail of how you are going to reach out the first step is to determine if your B2B audience is actually on social media.

Simply dig into your CRM and take out 30 of your best customers, 30 randomly selected other customers, 30 engaged prospects and 30 target prospects to give an overall reasonable sample size. Then simply try to identify if those prospects have a presence on social media. In most cases using the basic search tool specific to the social network will suffice. I suggest simply try LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to minimise the time involved.

Based on my own targeting of potential medium sized companies in a specific B2B market sector I came up with 1 in 9 on Twitter, 1 in 7 on Facebook, 1 in 4 on LIN and 1 in 22 on Pinterest but that does not tell the complete story (see below). Of course every business will be different, with its own set of numbers.

The first pass calculation then is simple. If your numbers are similar to mine and you have a total existing customer plus potential prospect base of 10,000 businesses then roughly 1,000 will be on Twitter and 2,500 on LIN and perhaps social media for lead generation is worth considering. If your target base is only 1,000 customers plus prospects then it is most likely not worth the effort.

Make your own assessment but be careful as there is another, more subtle, issue to be aware of. A business may have a social media account but are they active on that account and, more importantly, who maintains it. My own analysis (and every vertical / business is different) shows that many manufacturing businesses have a Facebook page simply because they think they should. The proportion of businesses actually active on their account is low. The same appliers, to a lesser degree, to the other channels.

It does not tend to apply to LinkedIn but Perhaps more important is who maintains the account. If it is just the business marketing department then is it actually worth engaging if you are really trying to reach out to engineers, project people and quality? To research all of the above may take half a day or so but it is time well spent when compared with the countless hours required to build a social media presence that delivers negligible results.

Choose Your B2B Social Media Channel Carefully

Each social media channel has its own advantages and disadvantages but for manufacturing businesses, and B2B in general, then LinkedIn has to deliver the most value. How to use LinkedIN to grow awareness, find business opportunities and generate leads is a lengthy subject beyond the scope of this post but Pagewiz provide detailed information if you would like to read more.

Pinterest can be worth some time and resources if your product is best promoted in a visual way. Twitter can be useful as a content (blogs, news etc.) broadcast medium and to increase reach but I have to admit I don’t see the value in Facebook for B2B. There are some who would wholeheartedly disagree and it is possible I am missing something but I simply do not get Facebook as a relevant promotional tool for B2B.

Video channels, the most famous of which is YouTube (but there are others), can be extremely effective for some manufacturing businesses but video marketing is again beyond the scope of this post.

So Where Is The Value In Social Media

Having dismissed social media as a lead generation tool it is important to note that it can be effective in three key areas

  • Research
  • A knowledge base
  • As a search engine

A vast amount of information is available on all the major social media channels and much of it would be difficult to find using a traditional search engine. By following key market influencers, competitors and businesses in your own and similar market segments a mass of information is available that can give your company an edge.

Social media is not just for publishing information, just being a passive snooper can deliver some real insights. Personally I have found many tools, resources and even businesses I have since partnered with on social media that I don’t believe I would have come across anywhere else. Just this week a re-tweet pointed me in the direction of a start-up business with a great (low cost) service I definitely intend to trial in the coming weeks.

Finally, social media channels are effectively search engines. The search functions on some may be basic but with practice it is possible to drill down to find great information it may be difficult to find on Google and elsewhere. As a test I typed a phrase from a former life (‘high reliability memory’) into Twitter recently and was surprised by the information returned. There was not a lot of information and much of it was several months old but the search phrase was far from mainstream.