The use of social media in B2B marketing has a chequered history. In some ways this is surprising because business to business and service selling depends just as much on reputation as selling consumer goods does.
For the small company where it’s the owner whose reputation is on the line it’s relatively straightforward. The task is to produce enough social proof that you have a good grasp of your field of expertise to be taken seriously.
However, in the sunny uplands of the supply chain world, there is a much greater reluctance to do very much with social media. A recent study that I carried out with colleagues from the University of Kingston looked at what goes on in the Aerospace industry.
The key issue for these companies was being seen to be a reliable player. Promotional activity depended mostly on attendance at trade shows and on literature, presentations and white papers. The entire business model appears to have shown almost no evolution from the approach taken by engineering companies 35 years ago.
The one concession to the whole online marketing phenomenon was the widespread use of Linked-in.
Of course if you are involved in government or military contracts your scope for publicising what you do is limited in any case
Our own findings are supported by some recent research carried out by the B2B barometer. This is what they found when they asked through which channels will you spend your promotional budget.
Of course to some extent his overstates the reluctance because basic social media work is inexpensive compared to the costs of Trade Shows and Direct Mail. But nevertheless it demonstrates how little social media has penetrated this section so far.
The B2B barometer also looked at which social media channels were in fact used by B2B companies or agencies working with them. The top 5 channels were
They also asked which the most effective channels were. The top 5 were
3) Online Communities
However, none of these were thought very important in lead generation, rather this type of content creation was seen as important for brand building by promoting reliability and thought-leadership.
The most effective means of delivering content as reported by the respondees is shown in the diagram.
Case studies, videos and white papers are considered to be effective backed up by live marketing including public speaking and workshops.
This of course is exactly how engineering and IT companies present themselves by delivering proof of competence that you know what you’re about and demonstrating thought leadership.
So the role of social media in this is to build awareness of the availability of
1) The heavy-duty written collateral such as white papers and
2) Promoting the videos, events, shows, seminars and speeches at conferences that demonstrate how good the service or product is and how innovative and reliable you are as a business partner.
You can access the original paper Business Barometer paper here