Cutting Through the Hype: The Value of Social Media to B2B Marketers Getting Clearer

by Greentarget

Although the New Media Engagement Survey’s respondents are Corporate General Counsels, we find that the results of this survey have applicability across the professional services industry and among non-marketer, C-suite executives.

These senior-level decision-makers, particularly in the business-to-business space, tend to be more similar than different in their approach to social media. So, whether your business is accounting, management consulting, financial consulting, or any other professional service or issue-prone business then there’s likely something in these results for you.

Survey Highlights

  • Social media isn’t just for the young. Sophisticated B2B buyers aged 40 to 60 are adopting new media in growing numbers.
  • “Invisible users” challenge ROI measurement. B2B buyers of business services are “listeners” in social media networks rendering engagement metrics largely ineffective.
  • LinkedIn is underutilized. LinkedIn presents a strong opportunity given its high level of credibility and few B2B organizations are leveraging it effectively.
  • Blogs have high value. Organizational-branded content is seen as highly credible and preferred over more traditional media outlets by sophisticated B2B buyers.
  • Quality over frequency. Most respondents are visiting blogs once a week on average, so posts can be less frequent but more thoughtful and compelling.

How engaged in social media are B2B buyers?

We posed this question directly to C-suite-level in-house legal counsel—buyers of legal services and among the most sophisticated purchasers of business services. The survey, first introduced in 2010 and most recently released in January of 2012, was conducted in partnership with Inside Counsel magazine and The Zeughauser Group and includes the input of 334 in-house counsel. Request the full results here.

The results were surprising and, in many instances, run counter to what marketers are seeing in the consumer environment.  The decision-makers surveyed do engage social media networks –Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube are their social media of choice — in their personal lives but within their professional lives they clearly value LinkedIn, Wikipedia and organizational blogs as key sources of information. While we found a strong generational gap in 2010 with a wide disparity in overall social media use among 30 to 40 year-olds compared to their 40-plus counterparts, that gap closed significantly in 2012.

Social Media Offers an Opportunity to Influence Referrals

We are careful not to overstate the importance of social media within the professional services marketing realm, particularly as this audience values referrals from sources they trust above all else and continues to consume most of their content from traditional media sources.

However, when you begin to question the ways in which an organization might influence those referrals and become part of the ongoing conversation, fueled by both traditional and social media sources, some interesting opportunities begin to emerge.

For the B2B marketing professional looking for a quick, easy and inexpensive approach to social media, our research is likely to disappoint. Our study reveals that buyers of professional services, specifically C-suite level in-house counsel, tend to engage social media networks that provide robust, well-developed content. This requires both an investment of time and, perhaps even more daunting for some organizations, a willingness to take a thought leadership position on issues of high importance.

We hope you find our analysis thought-provoking and applicable to the challenges you face in your business as these networks and their users continue to rapidly grow and evolve. Request the full copy of the results here.

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