Study: How Are B2Bs Using Social Media





studyEarlier this month we told you about the Business.com study that looked at how business professionals were using social media. Well, a newly released 58-page companion report attempts to evaluate the same results from the perspective of business-to-business (B2B) company execs, professionals and agencies. The reports breaks down the most important social sites to B2B execs and agencies, how they determine social media success and the tools they’re using to bring it all together. There’s a lot of great information in the actual report, but here are some of the highlights I was able to pick out.



What types of social media are B2Bs using?

It’s worth noting that everyone questioned in the study is already using social media for business, either as a resource, to engage in initiatives or both. So the usage curve is probably higher than normal. According to the study, people from mid- to large-sized companies (100 employees or more) were far more active in social media than people from smaller companies.  I found that to be rather surprising.

The study reported:

  • 46 percent of mid- to large-businesses use Twitter, compared to just 28 percent of SMBs.
  • 84 percent of mid- to large-businesses listen to podcasts or attend webinars, compared to just 67 percent of SMBs.
  • 66 percent of mid- to large-businesses conduct searches for information on social media sites, compared to 54 percent of SMBs.

The only area where SMBs owners did outrank their larger counterparts was in reading user ratings and reviews. The survey attributed this to SMBs not having a “more formalized purchasing process. The survey found no difference in how large and small companies used online communities or business Q&A sites.

As far as industries using social media, I was really surprised to see so much social media adoption. Though the individual numbers varied for different categories (Advertising, Internet, Financial, Retail, etc), in most cases more than 50 percent of businesses were at least engaging with their company’s personal social media entities.

The ‘Who’ and ‘How Much’ of Engagement

Who: For both B2B and B2Cs it’s the Marketing department(76 percent B2B, 63 percent B2C) that are primarily responsible for social media efforts, with Customer Supporter, Product and Other making up the rest. As for experience levels, the study found that the B2Bs overall have more experience with social media than their B2C counterparts. Thirty percent B2B respondents have less than one year of business social media experience (versus 35 percent for B2Cs). That said, more experience doesn’t mean more knowledge – both B2Bs and B2Cs consider themselves “new” to this social media for business thing.

Overall, B2Bs are more active in social media than B2Cs, with 81 percent of B2Bs maintaining one or more accounts on sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. They’re also much more likely to engage in micro-blogging on Twitter than B2C companies.





What do they use as success metrics?

  • Web site traffic – 68 percent of B2Bs, 57 percent for B2Cs
  • Brand Awareness, 61 percent and 52 percent, respectively
  • Engagement with prospects, 60 percent and 57 percent respectively
  • Engagement with customers, 52 percent and 51 percent, respectively
  • Brand Reputation, 47 percent and 41 percent, respectively

Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin Groups are the most common sites where B2B’s manage profiles, which doesn’t differ from their B2C counterparts. Very interesting, though, was that 71 percent of B2B’s participate in LinkedIn Answers, as opposed to just 41 percent of B2Cs. Sounds like businesses are more interested in establishing expertise, where B2Cs are looking more to interact with prospective customers.

Monitoring Social Media

Not at all surprisingly, the study found that Twitter Search, Google Search and Google Alerts were the most popular was for B2Bs to track the conversation going on. These tools are all also free and easy to set up, going back to the education and experience levels mentioned above.

While there were several categories were percentages where significantly different for where B2Bs were spending their time and seeing value compared to B2Cs, it really feels like everyone’s still trying to figure out what works best for them. B2Bs are playing more in the professional areas like LinkedIn, LinkedIn Answers and using Twitter Search for research, where B2Cs are more relationship-oriented and using sites like Faceook , Yahoo Answers and even MySpace. 10 Comments ▼


Lisa Barone


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

10 Reactions

  1. I’m not surprised by the lower adoption rates amongst B2C companies. B2B usually entails a larger average ticket price, so you need fewer successes to justify the resources. I would be interested to know how the adoption rate relates to something like average sale price.

  2. Thanks for the statistics
    One of the issues in small business is the lack of time to even socialize at any level.

  3. Thanks for the stats, they’ll definitely come in handy.

    Most of the stats are not overly surprising. Larger companies have the bandwith to allow someone to monitor social media. I know Vodafone in Ireland monitor Twitter for disgruntled customers and openly relay the problem to their customer support team to find a resolution. Everyone wins in that scenario. This is not a weapon large companies had in their armoury a few years ago.

  4. Grant Wickes

    Still somewhat of the wild west with social media… Lots of participants coming and going as the venue gets tested, tweaked and figured out. Still best to pick your spots and stay at it.

    Loved Andee’s comment about tough to solialize at any level…

    Cheers, Grant

  5. I enjoyed this article & some of the comments greatly. We are just starting to see how powerful social media can be for businesses of any size. One thing besides obtaining knowledge of how social media can be used effectively through studying successful use cases etc. is availability of powerful tools to monitor and act immediately upon data found within social media. TipTop at http://FeelTipTop.com is one such tool that I believe everyone can leverage for their business objectives.

  6. Interesting that the much-hyped Xing business network doesn’t get a look-in. Not that I’d expect it to mind you, but it’s definitely a sign of LinkedIn’s domination in the space.

  7. Kip Marlow

    Good article. Any data like this helps me understand trends and the importance of community building.

    Thanks

  8. Martin Lindeskog

    I think that the small businesses will be able to utilize social media due to the closeness to the local market place. It will take some time before many of the small business owners have implemented due to the time factor, priority issues and lack of resources.

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