Posted May 28, 2010 12:40 pm by with 3 comments

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It’s a pretty well known fact that B2B marketers have been slower on the adoption curve of social media. We are not breaking news here at all. What’s always of interest though is the degree to which these two groups are separated and the reasons for this gap existing.

eMarketer and White Horse, a digital marketing agency, have done some work in this area and found that it could be as simple as the degree of executive level ‘buy in’ for social media that is responsible for the B2C space being much more receptive to social media as a true marketing / advertising / PR play. One third of the respondents for B2B claimed low executive level acceptance while that only happened 9% of the time for B2C.

Below is a chart showing the differences, and surprisingly, the similarities to these two spaces regarding social media. The biggest difference being that 45% of the B2B crew say they have a presence but do nothing with it vs. 26% of the B2C bunch.

Another area of interest is that of perception as to the relevance of social media. Looks like there are a lot of naysayers in the B2B camp.

Fully 46% of B2B respondents said social media was perceived as irrelevant to their company, while only 12% of consumer-oriented marketers had the same problem. B2Bs also reported a much greater preference for traditional marketing tactics.

I have a simple cure for this one. If you are an executive in a company and you have found yourself or someone else saying “Bah humbug! Social media isn’t relevant to our business!” you need to do this simple exercise. Stop and ask yourself “Is that an opinion or is there data to back up that notion?” If you have done nothing to prove the relevance of social media to your business other than to continue to throw a wet blanket on the idea then you need to have your head removed from a certain cavity. Your ‘opinion’ about social media could be costing your company money. If you can prove that it’s a non-player then you have made a sound decision and no one will argue.

I’m not suggesting that social media is for everyone. That’s just not true. I do believe though, that irrational fear of what social media is has led to many executives to make poor decisions regarding social media use. These are really just avoidance maneuvers because they don’t understand the space and its potential.

So what are your feelings about the B2B space and its relatively slower adoption of social media? Are social media efforts truly less effective in the B2B space or is there something preventing the discipline from gaining greater traction in the corporate world?

What’s your take?

  • Kevin Brooks

    Good post, Frank. Having been a B2B marketing exec for many years, I have seen a wide range of CEO/Board POVs on social media relevance. Not long ago, just starting a blog took a huge amount of convincing inside a fairly large B2B software company!

    In my view, the problem is that most social media paradigms are geared for B2C, and a younger audience in general. The conventional B2B sales cycles and models (and participants) don’t neatly overlap with the kind of continuous engagement and peer influence that social media enables. Some good experiments here and there, but overall I think we’re still a long way from figuring out how best to leverage social media for complex enterprise sales cycles. I’ve a hunch that a lot of this is generational, and will slowly change as the makeup of boards and C suites change.

  • Thanks for the post Frank!

    If I look at that picture, I see that neither B2B is making more than twice as much money out of social media than B2C, and 20% of B2C over B2B is trying really hard but failing to do so

    I do think though that B2B markets are more pushed, and B2C more pulled (as in John Hagel, not EDI). But, where there’s a customer on one side, there’s a business on the other. And no one ever said there can’t be a business in between making good money out of that connection. But, social is (almost?) entirely people-oriented and deals with complicated dynamic exceptions (human opinions) and not complex static rules (machine stuff) so I’m really surprised that B2B is actually surpassing B2C here

    Just try this: straighten your hair, put on a decent shirt, stand in front of the mirror and say:
    “Internet? Bah! Websites? Pah! Email? Yuck” – and try not to smile in between 😉

  • Frank,

    Great article. I run my own internet marketing business and tell people all the time they are crazy to not being doing more online. I do have one example of someone I don’t believe needs to do much more than have an informational website.

    My dad is VP of marketing and sales of a pressure-treated lumber company that wholesales exterior would that they pressure treat to lumberyards across the country. I don’t know how many lumberyard owners have twitter accounts. Can anyone think of other ways he could reach his target audience online?