Why Are B-to-B Marketers So Reluctant To Embrace Social Media?

It’s not like social media just came out. The B-to-C space has been using it successfully for the last 3-5 years. So why are B-to-B practitioners slow to adapt?

I think it’s because they don’t know where to start. You should probably start by developing a strategy that is included in your overall marketing plans. If you use social media to help build better relationships with your customers, I think you’ll find that it can help with more than just brand building.

I read a post recently in emarketer.com on why B-to-B was still unsure about social media strategies. Some highlights include:

  • 66% of marketing executives view social media as extremely or very important, but only 7% were leveraging it heavily.
  • 9% of B-to-B marketers weren’t using social at all.

Nearly 50% said that new tools and technology would make their social efforts more effective.

Changes that Need to Be Made for Their Social Media Efforts to Be More Effective According to B2B Marketing Executives in North America, May 2011 (% of respondents)

So if you’re a B-to-B marketer, what’s holding you back? Is it a resource issue?

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  1. Rachel Rodenborg

    I am a B2B marketer and I use social media on a daily basis to communicate with customers and promote my brand. I think there are two reasons that more B2B marketers don’t use social media on a consistent basis–and it’s sort of the “chicken or the egg” story. The first issue is that social media is resource intensive if one is going to leverage it properly. It requires daily nurturing and input to be successful. The second issue is that it is hard to quantify results from social media, making it hard to justify the “time spend” needed to make it an effective channel. That said, it’s hard to justify the time/expense of putting someone on a project if you can’t readily recognize the results of their efforts. Likewise, without the commitment to social media as an on-going and necessary marketing function, you never get any measurable results. More B2B marketers need to commit to the social media process with the understanding that it may be a considerable amount of time before they see the results of their efforts. Cheers! Rachel

  2. Robyn Federman

    I agree with Rachel–and I would add, that, unless your target audience uses social media for business, or if you’re in a highly regulated industry, social media may not always make sense. If you can’t or won’t commit the resources to do it properly, it may not make sense to do it at all. It’s not right for every kind of business. Or certain parts of it may be right–for example, technical microblogs and Quora might be right for certain kinds of engineers; Facebook and Twitter, even LinkedIn may not cut it because they’re either not using them at all or not thinking about business when they do. (E.g., posting pix of their kids vs.looking for info about gear equipment manufacturers.)

  3. Wilder Baker

    In addition to Rachel’s observations above, I suspect that B2B marketers are not yet convinced that social media will be visited and used by its customers and prospects. Other than IN, much of the press about the social media is about inconsequential sharing of personal information, silly tweets and teenage photos being exchanged. This makes it hard to believe that social media can really work for a serious business.

  4. jim simpson

    Rachel, I second your comments and would like to add one more to emphasize one of yours. I don’t know of one B2B social media marketing effort that worked.

    Maybe it’s because people don’t use social media for anything but social release and they don’t want to put on the “work” hat when they’re Facebooking. Or maybe social media is meant for B2C and C2C only…which is where I’m leaning lately.

    Too emphatic?

  5. Tim A. Schultz

    The reason business-to-business marketers are just starting to embrace social media marketing (SMM) is because management is finally starting to recognize how effectively SMM can be used to engage customers on a daily basis. Historically, I think b-to-b marketing has always lagged behind b-to-c marketing because it tends to be less sophisticated and more important, b-to-b typically has smaller budgets.

  6. Dan Yurman (@djysrv)

    B2B social marketing works if its adherents realize that no one ever closed a sale with a Facebook page. Social media must drive prospects to the firm’s web site for its online store or to the sales force for a pitch. Measuring conversions from contact to closed sales will tell the story of whether social media makes a difference.

  7. timjdaTim Angbrandt

    In a B2B environment you have all levels of distributors that may or may not embrace social media. Their interest can vary widely. If a long-eatblished distributor has a book of business they are satisfied with, then they will be reluctant to embrace this new tool. Do you use this tool for the few that do? It’s a matter of a longer adoption cycle in many parts of this market. Some B2B marketers are moving quickly ahead while others are taking each step carefully. At the end of the day, there needs to be a measured return on the investment and this process will take longer in the B2B space.

    For an example of a B2B marketer who has a strong social media program, check out Miller Weldmaster at http://www.weldmaster.com.

  8. hydrotechinc

    The company I work for is B2B and highly industrial. I’m a recent graduate and work in their marketing department where there is a strong emphasis on SMM which I believe is a very smart move on their part.

    I handle all social media outlets, blog and newsletter. The audience isn’t very strong, and it is difficult to get people to “like” our pages, but there is definitely a “conversation” being had in the manufacturing world on various social media outlets.

    Social media is here to stay. It isn’t going anywhere and sure isn’t losing steam. I believe it is smart for companies that are B2B to get their foot in the door now and be active with social media. Wether it be training current employees or hiring new ones, I strongly believe that social media is a great tool to measure “warm metrics” of a company.

    Anyone else have any recent new hires or training that was specifically for social media at their companies?

    • Brad

      Hydro – I work for a marketing company that works primarily with B2B manufacturers. I’ve been given the task of developing a game plan with regards to social media. My plan needs to address two separate issues. First, our social media efforts need to attract manufacturing companies who would possibly utilize our services for their business. But secondly, we need to develop some effective strategies that we could implement for our clients to gain a foothold for THEIR business to attract new clients. As a B2B manufacturing marketer yourself, what avenues have you started to pursue in this regard?

      • tradesmeninsights

        A blog is the centerpiece of our promotion activity. off of that using social media to repurpose the content and being active and engaging in the relavent user groups on LinkedIn. It’s hard fo you to sell something if you aren’t doing it for your own company. Your presence can be used as an example. Pick a niche and dominate it. become the go to expert in that field. I don’t think B to B is a narrow enough catagory to differenciate yourself. check outour site and it becomed very clear on the home page who we focus on http://www.sonnhalter.com

  9. Neal

    I think that the problem, as the above posts relate, lies in many directions. Many managers, even younger ones have a Facebook view of SM, believing that it’s just for kids. Looking at the recent historical progression of SM from MySpace on, the early adopters have usually been young people, with the older crowd lagging behind.
    This is evidenced by the statement we have all heard at one time or another that goes something like this- “Yeah, we’re trying it. The boss’s son is working on it, we sent him for a class on website design and we’re a little farther along on it than we were just a year ago.” As if sitting in front of a PC chatting with their buddies on twitter and Facebook was “working on the business.”
    Companies try to do it themselves and they don’t have a clue.
    Any marketing effort- and it’s no different with SM or using the mail, has to be a front burner issue. Unfortunately with most SMB’s it’s not. Marketing is thought of when business drops off, if at all, and that is the problem. What we need to do is market marketing as what it should be, a major part of any business plan.
    The state of SM is like that of the PC in the early 80’s; to most in management it’s a novelty, not a serious business tool. But SM is here to stay, just as the PC was. And, it’s changing even before our eyes. A recent report stated that shipment of mobile devices has out-stripped sales of PC’s. The target has moved again.

  10. MarcomTim

    It’s not so much that B-to-B marketers are reluctant to embrace “social media marketing,” I think it is that most people are reluctant to embrace anything that is dramatically new and outside of their comfort zone, period. Outside of “early adopters,” most people tend to adopt new things slowly until they really understand them. Considering its value, it’s up to us to drive the issue and help customers understand how important social media is for engaging customers. Your columns certainly help.

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