Can B2B Firms Really Get Anything Out of Social

customer experience, Can B2B Organizations Really Get Anything Out of Social?

B2B and social media. Ok, we know. If you're in B2B marketing, there's a chance you may be rolling your eyes.

Bringing back your Facebook impression stats to the CEO of a multi-billion manufacturing company probably won't get you the major holiday bonus.

But social is where potential customers can be. And social is where they get talking.

"While many B2B firms support their customers through onsite and phone support, social -- and especially online communities -- offers an opportunity for B2B to connect with their customers when they need the support and insights 24X7," said Vanessa DiMauro, CEO and managing director of Leader Networks, a research and consulting firm that helps organizations craft social business and online communities strategies. 

DiMauro's organization released a report, The Social Consumer, that included surveys sent to 927 people (90 percent of them in the US) and "highlights that engagement represents the real needs and wants of the social consumer," DiMauro told CMSWire. 

It's even helpful for B2B, she said. 

Why Care?

customer experience, Can B2B Organizations Really Get Anything Out of Social?

"As a B2B girl myself," DiMauro said, "I, too, look at things through the eyes of 'why would a manufacturing company, etc. care about this information.'"

So why? What's the ROI on B2B social strategies?

Historically, DiMauro admitted, B2B companies have been challenged to succeed in connecting with their customers due to the complexity of the products and services they offer.

"It’s tough for them to identify potential buyers and the corporate 'voice' can get in the way of establishing meaningful relationships," DiMauro said. "This research establishes that potential and current customers crave more information and authentic engagement with the firms they invest in." 

Hey, B2B, Step Up Connections

DiMauro feels that through the data her organization collected, it's culled a profile of a "social media activist." Customer experience, she said, is the "top driver for loyalty, even more so than price." And that puts the onus on B2B organizations to "step up their customer connection efforts."

How?

  • Make social sharing part of your company strategy. Not just marketing but also customer responsiveness.
  • Educate the customer. Not about products and services, but also trends and thought leadership ideas. Customers will "be your biggest advocate – and it will mean more than what you say or do."
  • Use social to listen to and talk to your customers. "Don’t shout marketing messages and expect them to listen," DiMauro said. "Analytics data connected to customer care initiatives can be extremely powerful."
  • Align insights gathered from the social channel to impact core operations.

Key Findings

Ultimately, investment in social comes down to companies being increasingly defined by the shared opinions and experiences of socially-connected consumers," DiMauro said. 

Here's what else Leader Networks found in its study, co-authored by DiMauro and Don Bulmer and conducted under the auspices of the Society for New Communications Research where the co-authors are both research fellows:

Gender versus generation gap: Findings overwhelmingly support gender as a stronger factor than generation. Women are two times more likely to turn to social channels to inform their decisions about purchases than men (31 percent versus 15 percent).

The social influence factor: A seemingly small percentage of people who share online one or more times per month (24 percent) have great influence on a much larger majority of consumers who read online sites to inform decisions or opinions (67 percent). Consumer ratings/commentary and personal recommendations are most frequently cited as the top sources to inform decision-making and purchases. 

Loyalty is a big win: Quality and price (75 percent versus 72 percent) rate as the most important factors when choosing to buy from a company followed by trust (50 percent), positive ratings online (43 percent) and personal recommendations by family and friends (42 percent).

Consumer advocacy is hard won: When taking action to share an opinion online, people are slightly more inclined to do so based on a negative experience. 70 percent of respondents report sharing a negative experience online (sometimes/frequently), while 68 percent state they have shared a positive experience online (sometimes/frequently).

Title image by Southtownboy / Shutterstock.