It's obvious that social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have a certain level of staying power when it comes to the world of business to consumer (B2C) marketing, but what about business to business marketing? Some recent findings about the latter may surprise you. 

B2C vs. B2B

One of the greatest things about social media platforms is that they're simple to understand and easy to use; however, marketers continue to struggle with finding ways to monetize them. And when we say "marketers", we really mean that in the broadest sense. 

While most attention has been paid to B2C, a March 2010 White Horse study found that a higher percentage of B2B marketing firms actually utilize social media to get the word out (86 percent compared to 82). On the other hand, while over half of the B2C firms reported daily engagement, only 32 percent of B2B firms say they make it a daily point to use these platforms. 

Allen Bonde, co-founder and CMO of offerpop, notes three key differences that may speak to these numbers: 

  • B2B sales cycles tend to be much longer, and require a continuous marketing approach and extension of corporate assets to social channels

  • B2B purchases are typically complex decisions involving multiple parties at the buying and selling side

  • B2C has many more impulse purchases: books, gifts, food etc. that lend themselves to coupons, social/group buying, event-marketing etc. It’s an open question how this model applies to B2B beyond office supplies or events, training and other ‘small-ticket’ items

Further, Bonde put together a chart of vendors just to visualize how social one company is over the other: 

 

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B2B social marketing study - image credit: offerpop

 

It's About Building Trust

Obviously, the evolution of B2B in social media has been slow going compared to B2C and its easily excitable arena, but it very much looks like an uphill situation. John Stauffer of Ogilvy puts it like this

B2B Marketers are sometimes considered to be behind the evolutionary curve of most digital trends when compared to their B2C brethren. But like Darwin’s turtles in the Galapagos, the B2B Marcom species is evolving in this space because the social web environment happens to be extraordinarily well suited for their needs as they work to build trust, generate and convert leads, and provide a mechanism for sustained engagement.

This statement lends the impression that however slow it may be, social media marketing is more organic in the business to business space. And while that may be true in some respects, there are other things to consider when looking at why adoption is still moving at a snail's pace. 

"Perhaps the reason for B2B firms lack of daily use of social media, is that B2B social media tools are in their infancy," offered Joseph Karwat of Staffbio. "Social Media is about promoting people and ideas, and is not about the direct promotion of products." 

What say you? Let us in on your horror stories (successes are okay, too) and where you think the real power of social media lies.