For some time now, there has been a lot of discussion on social media channels about the effectiveness of business-to-business (B2B) social media marketing. The key question has been: Can the results that have been generated through business-to-consumer marketing (B2C) be replicated when marketing to businesses? The answer to this question is far more complex than anticipated: It depends.
In preparation for this blog post, I set out in search of answers. I combed the internet for studies and posted in a number of forums, including LinkedIn Groups and Quora, to request success stories. (In fact, I have been doing this for a number of years.) I wanted to share success stories and cases to identify some tips and takeaways. Unfortunately, once again, the silence was deafening.
There has been a lot of hype about B2B social media marketing. Social media marketing coaches will tell you that B2B social media marketing is effective. That’s understandable. That is how many of them pick up their own clients. For this reason, it is hard for them to perceive the difference between B2B and B2C social media marketing. They base their conclusions on their experiences with entrepreneurs and very small organizations.
B2B social media marketing definitely works for coaches and consultants who work with independents and entrepreneurs. The reason for this is simple: Social media marketing is “social” by nature and based on relationships. If the people who are in a position to make decisions and engage your services are active on social media, the process can be simple.
Here is what we know for sure. When marketing services to medium-to-large companies, decision-making is often a multi-tiered process. The initial contact or the individual who reaches out to event planners to request a quote is rarely in a position to make the final decision. In fact, since the 2008 economic meltdown, decision-making authority has been moved higher and higher in many companies. It is not unusual for a CEO, VP or executive VP to have “sign-off” for many purchasing decisions.
CEO.com conducts an annual study about the presence of Fortune 500 executives on social media. Once again, the results are not encouraging. According to the 2015 Social CEO Report:
- 61% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence whatsoever
- 70% of CEOs who are active on just one social network joined LinkedIn
- Only 60% of the CEOs who have Twitter accounts are actually tweeting
A report issued by FORTUNE magazine earlier this year reached similar conclusion, stating “Fortune 500 chief executives aren’t the most social bunch.” This report identified 50 Fortune 500 CEOs with Twitter accounts, 57 Fortune 500 CEOs on Facebook and 157 Fortune 500 CEOs on LinkedIn.
However, few of these accounts are active. Currently there are only eight CEOs on the “Fortune Social Register” of active Twitter users.
Takeaways and tips
If event professionals are hoping to engage with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, social media is the wrong channel. The encouraging news from the CEO.com report is that all of the CEOs who recently opened social media accounts are new CEOs.
Based on this data, here is an approach worth trying for B2B social media marketing.
- Focus on smaller organizations and start-ups.
- Do your homework and identify executives and entrepreneurs who are active on social media.
- Focus on CEOs but don’t forget CMOs who are making more and more decisions about event marketing.
- Reach out to executives of smaller companies through offline marketing, such as direct mail or live networking events.
- Nurture these relationships through social media. Content marketing to establish your expertise and share what you have done for other clients is particularly important.
- Follow up offline from time to time.
Eventually, as millennials who are active on social media move into the C-suite, the picture should change. I hope that by the time we re-visit this topic, there will be a dramatic shift in these figures.
If you have success stories involving the use of social media to generate business with medium-to-large companies, please reach out to me. It would be a pleasure to share them.