This is the first document in the “B2B Social Media Strategy” series.
by Laura Ramos and G. Oliver Young
with Peter Burris, Josh Bernoff, Bradford J. Holmes, and Zachary Reiss-Davis
Social media give a voice to buyers who can now describe their experience and disappointment to a global audience. And, wow, are they saying a lot. Forrester surveyed more than 1,200 business technology buyers and found that they exceed all previous benchmarks for social participation. B2B marketers, eager to know how social media fits into the marketing mix, can use the Social Technographics® Profiles of business decision-makers to design marketing programs that not only capitalize on emerging social behaviors but also fundamentally change the nature of the marketing relationship between B2B buyers and sellers.
According to Forrester's research initial B2B social marketing efforts have failed to attract buyers because:
- Marketers don't know how business buyers use social technologies
- Successful track records are rare and copying others doesn't work
- Rapid technological changes leave no time to master current approaches
- Executive and legal departments see social activity as a risk to business brands
They also found:
- .Business buyers participate socially more than adult US consumers
- Social activity carries over into the workplace
- Subtle differences separate technology category buyers
Creating a social technology marketing strategy is difficult because:
- Social participation does not yet translate into purchase influence today
- But social media importance will increase during the next 12 months
I have one criticism of their research. In asking the question, "Which of the following sources of information impact your decision making process?". 84% of the buyers responded "Peers and colleagues (word of mouth". Yet, for example "Forums, online communities, social networks" which are word of mouth only garnered 45%. Arn't all of the social media word of mouth. That's what makes it so powerful. I think it would be better if they gathered the data in a matrix with media on one axis and ,method along the other axis. I did this on market research technologies in order to more clearly see the substitutions that are are ongoing. A substitution analysis would also help.
I think it's understandable that B2B is lagging consumer adoption of social technology for marketing. The key obstacles to overcome in B2B social media marketing are competitive advantage, intellectual property and control.
The customers in a B2B market are all competitors. As a result they are still reluctant to collaborate with each other and sometimes even the supplier. They fear that in collaborating with their competitors that someone else will gain the competitive advantage they hold. They are even sometimes reluctant to collaborate with the supplier because of fear that what they teach the supplier will be passed on to their competitors. I used the word "still" because this situation exists in most B2B markets in spite of the success of many open source types of collaborations and consortia.
Suppliers have a similar fear that what is learned in the collaboration could be passed on by the buyers to other suppliers, or even that the buyers will start to make the product themselves.
Suppliers have a fear of loss of control of intellectual property and the brand message.
Until these concerns are alleviated, outgrown or boxed in legal agreements, adoption social media marketing in B2B will be slow.
I, like the authors, believe that this is tide will not be overcome in consumers, and that I think will eventually sweep through B2B. However, I wish the authors would treat these adoption issues more thoroughly. Furthermore, I would feel more comfortable with a rigorous substitution analysis.
See Groundswell for more information on Forresters approach.