B2B Marketing have just published a comprehensive 60+ page survey of business social media - and one of their key conclusions is that LinkedIn (94%) has replaced Twitter (89%) as the B2B marketer’s favourite business social media platform.
The preference gap widened dramatically when marketers were asked which social network was most effective in supporting their business goals. More than twice as many - 45% - chose LinkedIn, compared to 20% that chose Twitter.
Perhaps this should come as no great surprise: as the survey pointed our, fluffy justifications for social media investments won’t pass muster any more. Business social media is increasingly expected to deliver hard business benefits.
So what are the implications for B2B marketing?
Back in 2013, the most important objective for using business social media was to drive web traffic. But in 2014, the focus has switched towards hard returns: 47% now identify “lead generation” as a primary goal for social media.
It means that B2B social media is increasingly expected to stimulate the reader to want to engage directly with the vendor in order to learn more about a subject that has aroused their interests - and that the choice of content, as we’ll see, is evolving to match this objective.
Video seen as the most effective content
Although the most common shared content was written copy, the survey found that video, images and participation in social media discussions were all seen as being more effective than written content, with video rated as “very effective” by 55 percent of respondents.
As many B2B marketers have learned, powerful imagery in the form of infographics is proving a particularly effective medium - so it’s no wonder that infographics are one of the fastest growing areas of the B2B marketing mix.
LinkedIn the most effective for lead generation
The study found that LinkedIn was by far the best performing platform when it came to lead generation, with more than 3 times as many voting for LinkedIn compared to Twitter.
When asked which platform generated the most revenue, LinkedIn was even more dominant with 5 times more respondents voting for LinkedIn compared to Twitter.
LinkedIn was also seen as stronger when it came to strengthening brand image - with Twitter only taking a marginal lead in one category: boosting brand awareness.
It’s notable but not surprising that Facebook came a poor third across the board. No matter how effective Facebook might be in B2C, it’s clear that the cognoscenti regard it as a marginal player when it comes to B2B marketing.
Proving ROI remains a challenge
It’s a sign of evolving expectations that survey participants rated “difficulty in proving ROI” as the most significant challenge facing them - but a reassuring number reported that they were better equipped to calculate ROI, and this is a trend that seems likely to improve year upon year.
The highly targeted, granular opportunities for LinkedIn advertising go some way to explain why the survey found that it is regarded as the most effective business social media platform when it comes to B2B lead generation.
Lessons for organisations wanting to leverage business social media
So what can businesses do to leverage social media? The report offers a number of recommendations:
- You need to understand where your audience goes, and meet them there - and this will differ from market to market
- You need to give your audience what they want - your content needs to be relevant to them
- You need to set clear objectives - and think strategically and act tactically when it comes to social media
- Social media must be tightly integrated with the marketing mix - it can’t be managed as an afterthought
- You need to act consistently, with clearly established social media brand guidelines
- You need to continually measure and monitor social media outcomes, and be prepared to readjust regularly
- You need to embrace technology - but make an intelligent, informed choice of platform
- Finally, you need to up-skill your people - and that means every employee that participates in social media
So - how do the findings square with your experience? How effective are the various business social media platforms in your business environment? And what do you think of the reports conclusions? Please share your thoughts.
By the way, here's a link to the full survey results.