Social media: necessity or luxury for B2B marketing? - You decide

  • Inspired by yet another great post from Debra Collins at Pennsylvania based B2B and professional services marketing specialists, Marketri, I am encouraged to give my own view on the plethora of social media that now competes for our attention every day of the week.  What works and what doesn't work?  What should we invest our time in and what should we leave alone? What is social and what is for business?....And where do we stand on the greatest challenge of all for marketers, ROI?

    In her post (and I really do encourage you to read it for yourself), Debra classifies each of the main platforms as either a necessity or a luxury.  In summary, Debra concludes:

    • LinkedIn:  Necessity
    • Twitter:   Luxury
    • Google+:  Necessity
    • Facebook:  Luxury

    My experience and perspective from this side of the pond is slightly different.

    LinkedIn:  Necessity

    A LinkedIn profile is, I agree, essential.  Finding and maintaining contact with former colleagues is LinkedIn's most useful purpose, swiftly followed by the ability to find a contact in a target organisation and identify any common connections.

    One should also not fail to note that a potential client is likely to look at one's profile in advance of a meeting or first contact.  A profile that does not adequately communicate one's skills and experience could be the difference between success and failure.

    To date, however, I have found little benefit in contributing to LinkedIn discussions, or updating my status (other than via an autofeed from Twitter) or having a company profile or group.  People's time to contribute and engage in these discussions seems to be too limited.  My personal view is that time dedicated to these activities should be allocated sparingly.

    Twitter:  Necessity

    I find Twitter essential as a source of information. Many times I've used it for insight on industry news that I've then shared with clients and prospects to impress them with how 'in touch' I am!  My  colleagues have spotted PR opportunities for clients by following journalists and The Marketing Eye has clients who have created leads for themselves by spotting buying signals in the tweets of prospects who they strategically follow.

    Can one be a user of Twitter and not a contributor? Possibly, at the conscious expense of forsaking brand profile with a like-minded audience. The indiscriminate pursuit of followers for the sake of status is, however, clearly misplaced.  There is little more mindless than users who are following, and being followed by, thousands.

    Facebook:  Necessity

    I am a late, but now enthusiastic, adopter of Facebook for business- it is the 3rd most important source of leads to our website and generates 7 times more visitors than LinkedIn.

    I don't believe any marketer can afford to ignore a platform that has 600m users and rising.  There are some who say that businesses won't bother with traditional websites in five year's time, instead they will rely entirely on Facebook.  I am not sure if I subscribe to this view entirely, but I can see their point.

    Facebook is very searchable, allows for quick and informal updates and allows marketers to communicate with a target audience when it is at its most relaxed and therefore most amenable to suggestion.  The demographic targeting capabilities of Facebook advertising are another significant advantage for the savvy operator.

    Google+:  Luxury (for now)

    I will no doubt be as late an adopter of Google+ as I was of Facebook.  I have taken a look at Google+ out of professional interest and created a personal profile(Google is discouraging the creation of business profiles at the time of writing), but in common with many, I am daunted by thought of monitoring and maintaining yet another presence. Google's dominance in search will, no doubt, make it compulsory at some point.

    The great ROI debate

    So, when push comes to shove, is it all worth it?  Is social media a critical part of any business's marketing activity or is it the greatest confidence trick since the King's New Clothes?

    The whole premise of the debate is flawed in my view.  To view social media in ROI terms is misplaced.  Social media platforms are tools and not campaigns - they should be learned and used for the benefits they bring, be they as marketing communications or as sources of information.  To paraphrase another favourite commentator of mine, Ian Brodie: "In the social media age, it is no more necessary to measure the ROI of social media than it is to measure the ROI of the computer or telephone".

    What do you think?

    Related reading

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