The Business of Social Media: B2B vs B2C

I spend a great deal of time working within the B2B sector, among other things, and social media is a growing and or pervasive program within a comprehensive, integrated communications and service strategy. In almost every scenario I’ve encountered, executives, marcom and service executives, and brand managers have generally assumed that social and interactive activities and programming were ideally best suited for consumer applications. However, as we recently explored, in Social Media, it’s not just business, it’s business-to-business.

Indeed, Social Media is not limited to B2C applications, its impact and effects are actively measured and felt in B2B as well as government, education, military, and other prominent verticals. As decision makers take to the social web, their research, activity, communication, and most importantly, their relationships only intensify over time. If you’re working in B2B, perhaps this post will provide you with value. Or, at the very least, it will arm with you data necessary to convince, compel, and persuade those skeptical or uninspired colleagues, clients, and managers.

Business.com recently conducted a study that evaluated Social Media activities of those in B2B and B2C. In its report, “2009 B2B Social Media Benchmarking Study,” Business.com found that North American companies focused on B2B were much more rigorous in the world of social media than those in B2C. As you’ll see, B2B leads the fray across the entire regiment of campaigns and programs.

Social Media: B2B vs. B2C Maintained company-related profiles on social networks: B2B: 81% B2C: 67% Participate in Twitter: B2B: 75% B2C: 49% Host blog/s: B2B: 74% B2C: 55% Monitor brand mentions: B2B: 73% B2C: 55% Engage in discussions: B2B: 66% B2C: 43% Participate in Q&A sites such as Yahoo Answers, LinkedIn, forums: B2B: 59% B2C: 44% Upload content (social objects) to Social Networks: B2B: 50% B2C: 32% Manage a community dedicated to customers or prospects: B2B: 49% B2C: 51% Monitor/support user ratings and reviews: B2B: 49% B2C: 51% Produce Webinars or podcasts: B2B: 46% B2C: 22% Advertise on social networks: B2B: 42% B2C: 54% Utilize social bookmarking sites such as delicious and digg: B2B: 38% B2C: 21% Employee recruiting: B2B: 36% B2C: 27% As expected, those companies engaging in social media, whether B2B or B2C, focused efforts on creating social network profiles, microblogging, blogs, and brand monitoring, hitting a high of 81%.

Most social activities however, maintained a level of participation with an average of around 50%. There is room for growth for brand engagement regardless of industry. Business.com also evaluated where companies were focusing their attention and resources. The study surfaced that not only are a greater number of B2B companies experimenting with Social Media, they are also extending their presence across multiple networks. However, B2C businesses dominated engagement within Facebook and MySpace. Notice the disparity between B2B and B2C adoption of Twitter. If these numbers truly reflect that of the greater community of businesses, B2B companies are at the forefront of this wildly scrutinized and popularized social property. Facebook B2B: 77% B2C: 83% Twitter B2B: 73% B2C: 45% LinkedIn B2B: 56% B2C: 27% YouTube B2B: 43% B2C: 30% MySpace B2B: 14% B2C: 23% FriendFeed B2B: 9% B2C: 2% Plurk B2B: 1% B2C: 0% Other B2B: 4% B2C: 8% Also according to the Business.com study, 60% of B2B respondents leverage Twitter search to monitor brand or company mentions compared to just 35% of those in B2C. With Facebook slowly revising their privacy settings to open up real-time search capabilities within the 350 million strong network and MySpace recently announcing the availability of a real-time API, businesses will have the ability, and the responsibility, to search for relevant conversations outside of Twitter and Google. Google search results, at least prior to the real-time search revolution, also proved valuable for mining and unearthing relevant content. 59% of B2B and 40% of B2C companies report using Google Alerts and 61% of B2C and 60% of B2B reported that they actively googled themselves.

With the rapid evolution of search, business monitoring will assuredly shift its focus from traditional to real-time. Just recently, Google announced both Social Search, the inclusion of content generated by your social graph in traditional search results, as well as real-time results from Twitter and other social networks. We already know that customers, regardless of industry, are actively taking to search engines to learn more about brands and products mentioned in their social stream.

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