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B2B social media - is it the Emperor’s New Clothes?

This question has been on my mind for some time, but thankfully there’s now an answer.  The chaps at B2B Marketing, in conjunction with Circle Research, have just published their latest Benchmarking Report on B2B social media

We found that the social media Emperor is getting dressed, but is still in his underpants.

Here are some highlights (visit Circle’s B2B Research Blog to view selected illustrations and the chance to receive one of 50 free copies of the full report).

B2B social media seems to have reached the tipping point and in doing so, it’s following the classic technology evolution curve.  There was a lot of talk.  Then we saw early pioneers.  Now it’s in the initial stages of becoming main stream with eight in every ten marketers (78%) currently using social media in their B2B marketing activity.

It’s early days though and most are still dipping their toes in the water – only one quarter (25%) have a clearly defined strategy.  Moreover, the standard approach seems to be trial and error – just one fifth (21%) have received any training in social media.

This haphazard deployment represents an opportunity for the more focussed to catch an edge, but the window of opportunity won’t stay open long.  Most plan to increase their social media investment over the coming 12 months – 76% through greater financial spend and 85% by dedicating more time.

Social media is being used then, but how?

Well, in the main it means the use of social networks, two of which dominate – Twitter (used by 85% engaged in social media marketing) and LinkedIn (77%).  YouTube (66%) and, perhaps surprisingly given its B2C associations, Facebook (67%) also form an important but less prominent part of the mix. 

Despite clear SEO and brand positioning benefits, only one half (51%) include blogging in their activity mix.

The big question though is: does it pay?

Those surveyed revealed their performance against various metrics and this provides some clear benchmarks.  Take Twitter as an example.  Analysing the number of reported Twitter followers reveals five milestones of success:

  1. Most (43%) are ‘Dabblers’ (<250 followers)
  2. One fifth (18%) are ‘Niche Attractions’ (250 – 500)
  3. A similar number (20%) are ‘Rising Stars’ (500 – 2,000)
  4. Just one in ten (12%) are ‘B-list Personalities’ (2,000 – 7,500)
  5. Only the elite (7%) are ‘A-list personalities’ (>7,500)


In financial terms though, the picture is cloudy.  Only a handful (21%) can consistently demonstrate ROI from their social media investment. 

This difficulty in demonstrating tangible financial results is reflected in the five most significant social media challenges reported by B2B marketers.  These are:

  1. Gaining internal buy-in (22% spontaneously name as a key challenge)
  2. Finding sufficient time (19%)
  3. Integrating with other activity (16%)
  4. Generating quality, relevant content (12%)
  5. Inexperience (11%)


It seems then that B2B marketers recognise the rewards to be had through social media, but it’s not an easy ride.

Have you faced challenges gaining internal buy-in?  If so, how did you overcome them?  Share your experiences below…