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How B2B Social Media Is Shaping Up In 2011

As the first quarter of 2011 slips into our rear-view mirrors, it’s a good time to reflect on all those New Year predictions – how has the landscape of B2B Social Media really changed, and what’s the layout of the road ahead?

Content Marketing

As predicted, marketers are becoming more adept at developing content specifically tailored to Social Media, but as part of an integrated marketing approach. Expect content to be increasingly:

Shareable: The more a piece of content is shared, the more value it delivers. We are seeing greater emphasis on making shareable content that can be re-used, repackaged and recycled, with video increasingly a centrepiece of effective campaigns
Enduring: Syndicated White Papers, opinion pieces and best practice articles will be written around key, enduring business themes with cross-campaign compatibility - and syndicated with the aim of maximising earned-media value over extended time-frames
International: Social Media – like the trains, planes and telephones that went before – is shrinking the world. The demand for translation and localisation of content will grow, with marketers directly targeting customer bases in different geographies
Delegated. As the full business potential of Social Media starts to be realised, marketing teams will restructure their network of content creators – capitalising on internal knowledge experts and looking to external agencies for other specialist skills.

Facebook for Business

2011 is proving to be the year in which Facebook and LinkedIn make their bid for each other’s native territory. As LinkedIn rethinks itself as a more social, searchable community, Facebook is beginning to provide ever greater opportunities for businesses.

  • With the move away from the Facebook Markup Language (FBML) that once underpinned all Facebook applications, the site is opening a path for businesses to create a fully bespoke presence in HTML, JavaScript and CSS 
  • Assuming businesses do feel increasingly comfortable operating within Facebook, the site’s familiarity and reach could see it start to challenge LinkedIn as a space for building professional relationships, rather than simply promoting products and services
  • If these shifts take place, Facebook Ads – potentially cheaper and less crowded than Google Pay per Click options – will appear increasingly attractive to B2B businesses.  The service is already growing in both popularity and price.

Mobile

Smartphones may only represent 13% of the mobile market, but they now account for over 75% of total global handset traffic. (And moreover, sales of smartphones have begun to eclipse those of PCs.) The smartest B2B marketers are already integrating a Mobile Marketing strand into their Social Media strategy. Here’s what we expect to see as the months progress:

  • Smartphones and built-for-mobile applications will extend the lead-generation possibilities of Social Media – and marketers will embrace the seductive potential for personalised, networked, over-the-air customer engagement and response.
    Measuring the value of Mobile Media will prove a major challenge. B2B businesses will need to rapidly adapt the early lessons of Social Media marketing as they attempt to develop another new set of relevant, weighted metrics
    Facebook Ads will successfully make the move into the mobile arena
    M-commerce will experience significant growth in both profile and popularity.

Reputation Management

Last year, Dominos, Vodafone and Toyota all struggled to deal with Social Media-led PR disasters. B2B brands are equally susceptible to online reputation crises, but in late 2010, 45% still had no policies or guidelines for the use of social media. This is already beginning to change:

  • Faced with lower sales volumes and longer buying cycles, the risks of sudden reputation loss are becoming ever more apparent
  • ‘Brand management’ is increasingly becoming a key strand of Social Media strategy development - with Marketing, PR and Corporate Comms teams increasingly working together to harmonise their approach
  • Strong content guidelines are proving a necessity as more staff members take on responsibility for content creation.

Advocate Marketing

Advocacy marketing – transforming customers and clients into an extension of your sales force – is one of the most precious fruits that has blossomed with the rise of Social Media. Accurately measuring its impact, however, remains very difficult. In 2011, the drive to demonstrate ROI is set to gather pace:

  • Tools such as Zuberance (which offers insight into the identities and individual value of advocates) will grow in popularity, helping B2B marketers counter the prevailing loss of control over content creation
  • Social Media Monitoring (SMM) will find a key role to play in advocate identification. This could well be the year in which it is adopted en masse by B2B enterprises, fuelling an explosive growth of Social Media marketing activity.

That’s how I see 2011 so far, but what do you think? What other key trends would you add? What other new lanes and destinations is Social Media adding to our information superhighway?