The role of social media in B2B buyers’ decision making
Social media is a big deal when it comes to chasing those…well, big deals. The role that your online presence now plays in the decision making process means it warrants some serious thought if you’re to ensure you’re getting the most out of it.
To put this in perspective, one American university study found a massive 75% of B2B buyers were influenced by information they found on social media – showing that having a well thought out strategy really can prove vital.
When it comes to preparing such a strategy there are a number of issues surrounding how B2B buyers use these types of platforms that you need to consider. For example, which sites are they visiting? What are they using them for? And when in the decision making process are they viewing them?
As well as pinpointing where the potential buyers of your particular product or service may be, a killer social media strategy will be fully integrated with your wider marketing plans, the objectives of your sales team and aligned to company goals.
How social media is used continues to evolve and change as the technology is evolving and changing, so what may have been true 5 years, 3 years, or even just a year ago may no longer be the case. Just because a strategy worked in the past doesn’t mean it will still be as potent today. You also need to check you’re striking an effective balance between your existing customers, new prospects and other influencers.
For organisations across the world, capitalising on the influence that social media and other digital platforms can have on sales remains a hot topic. There have been loads of studies carried out into the attitudes and behaviours of B2B buyers when it comes to such sites. Here is some food for thought and a snapshot of some of the most interesting findings:
Stages of the sale
Different channels are used by buyers at different stages of the buying process, according to Buyersphere Report 2012. Here, researchers divide buying into 3 distinct phases: Identifying and defining the need (Awareness stage). Identifying potential suppliers. (Consideration) and final supplier selection (Conversion).
According to their findings, Facebook and blogs are most useful in the first phase. LinkedIn and blogs are the most effective in the second phase and Twitter and Facebook are most useful in the final stage of buying.
It’s good to talk
Interviews conducted with B2B buyers as part of a study by Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College and Dell revealed that 57% strategically browse existing conversations on social media as part of their purchase research. So taking part in those industry-related conversations and showing off your expertise online is a must.
This is backed up by findings in the Buyersphere Report 2013 which found two fifths of respondents had used some form of social media to find information or advice ahead of making their purchase. The most popular sites used being industry-specific forums, which stood out from the rest in terms of both usage and their influence.
In a survey of B2B tech buyers by Eccolo Media, case studies and success stories were by far the most popular type of content, cited by 25% of buyers. This was followed by guides/white papers (16% each), podcasts/emails (13% each), blogs/infographics (12% each) and videos/product brochures or spec sheets (11% each).
Love them or hate them, it’s worth mentioning here that Google still remains the first place many people will go when they want to search for something online – be it a product, service or company, reviews or other information. That means being ‘top of the search’ and easy to find online remains important. Your social strategy should include online activity that will also help you achieve that.
Finally, don’t forget the part that your website will play in all of this, as if you’re targeting prospects you’re likely to be driving them to check out your site. A B2B web usability report by KoMarketing and BuyerZone found a big disconnect between what B2B buyers wanted to see on a website and the content that was actually there. For the buyers they surveyed, the top must-haves they wanted to see were clear contact details, lots of product information and specifications and pricing. More than half also said product reviews were a must. Check that your website offers all of these things and when it was last reviewed and updated.