A new study by UK-based firms Hotwire and VansonBourne supports the notion that B2B marketers need to be active on Facebook, as well as other "nontraditional" social networks, in order to reach key B2B decision-makers.
The study - based on survey results from 1,000 decision-makers in Information Technology - contains a number of interesting (and counter-intuitive) insights about how decision-makers use social media and the steps that marketers might take to reach them there:
1. Decision-makers are "channel agnostic" in respect to social media
Whether an item is posted to LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook is far less important than that whether it's useful in furthering the progress of their focused quest for qualified vendors. Surprisingly, "this holds true on channels which are traditionally seen as being alien to B2B marketing - for example, Snapchat, Tumblr, or Reddit."
2. Social media is most influential in the early stages of B2B vendor identification and shortlisting
At this phase of the buyer's journey, decision-makers want to absorb, via all available channels, a comprehensive view of vendors, products, and services that will be subsequently be refined via a second round of research.
3. Facebook is a place where decision-makers are comfortable researching product-oriented information
24% of respondents cited Facebook as a their "social network of choice" for such research, putting the platform ahead of LinkedIn (17%) and Twitter (6%).
Why? Because Facebook is likely a "well-trodden path" in the decision-maker's daily social media experience.
As the study notes, "decision-makers look to the channels they're using as part of their daily routine - we don't want to check whole new sources if we don't have to."
4. Whitepapers and webinars remain excellent vehicles for reaching decision-makers on social media
More than 2/3 of decision-makers cite these sources as "extremely useful." Case studies and testimonials are especially important because they provide a form of third-party validation that can move the vendor up (or down) the short-list once its compiled.
5. Traditional media and press coverage remains important with B2B decision-makers
87% of decision-makers surveyed reported that press coverage in favored publications contributed to them short-listing vendors.
What this means for marketers
B2B decision-makers are embracing social media - even "non-business oriented" channels such as Facebook - as the lines between "personal" and "professional" use of social platforms continue to blur.
As such, marketers need to prepare to reach decision-makers wherever they're active, even on non-traditional channels. While social media is most influential in the early stages of B2B vendor identification and qualification, the relationships forged on social channels carry weight as well, and this influence may extend into the later stages of shortlisting and recommendation.
At the same time, however, it's clear that (at least in the IT vertical) press coverage in trusted publications carries significant weight as a form of third-party validation. So does content like whitepapers, webinars, and testimonials, provided that it's useful and - most importantly - credible.
In a nutshell, B2B marketers seeking to reach , and impress, decision-makers need to embrace a channel-agnostic distribution strategy, produce trustworthy content assets, and not overlook the benefits of traditional media placements in relevant industry publications, digital or otherwise.
You can download the full report, "The Changing Face of Influence", here.