The B2B Marketing Rules of Social Media

For marketers, data culled from social media can solve several problems.

Social data can inform marketers about their current or potential customers; social can help marketing teams build relationships with buyers; it can even help companies get a sense of what’s important to the people who are looking to spend.

But a recent study from CEB Research and marketing intelligence platform Radius shows that B2B marketers aren’t taking advantage of social media’s full potential—that includes its ability to reach, attract, and keep customers, especially small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Researchers for the study found that only one third of B2B marketers mine social data to find new business; just 4% use social to identify more qualified leads—abysmal numbers, according to Peter Tait, VP of marketing at Radius.

Social media is important for B2B marketers because it’s a potential source of a huge amount of data,” Tait explains about findings in the report, entitled “Social Media 2014 Update.” “One of the hardest things to do when marketing to small businesses is getting data about them. It’s important to remember that small businesses are broadcasting a wealth of information about themselves on social media, and if marketers are ignoring those huge quantities of data, then they’re missing out on the great amount of [customer] intelligence.”

Some 880 SMB owners participated in the survey. About 50% of respondents say that they learn about products and suppliers for their businesses on social media. That’s up from 38% in 2012. And among customers who have seen social media messages from their suppliers, 40% say that they feel more positive about the B2B brand.

“B2B marketers should be raising their awareness on social media,” says John Hurley, product marketing manager at Radius. He says the best way to do that just might be counterintuitive to B2B marketers; post less about the brand and post more information that’s centered on the reader. In other words, don’t focus on an internal agenda, focus on the audience: “They should limit what they post, and post less. Put up more deals and promotions that [SMBs] will find helpful to their businesses.”

Hurley says in the New Year B2B marketers need to leverage social data, and use it to determine SMBs’ willingness to spend, potential troubles, and even to gauge a potential customer’s online reputation. All information, he says, that can help B2B marketers craft more relevant, impactful messages that drive business owners to take action.

“The overwhelming requests [from small business owners] were to offer deals and promotions,” Radius’ Tait continues to explain about the study. He says that B2B marketers should take a closer look at social data to craft the right deals and offer them closer to real-time needs. “These moves help you build a positive brand experience. It shows that you’re listening.”

On a final note, Hurley says that ultimately B2B marketers should use social to build those coveted one-to-one relationships with small business owners. “Have your finger on the pulse of what they care about,” he says. “It’s then that you’ll be able to find, understand, and convert your social media followers.”

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