There are endless examples out there of how consumers block out marketing messages and put a lot of weight on the opinions and reviews expressed through social media as they make purchases. You would think that since B2B buyers are consumers too, the same behavior would carry over to their business purchases. But our research shows that this isn't the case.
While business buyers make heavy use of social media for business purposes, they still rely heavily on traditional sources of information when making business purchase decisions — sources such as peers and colleagues, consultants, analyst firms, and even vendor salespeople.
The good news for marketers is that business buyers are increasingly "going social" when they first realize that they have a problem and are looking to learn from and interact with experts in their problem space.
In our recent report, we advise B2B marketing leaders who are formulating their social media marketing strategies for 2011 to use social media to interact with their target audiences earlier in their problem-solving cycles and demonstrate expertise in the problems those audiences are looking to solve.
This requires a big shift for many marketers who are simply using social media to pump out the same old marketing messages. It requires you to build trust well before your prospects have entered into an active buying cycle and to show that your people are experts in the problem, not just your product.