The social advertising space is a rapidly growing and maturing category. Social advertising generates more than 85% of revenue for both Facebook and Twitter, and marketers’ spend is trending sharply upward. In fact, the vendor customer references I spoke with for this evaluation spent an average of $512,000 per month on social ads. However, the public social networks’ native tools are insufficient for enterprise marketers manage this spend. Vendors have responded with products intended to help marketers achieve outcomes that justify the effort and spend.
We define this category as:
Platforms that help marketers buy, manage, optimize, and measure ads on public social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
These platforms are best used by marketers seeking to reach new customers who aren’t already aware of their offerings; they should be used alongside both TV and search ads as well as social reach tactics, such as influencer and advocate marketing.
We selected vendors that have a standalone social offering, a strong self-service platform, a critical mass of enterprise customers, and customers that spent more than $50 million on social advertising through the vendor in the 12-month period ending July 1, 2013. The best vendors help with analytics and measurement capabilities; measure beyond the social network's walls; and integrate social advertising with other reach tactics and types of ads.
You can no longer segment your business customers into those who use social media for business purposes and those who do not. Why not? Because according to Forrester’s newest B2B Social Technographics® numbers, fully 100% of business decision-makers use social media for work purposes. Other stunningly high numbers: 98% of business decision-makers are Spectators (they read blogs, watch videos, or listen to podcasts), 79% are Joiners (they maintain a profile on social networking sites), and 75% are Critics (they comment on blogs and post ratings and reviews), all in the context of their business activities.
Therefore, it’s no longer a question of whether you should use social, but how. B2B marketing executives no longer need convincing to invest in social. However, social marketing efforts are maturing beyond experimentation — where measuring results is secondary — to science. At this more advanced stage of maturity, marketers need to understand exactly how and when their customers are using social and target them differently in each stage of the customer life cycle.
Your customers don’t make blanket use of “social media,” “social networks,” or “communities” in general. Instead, they use specific social networks and communities for specific goals, both personal and business-related. The communities your customers visit for personal reasons are not always the ones they use for business purposes.
For business purposes, the No. 1 and No. 2 communities aren’t specific public social networks but “niche” communities focused on specific objectives. For example, business technology buyers might visit IT Central Station or Spiceworks to learn more about multiple competing technologies at once; alternatively, they might visit a community managed by a single brand, such as the Cisco Communities or SAP Community Network (SCN).
Don’t link to your Facebook brand page from your B2B corporate home page just to show your CMO you know what Facebook is.
Forrester has long-viewed our POST — people, objectives, strategy, and tools/technology, in that order — methodology as a primary tool for social marketers to use when developing a social strategy. This requires thinking about your audience and their social behaviors first (people), then your business objectives that you are using social to meet, then what your strategy should be, and finally, what tools, technology, and platforms will help you reach your goals. Yet I’m having more and more conversations with B2B marketers who haven’t articulated their audience’s business social behaviors about social platforms they maintain a corporate presence on and link to on their corporate home pages.
Your customers’ and prospects’ use of social is exceedingly context dependent — and you only care what they are doing in a business context in relation to your solution. Forrester’s data consistently shows that Facebook is not very influential in the B2B purchase process. For this reason, before you decide to put a link to your Facebook group (or page) on your B2B corporate home page because your peers in other organizations have done so, or your CMO requested it, consider the following questions:
Does my audience use Facebook in the context of my solutions (e.g., to talk about networking hardware or financial services), or just in a personal context (e.g., to look at photos of their children’s soccer game or talk about their upcoming vacation)?
Do I have an active community on Facebook so that when a customer goes to my Facebook page, they will have a positive experience with my brand?
At yesterday’s HP Summit 2011, CEO Leo Apotheker made a public case for personal cloud — online services that work together to orchestrate and deliver work and personal information across personal digital devices (such as PCs, smartphones, and tablets). For people planning strategy at vendors, what are the implications of personal cloud? End users will need help getting access to their information across their devices seamlessly.
One type of information ripe for help from personal cloud services is contacts or address books. Every person using a mobile phone (251 million in the US, most of which can do email) confronts the issue of how to get all their work and personal contacts into a new mobile phone. Can they simply sync with an existing source? Do they have to export? Or <shudder> re-key them?
We’ve been researching how many people are actually using a sync service or would be interested in using one. The market for contact or calendar sync is vastly underserved today: Only 4% of North American and European information worker respondents (those using a computer 1 hour or more per day) report that they used a website or Internet service that required a login for contact and calendar synchronization, integration, or enhancement for work (Source: Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, Q3 2010).
Yet, when Forrester asked US consumers whether they identified with the statement, “I have several electronic address books and can't always find the contact I want when I want it,” only 4% chose that as a frustration or concern that they experience with the information they’ve stored in their PCs, devices, online services, or mobile phones (Source: North American Technographics® Omnibus Online Survey, Q4 2010 [US]).