How Do B2B Buyers Participate Socially?

Lauraramos [Posted by Laura Ramos]

My colleague Josh Bernoff lit the social computing world on fire last year when Forrester published Groundswell, which Josh co-authored with Charlene Li, now heading up Altimeter Group. Groundswell introduces marketers, community managers, and social enthusiasts to Social Technographics - a method for describing describe a population according to its participation in social activity. You can interact with our online tool on the Groundswell site to learn more about how this profiling works.

B2B marketers see this and ask, "Does this behavior translate into the working world?" Interactive marketers want to know how truly engaged business buyers are in social activity to gauge how much time, effort, and commitment they need to put in emerging social media versus other, more traditional marketing tactics. We analysts at Forrester can help by drawing analogies using our knowledge of consumer behavior, but we didn't have the data to profile exactly how business buyers participate socially.

Until now.

Tomorrow (Feb 12 at 11:30 am ET), Oliver Young and I will preview the results of Forrester research into the social participaton of B2B buyers -- folks involved in technology decision making at firms with 100 employees or more, in 5 major geographic regions, and across 7 major industry groups. The Webinar will touch on the results from over 1200 survey responses showing B2B buyers lead active social lives and a good portion -- but not all -- of this behavior happens while on the job.

If you'd like to learn more, register here.  Feel free to pass this offer along to your friends and colleagues too. It's free and open to non-Forrester clients. Space is limited however.

Watch this space, and my blog for B2B marketers, for more on this as we unveil the accompanying research report and start talking more about how marketers can use this information to inform their social media strategy and marketing mix.

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re: How Do B2B Buyers Participate Socially?

Hi Laura,Thanks for putting on the webinar today. As you probably gathered from the high attendance level and the questions, marketers are very hungry for real data and insight into the social media behaviors of the business world.Our target audience is marketers of mid and large companies and I was hoping the webinar would cover that audience also-it did not so I left early. My sense is that the social media habits and reasons for using social media for IT people are very different than those for marketers. I look forward to future studies that segment other parts of the organization.My experience with our prospects and clients, marketing managers and executives of mid and large size companies, is this:-most are on the ignorant,reluctant, trailing edge of adopting things like blogs, Twitter, Rss feeds, Facebook profiles and groups, etc.-many do not even "search" regularly on business topics (e.g. we can't get to them via organic or PPC)-the ones who are more adventurous, trying things like having a Facebook profile or joining a Facebook group, or blogging are disappointed at how little benefit there is and how much time it takes from other activitiesSo we in turn, do maintain our blog, facebook group, rss feed, PPC etc. for image and to reach the minority of enthusiastic adopters, but the bulk of our marketing success still comes from old school marketing-trade shows, media coverage, telemarketing,etc.I'd be interested to hear from others who market to corporate marketers to hear about their experiences.

re: How Do B2B Buyers Participate Socially?

Scott, thanks for your comment. Yes, the social habits of IT people -- and business people making IT decisions -- is different than marketers and execs at mid-to-enterprise companies. No, we did survey this audience due to internal constraints. Cost and fit with current audience being the biggest drivers in our decision.However, in my prior research, I have found B2B marketers - working in several different industries, but primarily high tech -- like to dabble in social media, but to treat it like "yet another" outbound channel.In January, I teamed up with MarketingProfs to survey B2B marketers about budget trends and mix effectiveness. This was my second time out with MarketingProfs and my third survey of this type since 2006. Disappointingly, the data looks pretty much the same as what we saw in the past two studies:Marketers who use blogs: 32%Of those marketers who use blogs, those who find blogs highly effective for building brand: 32%(Do the math, this is like 10% overall)Of those marketers who use blogs, those who find blogs highly effective for generating leads: 33%Marketers who use forums/social communities: 30%Of those marketers who use forums/communities, those who find them highly effective for building brand: 30%Of those marketers who use forums/communities, those who find them highly effective for generating leads: 30% (Etc.)You get my point: social media use in B2B is early stage; it's not well understood.In contrast, 2/3 or more of the same respondents use direct mail, print, trade shows, PR, email, etc. in the marketing mix and find it more dependable.(I'll have this research out on this next month).I see the disappointment first hand, but I believe that the lack of measurable benefit stems from not understanding how buyer audiences engage, whether they engage at all, and how the marketers should approach them (socially) in the first place.It's like walking into a cocktail party, walking up to a group of people, and talking Lakers basketball only to find out they are all Celtics fans. To make social media work, marketers have to listen to the conversation and add value when then join in. Treating blogs and community pages like press releases is boring and it fails.We hope that the Social Technographics tool can help marketers understand that customer-first perspective is what works.I'd love to hear from those who market to marketers chime in with their experiences as well, but this is what I am seeing and it sounds close to your experience.

re: How Do B2B Buyers Participate Socially?

Thanks so much Laura for taking the time to share these thoughts and data. I wonder how much of this is might want to segment future studies by generation.

re: How Do B2B Buyers Participate Socially?

Thanks for sharing the data. Increasingly I see lots of B2B companies starting to use social media as one of thier important marketing tactics. But I think the big mistake people make is assuming "social media" is a channel and campaign that is separate from their other marketing. Nothing could be more false. Only an overall inbound markeitng program that leverages all the interplay between publishing a blog and other content, using SEO, and participating in social media really gives results. Using these inbound marketing techniques, we have built HubSpot (a B2B software company) from 0 to 1,000 customers in 2 years time. We have over 30,000 followers on Twitter, over 3,000 fans on Facebook, and our blog has over 10,000 subscribers... this stuff works!!!According to another recent survey, the cost of leads from inbound marketing is about 3 times lower than traditional outbound marketing programs: