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I saw a LinkedIn study that claimed that 84 percent of B2B executives source social media to make a purchasing decision. Even if the stat is on the high side (skewed by LinkedIn’s agenda), the fact that B2B buyers (like the rest of the human race) spend more time online means more time on social media.

Yet, there’s an even greater fundamental reason for B2B companies to get the social media religion. As part of the due diligence process, B2B buyers depend on digital sources, often starting with that trusty rectangle called Google Search.

So it stands to reason that B2B companies should be advancing their online presence beyond their websites. This way, they can increase the probability that those conducting online due diligence on their category will run into them in the virtual world.

Social media can help this cause.

The challenge lies in all the social media choices that can overwhelm B2B companies to the point that they figure the safe thing to do is to follow what everyone else is doing. Which explains the numerous B2B companies deploying Facebook and Twitter as their social media strategy.

Here’s another to way to look at the social media sphere.

For B2B companies, persuasive communications requires in-depth content.

Spending three bucks per month on an app that identifies stores selling homemade ice cream can be an impulse buy. But with the price point of a B2B purchase in the hundreds, thousands or even millions of dollars, the decision-making process tilts heavily toward to the intellectual side.

That’s how I’ve organized the various social media platforms, segmenting those designed to touch the intellectual side from the emotional plays.

social_media-chart on emotional vs. intellectual business storytelling

I’m not saying that B2B companies should ignore the emotional side of the equation.

Instead, it’s about what a B2B company wants to get out of its social media effort. If the focus is on lead generation and/or nudging the prospect through the sales cycle, social media should emphasize the platforms in the upper half that allow for deeper content. If the core objective involves brand building or perhaps recruitment, the tools in the lower half should take priority.

Keep in mind that this is a starting point, and there are exceptions to the rule and gray areas. For example, while Twitter itself is the epitome of short-form narrative, it can be effective in directing traffic to a company blog. Using my own blog as an example, social generates 35 percent of the traffic with Twitter constituting 83 percent of the social traffic.

A few more comments for context:

  • When I put this chart together a couple years ago, LinkedIn offered the worst of both worlds — it lacked emotive powers and depth of content. Since making its publishing platform available to all users, it’s now a viable option for the intellectual side. If LinkedIn were ever to allow publishing from the company page, it would move even further north on the chart.
  • On the topic of publishing, if a B2B company calls out thought leadership as a marketing/communications objective, it should give strong consideration to investing in a blog.
  • B2B companies undervalue SlideShare as a social platform that marries depth of content and visual storytelling.
  • Obviously, social media platforms like YouTube and even Facebook can be shaped with strong intellectual undercurrents. My chart reflects the typical use of these tools.

One final point —

No one has cracked the code on the perfect social media strategy for a B2B company.

With this in mind, an approach that embraces experimentation helps.


Comments

  • Elizabeth

    Really enjoyed this read. Feel you captured my instincts/random thoughts and articulately and visually put them down on paper! Thanks

    Reply
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  • Mario

    Hi Lou, how did you assess emotional value of social media sites? I’m especially curious of Twitter-Facebook difference.

    Reply
    • hoffman

      Hi Mario,

      Not based on deep research or hard data.

      Instead, the chart reflects the Agency’s experience in building and executing social campaigns. The nature of Facebook, designed from the beginning to cultivate relationships, gives it a strong emotional bent. Add in the content that is largely visual and you’ve got a platform for emotional touch points.

      Twitter certainly has the capability to bring an emotional dimension and the platform is trying to be more visual. Still, at the end of the day we’re still talking 140 characters with a possible link.

      Reply

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