In my blog, Has Social Media Failed SMB B2B Businesses? Part 1 – The ROI Problem, I shared an issue we hear a lot – How do small-to-medium (SMB) sized B2B businesses show a dollar-based return on investment (ROI) with social media? Until social platforms mature to the point where these companies can make predictable revenue directly attributable to their posts, it’s going to remain a very difficult question to answer. Right now, B-to-B interactions involve activities like EDI exchanges, supply chain or ERP activities, or possibly help-desk questions and responses. Social media is not yet viewed as an imperative part of this communication mix, especially in small service-led B2B businesses.
SMB B2Bs can benefit from a social media presence, even if it is not quantifiable in dollars. There are benefits to be had in terms of brand awareness and business transparency. Obviously, the better known your brand is and the more potential customers know about your business, the more people will consider purchasing from you. The key to reaping these benefits is time.
Because businesses like this have such limited in resources, it will take them longer to build and maintain a social media presence. One person can only do so much in 24 hours. Engaging in a small amount of social media may not seem like much now, but as time goes on it can build momentum. Even a very basic presence can ensure certain opportunities are not missed.
There is something else time may provide. Social media platforms continue to mature and morph with a keen eye toward encouraging business participation. Consider Facebook’s evolution from a platform used to connect friends to one that now offers Business Pages and advertising. Even Instagram is getting into the picture as they start offering advertising for businesses. At some point, these platforms may mature to where this specific audience can find its ROI.
Can a “killer app” provide the ROI they’re looking for?
It’s going to take a disruptive technology, something like Amazon, eBay, Uber, or smart phones, to get SMB B2Bs to change the way they do business. Focusing on something they’re not sure is going to bring in sales right now seems to them a waste of time and effort. But things change when a disruptive technology comes along and proves it can make things easier and more profitable. Consider how people now go to Amazon to get almost anything because it’s the first thing that comes to mind and because it’s easy and cheap to use. For social media to be a successful SMB B2B marketing tool, it must generate the top-of-mind interest that today’s biggest online consumer sites have. To accomplish that it needs to offer the kind of service that B2B’s cannot do without.
The concept isn’t so strange. Think about Expedia or Travelocity. People find these apps indispensable. Building an app that uses social media to bring in revenue for SMB B2B companies is going to be hard, given how many different markets there are. One would need to really understand the specific problem each business was trying to solve in order to help vendors and buyers connect. Existing platforms, like LinkedIn, have an opportunity here. They already work to help individuals connect with businesses to find jobs, morphing their way from connecting colleagues to colleagues to something more like a Monster or Glassdoor.com. If LinkedIn could just figure out what problems each business was trying to solve, that social media platform might just be able to connect service organizations to businesses that require their services.
Other things that may be able to help are artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine learning personalization apps. According to a Harvard Business Review article, How B2B Sellers Are Offering Personalization at Scale, B2B buyers are starting to expect the same personalized treatment they get while shopping on Amazon. As Justin Shriber writes, “They have little to no patience for ill-timed, generic pitches.” Through analytics, an app can detect someone looking specifically for a business service, so it can promote that business directly to someone on the decision-making team. This kind of advertising is already being done in B2C. While you need to pay for click-ads, they can get you quickly in front of your target audience.
In our ever-evolving, technology-driven world, businesses will continue to find more ways to connect and interact electronically. If you’re a small-to-medium sized B2B company and you haven’t jumped on the social media bandwagon just yet because the time you would need to spend on it outweighs the money it would yet bring in, take heart. You’re not alone. And things will eventually evolve in such a way that adopting technologies like this should get easier.
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In the last few years, companies have invested heavily in social media marketing. Yet, according to a recent research, measuring its return on investment (ROI) has been difficult. In our experience many companies in the small-to-medium (SMB) business to business (B2B) space have found it hard to justify the expense. Many of our clients ask us, “is it really worth the time and effort involved?”
We’d like to know what you think. If you are an SMB B2B company using social media marketing, please take a moment to complete our short, 8-question survey. As a thank-you, we’ll provide you with a link to our results.
In my next part of this series, I’ll cover some of the ways actively working with social media can help you today, even if you can only afford a limited presence. Make sure you check our Porter blogs for more insight and advice.
Dale Rensing has been helping customers envision the benefits of technology, from local area networks to cloud technologies and IoT for over 25 years. You can find more blogs and content from Dale at www.porterconsulting.net. Porter Consulting is a marketing services consulting company who can you help you grow revenue.