Social media goes to work

It’s no secret among marketers that social media as a tool and a strategy has exploded, taking up an ever-growing portion of the marketing budget. This past year, social media marketing grew 35 percent. A Duke University study found the social media share of marketing budgets is expected to rise this year from 6.6 percent to 9.1 percent.

Business-to-business marketing, however, (which comprises a major portion of the businesses here in Milwaukee) has been a little late to the party.

Social media is a natural fit for business-to-consumer marketing, which is generally about creating buzz and consumer identification with the product or the store. Messaging is usually about one person making a buying decision based on how she relates to the communications.

The B2B buying process is different. Buyers not only can take a long time evaluating purchases, because their careers depend on making the right choice, but the decision also often takes place in a group. This defines the challenge, and the opportunity, for B2B social media.

The first hurdle for B2B was that many companies blocked social media sites. This is changing, along with who is part of the buying group and how they communicate.

In the working world, Millennials are the most active social media users. Don’t just regard them as low on the totem pole. The leading edge of this cohort is now making its way into the C-suites (think Marissa Mayer at Yahoo), and they are taking their places in the buying group.

At the same time, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media have jumped off the office desktop onto smart phones and tablets, both of which are found on the factory floor, on the job site and even in the mining pit.

The big opportunity for social media is that in B2B marketing, buyers often are more source-loyal to their local distributors than brand loyal. The relationship-building potential of social media will enable manufacturers to take greater ownership of these customers.

 

– Keith Schmitz is president of  Shorewood-based krpr inc.

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