B2B Social Media: Where's the Share, B2B Marketers? (PDF)
In November 2006 I riddled on The "Share Economy" as the concept just rang so true as to what drives the Web 2.0 era (and because I'm fond of riddling). It fascinated me so much that I wrote on the concept for my chapter in The Age of Conversation collaborative ebook.
Here's the concept in a nutshell: in racing to define this new era, pundits and professionals have been coining catchphrases ranging from the "knowledge economy" and the "innovation era" to the "conversation age." But, from where do knowledge, innovation and conversation stem? The answer rests in sharing: individuals actively and openly sharing information, insights and ideas with others.
Therefore, the exchanging of ideas--how freely they're traded, how dynamically they spread, and the new ideas they inspire--is most aptly and accurately labeled "The Share Economy."
At first I was more 'consumer' focused when writing on the concept. But, as time marched on, I became ever more perplexed as to why the majority of B2B marketers have been so slow to move on the tremendous opportunities of social media... as B2C marketers have been much more involved in the social media space (social media 'race'?).
As I've written many times, I'm not at all of the mind that all companies need to blog. But I am most definitely of the (marketing) mind that all companies should be listening (see post & PDF on that front here).
Why? Because when our markets are talking--be it about our company, a competitive company, a need, or a new idea--they're doing us a tremendous favor. What's more? They're making our jobs much easier and far less precarious.
Listening qualifies as research and the core reason for research is to "reduce uncertainty"...but listening to online conversations is also a great way to identify new opportunities (reward) and gauge customer satisfaction levels (risk).
Now, along with being a fan of listening, I'm a (huge!) fan of creating value and facilitating idea exchanges--and all of these principles apply to B2B's use of social media. Think about it for a moment...if I, as a consumer, am more likely to buy an MP3 for ninety-nine cents or a marketing book for nineteen dollars due to its high value being recommended to me by trustworthy sources... then it follows that I, as a professional, am going to be much more apt to invest in a nine thousand, or ninety-nine thousand dollar solution that has been authentically recommended or discussed when I'm looking to make such investments for my business.
Ergo, with purchases small and BIG, a real-world recommendation is most valuable when it comes to purchasing motivators and purchase decisions.
Yes, it's key to ensure these recommendations are authentic--and it's really easy to tell the difference when they're mock posts or seeded sales recommendations. But what is more key is that business professionals do not act differently than consumers. People do not step out of their cars after a long day at work, remove their "business hats" and put on "consumer hats" (but it would sure be silly if they did, eh?). Sure, they have different responsibilities and accountabilities when at work then when at play--and they need to look at purchases rationally, not just emotionally--but they follow the same habits of trusting "like people" more than "sales people" when making a consumer or a business purchase.
Sure, the businesses selling the offerings are going to regale their greatness ("For your dough, we're the best darn bread since sliced bread!"). But professionals, just like consumers, want to hear how great it is from people who've used the product and, moreover, from people who don't profit from recommending it. And that applies to any industry, be it communications, cars or construction equipment.
Net net: all this talk (sharing!) leads to a whole lotta purchasing action...and a heaping load of opportunity for B2B marketers.
So, why oh why aren't more B2B marketers hip to these social media opportunities? It could be skepticism, it could be fear, it could be inertia. Or it could just be that more of them need to better understand The Share Economy. And that's where this B2B social media piece comes in. It's longer than a post, much shorter than a book. I'm hoping it will provide some rationale and reward for B2B companies to open up to the opportunities and I'm also hoping it teaches best practices, too. (Psst: these best practices are as 'Marketing 101' as they are 'Web 2.0'.)
And, since I'm sharing this piece with clients and colleagues, I also want to share it with you (um, get the "share" theme?). It's located right here.