Social media – the game-changing channel for B2B

socialmediab2bHow relevant is B2B in social media marketing? was the embracing question behind a lively panel discussion and audience conversation yesterday in which I was a participant.

It was the most worthwhile discussion on the broad topic of social media and B2B marketing that I’ve been part of this year.

Some 60 or so people gathered at the Paramount club on the 31st floor of the iconic Centre Point building in central London – stunning views across London even with low cloud – to be part of the morning event organized by Waggener Edstrom and B2B Marketing magazine.

Over the course of a couple of hours, we shared thoughts, opinions and ideas on a range of topics related to that embracing question, with the panel endeavouring to include their perspectives on these specific questions:

  • Who should social media target? Purchasing decision makers or individuals that purchase decision makers follow – how do you decide who will have more impact?
  • Which channels should you use? Every week there appears to be a new social media channel emerging (for example Pinterest), but how do you decide which will be the most effective for your business?
  • Content selection. Content is king, but how do you decide which content is going to drive the most effective engagement with your prospects and when should you be activating the content?
  • How do you measure social media effectively? Measures of ‘buzz’ and reach sound interesting but will they hold water with sales directors who only care how marketing fills their sales pipe?

The panel – comprising Tariq Ahmed, Global Communications Manager at CA Technologies ; Dan Street, Digital Consultant at Waggener Edstrom UK; Sylvia Jensen, Director of EMEA Marketing at Eloqua; and me, Neville Hobson – was ably steered by Joel Harrison, Editorial and Content Director of B2B Marketing magazine.

The Waggener Edstrom team did a great job in effective event management including capturing some post-discussion thoughts from each of the panelists into a short video:

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

If I were to focus on one element of the overall discussion that pinpoints a major issue for anyone trying to figure out the role of social media in B2B marketing, it’s the answer to this question – is social media a game changer for B2B or simply a channel?

My firm belief is that social media isn’t just a channel. Yet I recognize that to many marketers, it is just a channel. The point, then, to me when considering that view is to ask marketers: is that the best way to look at social media? Just a channel? Don’t the possibilities that social media present to you in terms of genuine engagement with people you’re interested in connecting with give you pause for thought to see beyond simply a channel?

The interesting aspect of the question wasn’t so much what the panel thought – as you’d expect, the majority view was ‘game changer’ – but rather how the audience responded when Joel asked them the question.

The answer? Divided 50/50.

In short, everyone is trying to figure this out and see the relevance in their own business areas. There’s a lot of work still to do.

In the meantime, let’s compromise – social media is a game-changing channel for B2B marketers. Sound good?

  • See the buzz around the event in the conversation surrounding the hashtag #socialB2B:

About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.