It’s not helpful to think of social media as a monolithic channel. People don’t use social media in general ways; they use it very specifically, and may choose different channels for work and personal purposes. The graph below illustrates the research findings:
Note that the two top types of communities aren’t branded as social networks, but do fulfill the function of allowing people to share information and network. The difference is partly that these are niche sites, with specific focii, so it’s expectable that the people they target would prefer them. Reiss-Davis gives as an example of the independent site IT Central Station, which draws technology buyers (“Yelp for the Enterprise”—The Wall Street Journal). For the vendor-managed site, he suggests the Cisco Communities or SAP Community Network (SCN) as examples.
Facebook, with its billion-plus members, seems like a natural, but while 81 percent of business decision-makers use Facebook at least monthly, a slight majority use it for personal purposes only. Still, 2 percent use it for business purposes alone, and 2 percent of one billion is 20 million people…not such small change.
Twitter ‘s stats are that 6 percent use it primarily for business, while 36 percent use it for both business and personal use. For some businesses, Twitter works very well indeed. (See “Scandal: The Show That Twitter Built.”) You’ll need to understand your audience to know if Twitter is where you should focus.
LinkedIn has grown from what was originally almost an online resume service to a collection of very targeted communities. Eight-one percent of B2B decision-makers use LinkedIn, with 26 percent using it primarily for business and 48 percent using it for both personal and business purposes. Forty percent of LinkedIn users participate in vendor-affiliated groups, which is nearly double the 22 percent that participate in non-brand affiliated groups.
What’s the takeaway? If you’re just beginning to pay serious attention to social media, go first where the most focus is on the type of business you do. Talk to your customers and prospects to find out where they spend their time. According to the research, for most B2B marketers that’s probably going to be LinkedIn or a community focused on the issues your product or solution addresses.
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