Social Works for B2B, So Get Over Yourself

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Posted: February 5, 2013 | Modern B2B Marketing, Social Media

It’s never going to stop. There are those that still don’t believe that social media is an effective strategy for B2B marketers and probably never will be convinced. And that’s OK. Those of us who do believe in social will keep pushing the boundaries of modern demand generation best practices while others will just continue to cry out in opposition until the last person listening turns out the light.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that social media can be a tremendously effective strategy for B2B. I admit that I am in a unique position; I get to market to marketers. Being a marketer myself, I don’t see how that could get any better. But, I didn’t just wake up one day suddenly convinced. It took a tremendous amount of time and a lot of trial and error to find out what works for Marketo in particular. But what I have learned and failed on, can surely be lessons for other to build upon right?

I am constantly challenged by others, usually B2B purists, on the effectiveness of social. I hear the same thing over and over again: “Your case is unique and you absolutely have no right to give a blanket statement that your strategy works for all B2B marketing.” That is absolutely correct. But the same people who are questioning my strategy and its results, are not in the social media trenches out on the front line doing their best to find a way to apply it to their particular industry. It seems that they just like to fight the idea in general. My answer to them is always the same: take the ideas, tactics, and overall strategy that I have had success with and make it your own. I mean, that’s what I did when I came to Marketo over a year ago.

The Importance of Trial and Error

The thing that I think people fail to overlook is that you can’t just say “oh we tried social for B2B and it didn’t work”. That’s like saying “we tried direct mail once.” You have to test, measure, refine, etc. If you take a half–baked approach to social and then when it doesn’t work, throw the baby out with the bathwater, that’s the type of thinking that will do us all in. The reason I believe people are successful starts with the discipline that is put into their strategy. Pay attention to what people respond to and do more of it. Don’t just throw sh*t out there and hope it will stick.

The idea I am trying to get at is this: the best marketers in the world don’t make excuses, they pave their own way and share what they have learned along the way. They are not afraid to take risks and even more importantly they are not afraid to fail. Removing the term “failure” from a marketer’s vocabulary gives them the freedom to break free from the status quo, and that’s when the real magic happens. Then you have a smart marketer who is primed for turning heads, making some noise, and inevitably changing the world.

At the End of the Day

The folks that have truly inspired me as a marketer, such as Seth Godin, Jay Baer, and Chris Brogan, are the ones that inadvertently taught me how to be a forward thinking marketer. Seth taught me to be a linchpin, while Jay taught me how to not over-hype things, and finally Chris reminded me to be human. Although I have never really spent much time with any of them personally, I read their books, their blogs, and their feeds on Twitter. It’s a full marketing education in real time. Find the people who can inspire you and spend some time learning from them. Hopefully you will find yourself with less time to fight other people’s ideas and instead start working on better ones.

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  • Mariana

    Great blog!! I like your thinking and will definitely re-post on our BizFactz Facebook page. I don’t understand why people still don’t understand how powerful social media is and times have changed… you can now have public conversation on the web freely with outlets like twitter and Facebook. Marketing is on a whole new level, people need to keep up with the times.

    Thanks!

  • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

    Jason, can I agree and disagree at the same time? I believe social media works in B2B. That isn’t a blanket statement, it is an observation.

    I think the challenge is when social media, or any other tactic, is singled out as a solution. The case you make for social media could be made for direct mail (I hear from many marketers lately that are stepping away from direct mail saying it doesn’t work anymore), email rentals, print, maybe even TV.

    One of the things I have seen in the industry lately is people taking a single case or a selective set of cases and generalizing to say it applies to everyone. I don’t believe there is ill intent behind it, it is a natural outcome as everything gets turned into soundbites. It happens in the discussion of social media, of the B2B buying process, of content marketing and inbound marketing, … in short, almost everywhere.

    I hope that the entire industry will instead move towards a more productive dialogue about when social (and other activity) works “really well”, improve our understanding of why it works (allowing better initial plans and extrapolation to new situations), etc.

    That’s my $0.02. Keep the perspectives coming.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonMillerCA Jason Miller

    Thanks for the comment Eric. All really great points and I really appreciate you chiming in. I just fear that the dialog will be led by those who are not actually doing the work and or the research to get better results/ case studies. If this continues to happen, it’s a major step backwards for everyone.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonMillerCA Jason Miller

    Thanks for the comment Mariana, Much appreciated.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jason.

    Social media in B2B in many cases is not used in a proper way. When I look to what companies are doing with LinkedIn groups, Twitter or Google+, if they already have a presence, it makes me sad.

    Companies pretend to blog, but instead they publish press releases, product promotions or company news.

    They just don’t get what is at the foundation of social media. It’s about sharing and caring, with being relevant to your customers and prospects at the foundation. It’s about bringing relevant thoughts, insights and content in general. And the only way to really understand it is by participating as you say.

    Which are then promoted, discussed and shared through social media tools and networks.

    It’s because many of the people within these B2B companies don’t understand how to use the strengths of social media, that many marketers struggle in finding or defending ROI from it. With that being said, I agree with Eric Wittlake that our B2B industry needs to work on educating B2B organizations at the C-level and the employee level.

    Best regards,

    Tom De Baere

  • http://twitter.com/tayloemarketing Tayloe Marketing

    Hi Jason,

    Social Media should be part of your marketing strategy, which includes outbound AND inbound. As others noted, and you did as well Jason, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Since Social Media is all encompassing of tools such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc, there may be one tool that works better for one type of B2B, and one that works better for another. As a marketer, I have a much greater response on Twitter than I do on Facebook. Does that mean Facebook doesn’t work, or if maybe I tweaked my efforts on Facebook I may have a greater response? But regardless of my success or personal failure with Facebook, I still use it as a tool for other businesses I work with, and have success. There are no magic wands, just do it, measure it, and apply what you learn to make necessary changes to your strategy.

    Thanks as always for the good article and always appreciate your info. YOU are one of those that I follow for guidance!

    Bradley

  • http://www.findnewcustomers.com Jeff Ogden

    Very true post. Social does work – if used very carefully. And what do Jay Baer and Chris Brogan have in common? They have both been guests on Marketing Made Simple TV (http://www.marketingmadesimple.tv) I hope everyone checks it out.

  • http://twitter.com/pohstrom Per Ohstrom

    Even in industrial companies, Social is great for lead generation, but it has to be applied right and as part of a greater mix. See my infograph “Social Marketing for Industrial Companies” http://pmohstrom11994.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/infographic-social-marketing-for-industrial-companies/

  • http://twitter.com/JasonMillerCA Jason Miller

    Nicely put Tom, really appreciate the comment. Thanks for taking the time to chime in.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonMillerCA Jason Miller

    Hey Bradley! Thanks for the comment. You make two very good points. There is no one size fits all solution and there is absolutely no magic wand. It’s all about trial and error. Thanks again, really appreciate the kind words as well.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonMillerCA Jason Miller

    Hey Jeff! Happy to see you here. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://writtent.com/ Sasha Zinevych

    Jason, what do you think are top social platforms for B2B? I know it’s an old question but I just wonder what your personal vision is.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonMillerCA Jason Miller

    Very cool! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/JasonMillerCA Jason Miller

    Hi Sasha, it really depends. For us Facebook is incredibly effective, with Twitter coming in second and Slideshare third. Linkedin has surprisingly always been a challenge. Thanks for the comment. Happy to chat more about the success we have had around each.

  • http://twitter.com/genuinegal Beverly Dracos

    You can tell a lot about someone by the people that inspire them. You mentioned three of the best.

  • http://writtent.com/ Sasha Zinevych

    Don’t you think that at times LinkedIn gets too complicated to use? And what about Pinterest, YouTube and StumbleUpon?

  • http://www.blog.marketo.com/ Jason Miller

    Thanks for the comment Beverly! Much appreciated.

  • http://www.blog.marketo.com/ Jason Miller

    I think Linkedin needs to get a better self service ad platform. Pinterest is fun and drives a small amount of traffic, but I am personally not a huge fan. YouTube is essential and StumbleUpon can drive some really nice traffic for the right posts. Just my thoughts.

  • http://www.blog.marketo.com/ Jason Miller

    Thanks Brian, glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for commenting.

Jason Miller is Senior Manager of Content Marketing at LinkedIn. Previously, Jason was Senior Manager of Social Media at Marketo and focused on optimizing social for lead generation and driving revenue. He is a regular contributor to leading marketing blogs such as Social Media Examiner, Social Media Today, and Marketing Profs.

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