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Why it’s Time for B2B Marketers to Invest in Facebook

Jun 24, 2016

The other week, Hotwire PR held an event to launch their latest report titled “The Changing Face of Influence” in association with market research company Vanson Bourne. Together they surveyed 1,000 B2B decision makers and explored their habits, preferred channels and the ways they make use of different sources of information to make purchasing decisions.

Our EMEA Marketing Director, Delphine Reynaud, was invited to join the panel conversation and I was delighted to tag along and learn more about how marketing and IT departments engage with the ever increasing volume of media sources inundating today’s market. The conversation that ensued also involved John Brown, Group Head of Engagement at Hotwire, Ben Daubney, Research Consultant at Vanson Bourne, Joel Harrison, Founder and Editor of B2B Marketing and was moderated by Andy West, Group Chief Development Officer at Hotwire PR. The content focused on four key findings, including B2B marketing insights on Facebook, the resilience of traditional media, trending digital outlets, and the human factor for content marketing. I’ve summarised the key findings and most important takeaways below:

#1 Key Finding: Facebook is the primary social channel for B2B purchase research - but B2B marketers are still not investing in Facebook.

  • 24% of decision makers say they use Facebook as a primary channel for purchase research over LinkedIn (17%) and Twitter (6%)
  • 51% of marketing decision makers and 39% of IT decision makers will use Facebook more to help with decision-making in the next 12 months
  • 30% of marketing decision makers do not plan to use Facebook in their own B2B marketing

This really shows that social media has diluted the barriers between Facebook and LinkedIn as personal and professional channels. The launch of Facebook Work will certainly accelerate this divide and Facebook will likely increase its ownership as ‘the’ access point to Internet.

#2 Key Finding: Traditional media is as important as social media - third party testimony is key.

  • 87% of decision makers say traditional media is as important as social media in the purchase journey and the most valuable for short-listing and negotiating stages of the buying cycle
  • 50% of decision makers want more impartial and independent commentary issued by vendors
  • 55% of marketing and IT decision makers look to industry analysts as a primary source of information
  • 41% of decision makers say the single biggest change vendors can make is by sharing more external opinion as part of their overall marketing strategy

The research also shows that 89% of B2B decision makers surveyed believe it is easier to reference and qualify prospective vendors ahead of engaging the organisation directly. This finding highlights the importance of PR and content marketing for any organisation, as the buying process has drastically changed.

#3 Key Finding: Marketing decision makers are more likely to engage with newer outlets with a digital only focus while IT decision makers focus on publications with heritage

  • Business Insider and Huffington Post are two of the most widely read publications by marketing decision makers
  • Business Insider is the most consulted publication throughout the buying process
  • Forbes, Computing and Wired are three of the most widely read publications by IT decision makers

The immediacy and disposal nature of newer social channels really must be catered for by B2C and B2B marketers and they need to ensure the context and format match the channel.

#4 Key Finding: Relevant hygiene content is essential but decision makers want the human factor too

  • Nearly half of decision makers proactively seek out case studies when researching vendors
  • 37% of decision makers find it difficult to find relevant information when they are at the final stage of the buying process
  • 75% of marketing and 71% of IT decision makers view small events like seminars and briefings as extremely important sources of information
  • 40% of decision makers want content that’s more appropriate to their industry from vendors

Indeed, impartial comment or independent guidance on vendor choice is more powerful than a direct, unsolicited approach with little context. Data has a place but we trust people more for relevant referrals and reducing the risk in the decision making process.

My key takeaways:

  • An integrated, common sense approach to engaging consumers and businesses will remain an evergreen principal of any marketing and communications professional.
  • A single view of the customer is becoming increasingly important to account for personal tastes as well as business preferences.
  • Marketing teams will better align their B2C and B2B approaches. After all, a CEO has consumer and business choices to make but is the same person.

To download the full report, click here. I hope the trends shared above have helped reveal the potential of influence across social channels such as Facebook. Which trend or take away did you find to be the most compelling? Share a comment below and join the conversation.