Australian B2B companies are struggling with their online presence, choosing not to properly utilise social media, according to a new government-funded study.

The report, Australia’s Social Media Presence in 2012; The Roadmap for 2013, aims to better understand how social media can help B2B businesses, looking at how the top 207 B2B companies are using social media and how this influence can convert into real world sales.

B2B vs B2C companies

The Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, BMW, Flight Centre and Vodafone emerged as the top five influential Australian B2B companies on social media, but a huge amount of companies are falling behind, shying away from social media platforms because they see it as something more relevant to B2C companies. 

It seems these businesses believe that social is all about the individual and not the company, and therefore isn’t relevant for them.

But according to Lead Creation this isn’t true, it’s just that B2B companies need to go about building their online presence in a different way.

A B2C company will derive more value from brand sentiment measurements like Facebook ‘likes’ than a B2B company, for instance. For the latter, Facebook ‘likes’ may be totally irrelevant; a more qualitative approach is needed to highlight how to market, sell or engage with stakeholders.

In support of this, 93% of business buyers surveyed stated that all companies should have a social media presence and 85% said that companies should interact and engage with them on social platforms. 

So what should B2B companies be focusing on? 

Apparently, creative content and LinkedIn. 

Content is king

The report says that “simply put, content is everything – buyers are looking for it and you cannot engage without it”. And, the data supports this.

All companies experiencing high growth were active on the major content-based platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, compared to their low growth peers.

Similarly, high growth firms were hugely active on blogs, reinforcing the idea that success in today’s media hungry world requires good, relevant and engaging content. 

But therein lies a problem.

Traditionally, B2B companies only needed content about themselves. Engaging, original content was not necessary and because of this it can be hard for some companies to make the change.

Another problem is that committing to creating constant content takes time, and a lot of it. It’s not an area that can just be dabbled in whenever it suits, content creation requires proper resources and dedication.

The report highlights that the challenge going forward will be creating engaging content that is relevant for both employees and businesses, and Lead Creation suggests a serious marketing plan be put in place, as well as making it a part of employees KPIs.

The missing link

According to the report, LinkedIn personal profiles are essential to a company’s online influence, but it seems LinkedIn is the most poorly used platform overall. 

In fact, at least 30 companies were scored as having virtually no influence at all in this area. And, of the top 30 companies that were studied only one was not dragged down by personal LinkedIn profiles of employees.

Lead Creation believes that every manager and professional has the potential to positively impact on a business, as marketing today is as much about the individual as it is about the company. 

There is much truth in the sales concept that B2B is not selling to a company. You are selling to the people at the company. Similarly, it has always been true that people buy from people they like. 

With ‘social’ networks getting larger and more powerful, it is inevitable that the company itself will become less important as buyers connect directly with your staff.

New age marketing is about the individual as much as it is about the company itself, and too many companies are wasting this opportunity.

The key to succeeding in this area is making profiles professional. The report even makes the comparison that having hundreds of professionally presented and consistent profiles is like having hundreds of mini websites, ensuring you outshine competitors. 

In their industry, a company with a hundred good profiles would appear like Goliath, while their competitors would be barely visible to those searching. 

So is social media relevant for B2B marketing?

The report resoundingly says yes. 

While there are reasons why B2B’s have been shying away from online media in the past, Lead Creation stresses that this cannot be company policy any longer. 

To help B2B’s get ahead, the report suggests the following five steps.

1. Create a simple social media policy

2. Implement a process that assists your staff to complete LinkedIn and other profiles that look professional

3. Focus on developing content and creating a CMS

4. Focus on the platforms that have the biggest impact on your online presence. Get LinkedIn up and running before focusing on Facebook and Google+

5. If you can, develop a Blog or YouTube channel 

[Image credit: birgerking]