Social media play a pivotal role in B2B, even more so than in B2C. This is the key conclusion from the GlobalWebIndex Research involving interviews with 17,425 decision makers in 27 markets from July 2009 to June 2011 (this, by the way, makes one wonder why the results seem to have only been published this Fall).

Four clear trends were identified:

#1. B2B decision makers are the most socially engaged in the world: B2B decision makers are the most socially active consumers for all markets and demographics.

#2. B2B decision-makers stand out most in developed markets. In developing markets such as China they are still more active than the norm but the gap is significantly smaller.

#3. Social media communications has the most influential channel for business purchases globally, out ranking even face-to-face meetings, conferences, client entertaining or traditional trade advertising in most markets.

#4. B2B decision-makers are increasing their usage of social media: Despite an already high level of usage between July 2009 and July 2011, for example, social network usage increased from 41% to 60%, while micro-blogging grew from 21% to 39%.

These insights show social business opportunities are to be taken seriously in B2B. As the trust and people factors in B2B are even greater here, these findings should confirm what most of you already were expecting. However, a bit more background on the (set-up of this) survey would make these findings even more compelling. And could take away doubts people still have on social business in B2B – as phrased in the questions below.

> Couldn’t the results demonstrate that B2B senior people spend a greater proportion online each 24 hours than the ‘average person online’?

> Is the usage of social networks by B2B decision makers (as assessed in this survey) always related to making a business decision?

> Or could their social media time be explained as a way to pleasantly pass the time – waiting for their airplane or train – uploading pics to Flickr or reading their cousin’s funny tweets or posts on Facebook?

Your thoughts/ suggestions are – as always – highly appreciated.

4 replies
  1. Brett
    Brett says:

    Hi Paul,

    First of all, thanks for the great post! I’d like to take this opportunity to address the questions you pose in your post, which will hopefully remove any question marks that your readers might have.

    Firstly, most of the results published in the B2B Social Media report are from June 2011, but we have been continually running with 5 fieldwork periods since July 2009.

    As to your first question, the data that is publicly available via the cut-down report on slideshare does not confirm one way or the other whether B2B decision makers spend more time online during a typical day. I can confirm, however, that they do, by quite a substantial margin, because that is one of the 160 questions we ask our respondents in each wave of research.

    Secondly, I am certain that we cannot conclude that B2B decision makers are using social media for business purposes only, and I would be very surprised if that were ever the case. However, we do ask why B2B decision makers use social networks, microblogs, etc. All of this info is available in the full-report, but I think it would go a long way towards answering your questions. As you might expect, B2B decision makers have a range of reasons for using social media, but they do differ from the average internet user and even among senior and non-senior B2B business leaders.

    Nonetheless, even if they do use it primarily for non-business purposes, there is some form of communications planning that could take this into account and target them in the information seeking stage of the purchase journey rather than buy points.

    Hope that helps clarify things for your readers and we welcome any feedback as well!

  2. Marjolein van Nieuwkasteele
    Marjolein van Nieuwkasteele says:

    Dear Brett and Paul,

    Great survey and good discussion! When I read the survey headlines the outcomes seemed logical to me, but now I see things differently. On Paul’s request I looked deeper into the survey and have some thoughts for you from a researcher’s perspective.
    Recently I happened to interview (in depth, phone, after invitation from the client) 15 global senior decision makers, including a few CEO’s. They all were clients of my commissioner, an international engineering company. Yes, 15 is a small sample, not comparable to yours, but still…. A few things struck me and are relevant for the interpretation of this survey:
    – These seniors have an extremely packed diary and run from the one to the next face to face meeting
    – Some seniors were completely protected by their secretaries and not accessible by mail
    – These seniors potentially have a big buying power and rely very much on their previous experiences and own employees for making decisions. Besides buying they certainly have many other roles in their senior functions.

    Knowing this many questions arise. Probably the answers are sitting in the survey results somewhere, but we cannot see them:
    1.It will be hard to motivate the seniors to fill in an on line survey of 160 questions. Who has been filling in your survey? I suppose the majority is not and is deviating from the minority. My hypothesis: these are the ones that already are on line a lot and the others are not. Thus it is dangerous to conclude that seniors in general are the most engaged social media in the world
    2.I would expect that seniors use more media, traditional and new, for informing themselves than others do. And that they always have been. I therefore suppose that internet has caused a shift from traditional to online, keeping the width of media more or less the same. A pity you have not been surveying the wider picture
    3.Sometimes social activities are not that social. “Staying up to date” and “research for work” can be very well done by reading an online annual report via a non social medium
    4.Slide 5 gives me the impression that seniors write their own blog, but otherwise lag behind on many on line activities. Yet, they are catching up quickly. Or do I misunderstand?
    5.You are saying that Facebook works for B2B. Yes, it is being used often by seniors, but what for? Do you know whether it is being used for private or for business purposes?
    6.Slides 9 and 10 conclusions I do not understand. “Sales presentations” have similar scores as “social network conversations” do. The prompted list looks incomplete to me, as some crucial traditional communication means are missing like previous experience and off line conversations/ meetings/ phone calls, mails within the company. By the way, social networks can be interpreted very well as off line by respondents. Think of a regional network, like Rotary.
    7.Decisions makers will probably buy products, but often they will have many other tasks, like managing their employees and developing new strategies. I am wondering what sources they will use to obtain information about these jobs. Any idea?



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