Social media has had a huge influence on the way we live and work. For marketers, social media has allowed brands to start conversations practically in real time. It allows any business to engage with its audience in ways that were simply not possible 10 years ago. The ripple effect is felt across both B2C and B2B marketing.
The social landscape is continuously evolving, and different platforms offer different—and changing—opportunities. But regardless of which platforms brands choose to use in their campaigns, social media will be one of the most affordable and effective methods at their disposal.
Whatever the size of your business, you can tap into its potential and achieve impressive results—and social media’s influence on B2B purchases should not be underestimated.
Who’s on social media in 2016?
Social networks attract users of all ages, from all demographics across the globe.
The number of young adults on social media has increased massively over the last decade. In 2005, around 12 per cent of this age group used social channels. Today, the figure is 90 per cent. When we talk about ‘young adults’, we’re essentially talking about tomorrow’s IT leaders. While some of these individuals are graduates, many are already making important brand decisions.
The figures are significant for older internet users too. In the US, around two-thirds of the adult population uses one or more social networking sites, compared to 5 per cent 10 years ago.
This cross-generational change has sent shock-waves through practically every sector. We all get our breaking news from Twitter, share memories on Instagram, and keep in touch with family through Facebook. In order to communicate with customers and service users, businesses have had to modernize their approach and get involved in this socially connected world.
Why businesses must take note of social media
Facebook is arguably the world’s best-known social network, with more than 1.4 billion active monthly users. 70 per cent of marketers use Facebook to generate more customers, and success is particularly pronounced in B2C marketing campaigns.
Let’s not forget LinkedIn, which is responsible for more than 80 per cent of social media leads in business. Twitter is used by just over one-third of marketers, while Pinterest and Instagram have 20 million and 150 million active monthly users respectively, and offer great potential in the creative sectors, from home wares to fashion and beyond.
So, what do businesses actually stand to gain?
Increased brand awareness
Social media is important in keeping a brand top-of-mind for a consumer. 37 per cent of internet users follow their favorite brands on social media, while 30 per cent use social networks when researching a purchase.
Better consumer targeting
Social media opens up two-way conversations, and gives you insight into the things your customers care about.
Enhanced customer service
Your customers are increasingly savvy, and they expect a great experience when they shop with you. Social media lets them get in touch directly, and that provides opportunities to offer rapid responses to support enquiries.
Need to judge the reaction to a new campaign idea? Want to roll out a trial product and gauge the response? With social media, you have a direct connection to your audience.
Social media is a cornerstone of any inbound marketing campaign. Having a presence on key social channels lets you publish content, get your brand noticed, and create more leads.
There’s no magic formula for increasing sales through social media, but if you improve awareness, targeting and customer service, increased sales will follow.
Social media is a fantastic tool for B2B marketing; 54 per cent of B2B marketers are already using it to generate new leads. As we head towards 2017, it’s estimated that US marketers will spend more than $100 billion on social media advertising.
Ignore the trends at your peril
We’ve reached a stage where the impact of social media can’t be denied. Since the mid-2000s, it has been a growing influence in the way we all live, work and shop. For businesses, it’s critical to have an active presence on social media, and to take interactions with customers seriously in order to drive profits and sales.
Looking specifically at buyers in the IT sector, we know that 86 per cent use social media when making a purchase decision. These buyers tend to be the young adults that are also using social media for fun.
We also know where these influential decision-makers tend to hang out:
- 83 per cent research on LinkedIn
- 80 per cent check out Twitter
- 80 per cent look at Facebook business Pages
- 61 per cent review YouTube videos
- 39 per cent use Google+
Social media is critical, not just because of the research angle, but because so many of these buyers will not contact a supplier until they’re more than half way to a decision.
Social media can’t do your marketing for you, but it’s one of the key ways to reach the end of the marketing funnel. As such, marketers ignore it at their peril, and the consequences of neglecting social media could have a tangible impact on a business’ bottom line.