What’s Wrong With Social Media For B2B Marketing

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing is too often the ugly stepchild in the marketing family, especially when compared to the golden child that is business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. B2C marketing gets all the glory, so much so that when people talk about marketing without a modifier, it’s usually assumed they mean consumer marketing, never business marketing.

This is despite that fact that B2B marketing makes up a significant portion of overall marketing activity. Roughly one-third of all commercial searches on Google are B2B in nature, more than 50 percent of Google’s target advertisers are B2B, and almost 38 percent of Yahoo’s target advertisers are B2B.

Nowhere is the discrimination against B2B marketing more apparent than in the social media space. Not one blog on The Viral Garden’s Top 25 Marketing Blogs is focused on B2B marketing, and only two blogs on Todd And’s Power 150 list of top marketing blogs focus on B2B: Brian Carroll’s B2B Lead Generation Blog is #46 and Douglass Karr’s The Marketing Technology Blog is at #54. There are a few other blogs that focus on tech PR, but that’s it.

In total, there are 38,486 blogs about “marketing” listed on Technorati but only 329 blogs about “b2b marketing.” In reality, many of those are not really focused on business marketing. In fact, I keep a Big List of B2B Marketing Blogs and it has only 89 blogs. Sure, I may be missing a few (let me know via the comments on my blog) but nonetheless the discrepancy is dramatic. B2C marketing gets all the glory and coverage, while B2B marketing is left wondering where all the links went.

How Social Media Fails B2B Marketing

I believe one of the key reasons for this is that social media has an inherent bias against the realities of B2B marketing.

There’s no topic that bloggers like to write about and link to more than blogging itself. On my blog, Modern B2B Marketing, anytime I write about blogging I’m sure to get more comments and links than if I write about marketing accountability or lead generation best practices. Because links are what people (and search engines) use to rank blogs, this creates the perverse incentive to write about social media more than other marketing topics.

More broadly, since social media rewards popularity, not quality or accuracy, there is an inherent push to write about trendy topics that will get links, not the time-proven tactics that B2B marketers use on a day to day basis.

I’m not saying that social media doesn’t play a role in B2B marketing, since it clearly has a big role to play in driving traffic, building thought leadership, and facilitating word of mouth referrals. My fellow Strictly Business columnist Robert Murray wrote just last week about the value of B2B social networking, citing its importance in traffic generation, brand awareness, and direct selling.

But to B2B marketers, social media is just one tactic in a portfolio of techniques that best practice companies use to generate awareness, drive leads, and nurture relationships. Robert reports that only 26% of B2B marketers have used social networking as a marketing channel, which proves it is certainly not yet mainstream. The reality of B2B marketing today is that more prosaic methods such as PPC advertising, lead nurturing, customer case studies, and good old-fashioned PR still matter more than social media techniques.

The result is that there are fewer pundits and though leaders writing about B2B marketing, resulting in fewer links to those early adopters who do write about business marketing techniques. And since links mean leadership on the web, the result is that the less-trendy subjects in B2B marketing—like marketing accountability and lead management—get left behind.

There’s something wrong about this, don’t you think? Please leave a comment.

Jon Miller is VP of Marketing for Marketo, a provider of marketing automation software that helps B2B marketing professionals drive revenue and improve accountability. Jon’s blog, Modern B2B Marketing, explores best practices in business marketing, ranging from pay-per-click management to lead nurturing to marketing accountability. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: Search Marketing


About The Author: is VP of Marketing for Marketo, a provider of affordable, easy-to use-marketing automation software that helps B2B marketing professionals drive revenue and improve accountability. Jon's blog, Modern B2B Marketing, explores best practices in business marketing, ranging from pay-per-click management to lead nurturing to marketing accountability. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

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  • http://www.onthetiles.blogspot.com Johnny T

    Thank you so much for this article, Jon – well done. I’ve been working in B2B search marketing for several years and I completely agree with you. I also feel “left out” sometimes by SEM/SEO best practice that ignores commercial/ecommerce B2B websites – how to earn a link from the USPS if you sell USPS approved mailboxes? Answer: you can’t. They don’t allow it. How do you update meta information for a 33K+ page website? More focused SEM leadership for online B2B retailers would be wonderful. Thanks again.

  • http://www.copydiva.com copydiva

    you’re absolutely right, jon. though i am not a frequent blogger, i do get more comments when i talk about all things web 2.0, less when i write about the down and dirty of B2B copywriting and marketing.

  • http://www.lonelymarketer.com Patrick Schaber

    I write quite a bit about BtoB, but end up touching on BtoC topics because the lines are getting blurred. More BtoB marketers are utilizing BtoC methods to reach their customer base. I think labeling a blog as purely BtoB or BtoC is getting tougher.

  • http://www.gowholesale.com kari

    Well said, Jon. It seems that no matter how hard we try, it’s hard for us B2B marketers get a foot in the door on social media. My efforts have produced incremental results, but as you said, it’s all about popularity; I find myself tagging my social bookmarking site submissions with somewhat-relevant-less-than-B2B tags to get some exposure.

    So, I’m curious to know who’s going to lead the pack to make B2B social marketing more mainstream – will B2B get their own little corner in world of social media? The opportunity is certainly there…

  • http://blog.marketo.com/ Jon Miller

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Patrick — as you know I’m a huge fan of your blog, and yes, I agree B2B and B2C tactics are blurring. But imagine trying to blog about copper-to-fiber media converters. How many links do you think you’ll get?

  • http://digitalblueglobal.wordpress.com/ bp

    Thanks for the article and for the Big List. I write about B2B marketing as it relates to corporate events and conferences, where I think there is a massive opportunity for reluctant marketers to get their feet wet. Live blogging from an event or networking online before and after a program provide real value to customers/attendees that either want to better focus their time or dig deeper into to content. Perhaps this will provide some traction on the B2B side?

  • http://www.digitalstreetjournal.com Jonathan Trenn


    I guess I’d have to take issue with the headline “What’s Wrong…”

    At this point, social media marketing may be more appropriate for B2C marketers than B2B, but that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with social media. Nor does it mean that B2B marketers have fully utilized the potential of social media.

    B2B is often more ‘give me the bottom line’, leaving out much of the emotion that many B2C marketers tap into. But regarding copper-to-fiber media converters…how about blogging about toilet paper?

    In blogging, you don’t blog about the specific product so much as you blog about the industry. In other words, you don’t blog about pots and pans, you blog about cooking.

  • http://robertrosenthal.typepad.com/blog Robert Rosenthal

    Fascinating subject, Jon. Thanks for the entry. I wonder how much of this wound is self inflicted. This practitioner believes there are too many plumbers and not enough architects in B-to-B.

    There’s certainly more sizzle in B-to-C, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s an entry from Freaking Marketing on this point called “Why Most Business-to-Business Marketing Campaigns are Uninspired or Just Plain Awful.”

  • http://www.hunterhost.com Ross Hunter

    I agree with Jonathan Trenn a couple up, you write about the general industry, not your specific product – that’s the quickest way to get boring. People know you have a product, but they want to know what you think about things in your industry, this is what builds respect.

    The promotion sites like Digg, I agree it’s appalling what those people waste their time on reading as news.

    Links are based on popularity it’s true, but everything’s relative. In business there are plenty of serious people looking for hard information, and as they find you this is still going to push your niche keywords up because the Digg players aren’t in your niche, unless your product is called Paris or Hilton of course.

  • http://www.theviralgarden.com Mack Collier

    Thanks for mentioning The Viral Garden’s Top 25 Marketing Blogs. Here’s the link to the latest version:

  • http://blog.futurelab.net Stefan/Futurelab

    I’d have to agree with several comments made earlier – the lines are blurring. We try to avoid the whole B2C/B2B distinction as much as possible. Can we talk about B2P (P for Person), at the risk of throwing in Yet Another Annoying Acronym.
    Many of the buying decisions in business are driven by the same basic human emotions, or even by actual end-users influencing these decisions. So our blog is not a B2C blog, but a Marketing Innovation blog – whether it be about selling to companies or to individuals.

  • MarkPeterson

    Hi Jon:

    I enjoyed this post and have worked with many companies that have struggled with how to best utilize social media in B2B markets.

    I am contacting you on behalf of Insight24 and share more about their service that is successfully utilizing social media and Web 2.0 functionality for B2B marketers http://www.insight24.com .

    Insight24 is a B2B rich media network that is “free to post, free to use” site that is giving people a place to understand what technology leader’s offer today and the direction that they are heading. It is fostering community participation with features such as the ability to rank and comment on content and the ability to subscribe to keyword and category-specific RSS feeds.

    I thought that people might be interested in the service for their own use. There is also an upcoming webinar on the topic http://showcase.insight24.com/?techtrends


    Mark Peterson

  • http://webmarketcentral.blogspot.com Tom Pick

    Interesting post Jon, but I’ve seen some very different statistics on the use of social media by B2B marketers.

    First, according to a recent white paper from LeadGenTools, more than 60% of B2B marketers are using social media in some form (with blogs being the most popular) and more than 40% are using social networking sites specifically.

    Second, according to another white paper, this one from ITtoolbox, social media is the second-most used source of information for B2B buyers in making purchase decisions, and the most trusted source of information.

    So, I’m not sure it’s fair to say the social media is “failing” B2B marketers. In my own experience managing several B2B technology client websites, I’ve seen a modest bump in traffic once social media tools are employed. Social networking sites typically contribute 1-5% of direct traffic to sites (I know of one lightly-trafficked site that got 25% of its visits for the entire month of July on one day from a single tag on StumbleUpon, but that’s clearly an exception), but also help indirectly through increased brand exposure and by helping SEO results.

    Finally, I hope you’ll consider adding the WebMarketCentral blog to your Big List of B2B Marketing Blogs; I occasionally write about B2C topics, but since my professional focus is strictly B2B, that’s what drives most of the content.


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