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B2B Tech Marketing and Social Media: Which Social Media Channels Reach Tech Buyers?

January 2011

Introduction.............................................................................................................. 3 Where Weve Come From...................................................................................... 4 First Things First: Are Tech Buyers Using Social Media?....................................... 5 Social Media Use by Tech Purchasers In Different Regions.................................. 6 Blogs: Everyones Social Media Fundamental........................................................ 7 LinkedIn: The Secret Lead Generation Tool............................................................ 8 Twitter: A Tech Awareness Engine......................................................................... 9 Facebook: Still More of a Personal Channel........................................................... 10 YouTube: One Part of a Video Strategy................................................................... 11 What Now?............................................................................................................. 12 About the Author...................................................................................................... 13


The headlines:
Many B2B technology marketers are still not using social media strategically. Theyre either doing just enough to be able to tell their CEO theyre doing it, or not using it at all because they think their target audience isnt using it.

Many of these same marketers group together all the different forms of social media as one big stew and dont do enough research into the differences between the various channels.

The fact is, a good portion of B2B technology target customers are using some mix of the different forms of social media. However, they use each type of social media in different ways, and so technology marketers need to take a unique approach for each different form of social media.

Where Weve Come From:

When I first started in B2B public relations in 1997, the number of ways to reach my clients target audiences seemed limitless. There were technology horizontal publications, vertical outlets, broadcast media and wire services. Many physical events published the infamous show dailies, providing what we thought at the time to be unique ways to reach niche audiences. Right about at this time is also when most print publications began launching an online presence. Getting a placement in a print publication was a homerun, and the fact that it also may appear in the online version of the publication was sort of considered gravy. Its an understatement to say that things have dramatically changed since then. While print publications and broadcast media outlets are still very important channels, the focus has clearly shifted towards finding ways to influence target audiences online and, more recently, through social media channels. For many tech marketers though, there is a tendency to group all the social media channels together. Lets get on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, you might hear a company executive say, as if theyre all just different flavors of the same thing. What many neglect to do is look into whether their target audience is using these channels and how theyre using them differently. Some would say it was easier in the 90s when you could just find a vertical publication like Government Computer News, and pretty confidently assume that by advertising or getting coverage within the publication, that youd logically reach government technology professionals. Assessment of audiences in todays social media channels is a little more nuanced. Last year, I attended a Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council social media cluster event. At the event, I asked the panelists how they determined whether a social media channel was appropriate for their target audiences. The answer was pretty arbitrary: trial and error. Almost a year later, and were still seeing a lot of B2B tech marketers taking the trial-and-error approach. With this in mind, I set out to collect some data that could help prevent marketers from going down this path blindly. In this eBook, well layout the facts about social media use in the B2B technology space, and hopefully help marketers see that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to communicating through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

First Things First: Are Tech Buyers using Social Media?

Ive been asked by some tech marketers: Do we really need to be marketing through social media, or is that something only consumer companies should do? Another version of this question is: I know my teenage daughter uses Facebook, but does our target audience really use social media? The simple answer is yes. That said, technology purchasers and other business executives dont use all forms of social media equally. In a recent study from IDG Research, we see that technology buyers worldwide are definitely using the different forms of social media, but are using them at varying degrees.

Frequency of Social Media Use by Tech Buyers

Source: IDG Research Audience Engagement Study (Base: 3,658 technology buyers worldwide) The interesting thing about this chart is that it shows tech purchasers are more likely to be using Facebook and YouTube than Twitter and LinkedIn. This does not mean however that those are necessarily the best channels for technology marketers to use. Its not a stretch to think that a good portion of their Facebook use is for more personal, rather than business, reasons. What we hope to explore in this eBook is some of the different ways tech marketers can start to use each of these channels in the right way.

Key Takeaway: Tech purchasers are indeed using social media and so to ignore it as a channel would be a missed opportunity. The study went on to show that a full 23% of technology purchasers are not only using social media, but consider themselves active contributors of content to social media. Going after this active quarter of tech purchasers is reason enough to develop a good social media strategy.

Social Media use by Tech Purchasers in different regions

The aforementioned IDG study provided some deeper insight into how social media use varies by geographic region. This is important to us at Schwartz because we work with a lot of companies that are either international (like us), or are trying to tell their stories around the world. The clear message in this data is that social media usage is not a US-centric activity. Tech purchasers outside of the US are as likely, if not more likely, to be using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. In fact, a few numbers draw striking contrasts with North America, such as daily Twitter use in Latin America. Nearly 60% of technology buyers say they use Twitter daily, compared to just 10% in the US. Its difficult to see how a tech company doing business in Latin America could afford to ignore this platform.

Source: IDG Research Audience Engagement Study Base: 1723 (North America), 1566 (Europe), 206 (APAC), and 96 (Latin/South America) qualified respondents

Key Takeaway: If youre responsible for international marketing, dont confine your social media strategy to just a US audience. If your social media handles, fan pages and videos arent relevant for all the regions youre targeting, consider creating regional programs.

Blogs: Everyones Social Media Fundamental

There are many different definitions of what is considered social media and tech marketers sometimes arent aware that a company blog is technically a form of social media. Before you even discuss what your company is doing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, you should look at how can you establish a stream of consistent blog content on your site. All of the other social media channels need a backbone of content behind them, and a blog is just one type of backbone you can create. The more you blog about the right topics, the more your site will be a magnet for people searching for that topic, and the more likely youll generate new business out of blog readers. This graphic from HubSpot sums it up more blog content = more customers acquired through blogs.

HubSpot: The state of inbound marketing 2010 (February 2010)

Key Takeaways: Make your blog presence your number one social media priority, and blog frequently. Create blog content that is educational not self-promotional. Nobody wants to read about how great you are, especially technology purchasers. Create content that helps them understand your space. No company is too small to blog. At a recent content marketing event at Schwartz, Ann Handley of MarketingProfs.com pointed to an owner of a small pool business in Virginia who has attracted a lot of attention and business from his blog. If you cant blog yourself, outsource it Schwartz helps many clients with blog creation and writing.

Linkedin: The Secret Lead generation Tool

Most tech marketers now understand that social media can be more than just a visibility engineit can and should be a direct driver of leads. What some may not realize is that LinkedIn is the channel that has delivered some of the best results. The graphic below shows that 45% of B2B marketers have acquired a customer directly from LinkedIn a higher percentage than any other channel. This doesnt mean that you should pour all of your social media resources into LinkedIn. Some of the tactics you can use on LinkedIn can be done with a small investment in time and resources. Also, because LinkedIn is still set up mainly as a community of individuals, and is only more recently developing ways for marketers to establish a presence for their business, a lot of the things marketers can do need to be done on the individual level.

HubSpot: The state of inbound marketing 2010 (February 2010)

Key Takeaways: Make sure your company is listed in the LinkedIn Companies Directory and has the right description, links and keywords. Include your companys blog RSS feed and Twitter account so theyll show up on your LinkedIn company page. Make sure your key company leaders are on LinkedIn and have joined all of the relevant groups where they can network with potential customers in your industry. When possible, start your own LinkedIn Group to help drive the perception of your company as a thought leader.

Twitter: A Tech Awareness Engine

As we saw in the previous graphic from HubSpot, 38% of B2B companies surveyed have acquired a customer through Twitter. This could be reason enough for a tech marketer to want to establish a presence on Twitter if they havent already, but there are other good reasons. Twitter has become a forum for discussions around technology topics. According to Pew Research, 43% of the tweets in a given time frame are related to technology. Compare this to the 1% of YouTube videos, 1% of stories in traditional media and 8% of blogs that are related to technology, and its clear that Twitter is a hotbed for technology content. While a lot of this content involves consumer technology discussions, such as about Facebook or the iPad, the fact is that its an appropriate place for tech marketers to participate. If theres any doubt, you can check out the growing use of Twitter by CIOs.

Pew Research Centers Project for Excellence in Journalism (May 2010)

Key Takeaways: Tech marketers need to start a Twitter handle for their company to establish a voice in this space. You should follow leaders, journalists, customers and others tweeting on the topic, and tweet multiple times a day minimum, about items of interest in the industry. Like with blogging, try not to be overly self-promotional. You need to be patient because establishing a presence on Twitter requires a lot of effort, and not always a direct payoff. A recent Pew Research study showed that 21% of Twitter users dont ever check tweets, and even those who do wont necessarily see yours in a sea of tweets.

Facebook: Still More of a Personal Channel

In 2010, the most visited site on the Internet was no longer Google, it was Facebook. From a horizontal perspective, no social media channel reaches a broader audience than Facebook. The key word here is broad, however. Even though weve seen from previous charts that tech buyers are indeed on Facebok (29% visit daily), and B2B companies are driving customer acquisition through Facebook, there is still a huge personal, rather than business, element to why people go on Facebook. That said, every B2B tech company should have a presence on Facebook, it just shouldnt be the focus of their social media effortsyet. Most technology companies on Facebook are trying to drive increased followers by making interesting content available only to those who Like them. Microsoft is currently using this tactic on their Facebook page.

Key Takeaways: Every B2B technology company should have a Facebook presence, but they shouldnt make Facebook their number one Social Media priority. Share links to your blog posts, pictures of events, links to major announcements, but always try to strike the balance between sharing good news and not going too far in the direction of self-promotion. Take compelling content (video, eBooks etc.) and make it accessible only to those who Like your company on Facebook, in the same way that you might put it behind a registration wall on your site.


youTube: One Part of a video Strategy

One of my early PR mentors once told me that the higher you go within a company, the more pictures, graphics and videos you should put in a presentation to that audience. Although he was half-kidding, it is true that high-level executives appreciate video as a condensed, appealing way to consume content. A December 2010 Forbes Insight report revealed that 75% of senior executives view work-related videos on business websites at least once a week while 52% watch work-related videos on YouTube once a week. What this means is that all tech companies should develop a video content strategy, but they shouldnt focus on YouTube as the only channel for that content. Ideally, a good piece of video content would be deployed on their YouTube channel, on their site, syndicated on other business sites and, most importantly, be tracked and measured.

Key Takeaways: When thinking about your video strategy, dont only ask yourself what can we do on YouTube? Think about the types of video content pieces that would be most valuable to tech purchasers, and then deploy that content in multiple places. Our Digital team at Schwartz advises our clients on types of video content they should create themselves versus when to seek outside help to produce. This of course depends on your resources, but for quick impromptu pieces to share through social media, get yourself a flip cam and get busy. For anything that needs to appear prominently on your site or at events, get some help.


What Now?
If the data and insights in this eBook made you think you need to take your social media strategy to the next level, or even to square one, your next question may be: How do I do that? While the answer varies greatly based on situation, there are some simple things that every company should do. One important to-do is to understand more about your current mindshare in social media. Schwartz uses Radian6 to measure social media mindshare and many other metrics. Even if your company has not created a social media presence, people may be discussing your products/services in social media forums. If the quantity of discussions is low compared to that of your competitors, you can use the data as a way to lobby for more resources to put toward social media.

Even without this type of analysis, every tech B2B company should have reason enough to create some presence in all of the channels weve mentioned. We do caution companies to go into it knowing that just creating a Twitter handle and Facebook page doesnt mean youll magically get tons of followers. The real key to followers in any channel is content and coverage. You need to have content to tweet about, or youre just left with self-promotional product tweets or random observations. As we mentioned, having a good blog is one essential form of content, but you also need to have video content, eBooks, whitepapers, infographics, podcasts and other forms of content that will serve as the backbone for your social media efforts. It also helps to have coveragementions of your company in third party media or blogs. A company without coverage would likely tweet about a new product of theirs and point people to the description of the product on the websiteblatant self promotion. A company with coverage can tweet about a great article in ZDNet that talks about their product and how it helps business - still somewhat self-promotional, but with third-party validation. The Final Takeaway If youre a tech marketer, you should know that your target audience IS using social media. In order to create social media programs that really have impact, you need to have a backbone of great blog, video and written content that is informational and not overly self-promotional. With this content in hand, you can create a unique strategy for each social media channel, and with the right tools, measure a real impact on your business.


About the Author

Since 1997, Ross Levanto has participated in the PR and communications programs for some of the most innovative technologies across the IT security, data center, web services, open source and application development markets. He has managed efforts that led to more than two dozen acquisitions, with his clients both the acquirer and the acquired. Levanto was on the Schwartz PR team that drove the IPO process for webMethods in one of the most successful offerings ever. He has seen the evolution of B2B integration and web services with webMethods and IONA, led SpringSources PR as it rose to become a driving force for Java, and publicly launched the open source Mono project while crafting messaging for open source desktop vendor Ximian during the Microsoft anti-trust case. One of the key vice presidents within the Schwartz IT security practice, Levanto has led programs within email management for CipherTrust through its acquisition by Secure Computing and for iLumin until it was acquired by Computer Associates, in the web application testing space for Watchfire up to and beyond its acquisition by IBM, and for identity and access management leader Netegrity through its acquisition by Computer Associates. Levanto is among the leaders at the Agency who is defining emerging PR services that are aligning PR and communications to marketing in innovative ways. He is a thought leader for innovative content marketing, web lead generation and web lead nurturing programs. Prior to Schwartz, Levanto worked as the first webmaster at WHDH Channel 7, the NBC affiliate in Boston. He graduated with a bachelors degree in communications, summa cum laude, from Boston University. In the fall of 1996, he worked in Vice President Al Gores communications office in Washington, where among other duties he performed background research for the Clinton administrations export encryption policies. Levanto is also an active volunteer in the local technology scene. He has served as vice president, press and public affairs for the New England Business and Technology Association, which later merged with the Massachusetts Software Council. He is the originator of the Associations annual awards ceremony, which is still in existence.

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