Top 5 B2B Concerns As Social Media Advertising Scales

The Marketing Id came across a very fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal recently, “Big Brands Like Facebook, But They Don’t Like to Pay,” pertaining largely to the consumer domain.  Nonetheless, there are a number of lessons to be learned from this article by the B2B world.

  1. Big Brands Like Facebook, But They Don’t Like to Pay.  The title of the WSJ article itself is a major but not altogether surprising revelation.  Facebook users, on both sides of the supply-demand business chain, are tight-fisted.  Internet consumers (the demand side) were born “freeloaders” and would like to stay that way as far as possible.  This mentality is especially true given the history of social media and particularly the lineage of the original Facebook community.  Now it appears that their business counterparts (the supply side) are realizing that free, if you can get away with it, is good for the bottom line.
  2. Is it any wonder that the WSJ article states that “While Ford shelled out an estimated $95 million to advertise the new Focus across a broad range of media, it spent just pennies on the dollar for Facebook ads.”  But this “penny-wise” behavior in the B2C world, can translate into a “pound-foolish” strategy in the B2B realm–simply because business customers are not typically penny-pinching consumers spending their own money.  Besides, as a general rule, the average B2B customer looks to purchase a solution that meets their needs first and their budget second–these priorities are usually flipped around in the case of the average consumer.

  3. Big brands still spend big money on big outbound media.  The WSJ article stated that most of Facebook’s ads “were for small advertisers, such as local businesses and small-scale websites, according to comScore Inc.”  Big brands, which included B2B giant (Intel), got more bang for their buck (or pennies, as the article seemed to imply) by developing and managing free Facebook pages that generated strong word-of-mouth campaigns.  In a weird irony, it appears like it’s the big consumer brands that continue to spend big money on big outbound media such as TV, radio and print.  Meanwhile, a typical B2B, especially in a high-tech, long sales cycle environment, can generate more online, interactive, word-of-mouth buzz using relatively inexpensive, inbound marketing and social media techniques.
  4. Brand building is OK but traditional advertising not so much.  At least, not in the consumer’s social space, is the general feeling of the big advertising gurus.  Consumers might resent the encroachment, despite the fact that it’s a free space that they “occupy” – to use a contemporary analogy.  Nonetheless, consumers share information, pictures and all kinds of personal details in this social environment, so traditional advertising might be viewed as an invasion of privacy – ironical as that might sound.  From a B2B viewpoint, the best approach is to focus on attracting followers to your Facebook page through the “character of your content,” entice them to “like” it and engage them in an ongoing dialog of substance and value.  Again, from the B2B perspective, The Marketing Id believes that use of social media for brand building should be a secondary priority and sales enablement must remain its primary goal.
  5. “Likeonomics,” an emotional B2C phenomenon, is harder to sustain in the B2B domain.  As the article states, Likeonomics is “a term coined by Rohit Bhargava, a senior vice president with WPP agency Ogilvy, for the practice of brands using social media to create an affinity with customers who share the sentiment with friends.”   The Marketing Id believes that Likeonomics could help build a certain amount of brand equity in the B2B realm as well, but it is unlikely to influence the purchase decision as significantly as it does on the consumer side of the equation.  As The Marketing Id stated in its last post, “Top 10 Social Media & Inbound Marketing Tips for the B2B Marketer,” “the quality of B2B social media followers is as important, if not more, than the quantity.”  In fact, even on the consumer side, the article notes that “Ford found that only buying ads encouraging people to ‘Like’ its autos didn’t necessarily lead to long-term relationships. ‘You can give them money, and they can give you Likes,’ said Mr. Kelly, ‘but the question is, what is the value of those Likes?’” (Per the WSJ article, Scott Kelly is Ford’s head of digital marketing.)
  6. The “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue want Facebook advertising to scale.  In consumer advertising, bigger is better and as the article states, “Facebook caps its revenues by limiting ad sizes.”  It will be interesting to see how Facebook’s legacy subscriber base that constitutes Madison Avenue’s dream Millennial demographic (18-29 year olds) reacts to the impending advertising clutter about to be visited on their favorite social network.  Fortunately, B2B marketers do not have to be worried about upsetting a specific demographic per se, but they have to be more concerned that scaling the advertising on social media networks will promote the brand at the cost of carefully cultivated long-term relationships with followers, prospects and likely customers.  From a B2B perspective that is tantamount to selling the sizzle and not the steak–which might be good for marketing but not for sales.

The overall takeaway from the WSJ article, as The Marketing Id understands it, is that as Madison Avenue seeks to put its imprimatur on advertising in social media, the B2B marketer must be careful that contemporary inbound demand generation is not supplanted by traditional outbound brand equity building.

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About Jack Nargundkar

High-tech marketing is always a constant compromise between logical left-brain analytics and creative right-brain activities. Jack has been living this struggle his entire working career, which he began as a software geek after graduating with a BSEE degree from Bombay University. To hone his marketing skills, Jack went on to pursue an MBA degree from Columbia Business School in New York City. Jack has since gained wide-ranging marketing experience from working at start-ups to Fortune 500 companies in the global IT, Defense & Space, and Telecommunications industries. In the past few years, Jack has focused on developing integrated marketing strategies and plans that incorporate a judicious mix of inbound and outbound marketing techniques. In addition to being a self-published author, Jack has been recognized for outstanding analytical and communications skills, authoring technical articles (self and ghosted) in numerous trade publications and editorial opinions in Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
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