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Michael Brenner is senior director of global marketing for SAP. He is also author of the B2B Marketing Insider blog and cofounder of social news site Business 2 Community. Michael is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 101 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Social media, lies, damn lies and statistics

03.06.2013
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I saw a recent example of the popular saying “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics” in a BtoB Magazine front page headline “Social Media Does Not Influence B2B Buyers“.

The article covers research conducted by IDC of 199 B2B Technology Buyers and states that although 84% of B2B Tech buyers use social media, only 18.6% claim that it influenced their technology buying decision.

Eric Wittlake (@wittlake) was quick to hit one of the main issues in his post earlier this week: social is not about selling.

I also found the title of the article to be a bit provocative. And misleading. And potentially dangerous. So briefly, here’s my view. Please share yours with us in the comments below…

Issue #1: The survey asked tech buyers to rate the relative value of information sources on their purchasing decision.

Do you know anyone who would claim that they made a ten or hundred thousand dollar decision based on social media? The wording of the question gets to what is important late in the buying process. Ultimately it is the pen that makes the mark on the contract. Work your way backwards to the beginning and you will likely move through a contract presented by a sales person, a visit to a website or call from a sales rep, a tradeshow, a website and/or a social media interaction.

Issue #2: what they should have asked is what sources influence the buying process. 84% using social media sounds like a pretty big number. We know from other studies that only email and search have higher influence on the buying process than social.

Issue #3: This information can be deadly in the wrong hands. I can see all the old-school marketers using this article as their “proof” that social is a waste of time. Social has the same ROI as a website, my mobile smartphone and the laptop I used to write this post. These are all just tools to communicate with our buyers. They are the tools our buyers are using.  And we need to learn how to use them effectively.

My advice:

  • Define the information needs of your buyers and the audience that influences them.
  • Remember that you cannot separate the audience from the topics they are interested in.
  • Find out what channels they use.
  • Determine what types of information they are looking for during each buying stage, in which channels and in what quantities.
  • Develop and deliver that content in a form that meets their needs throughout the buying process.
  • Incite action with content by suggesting your audience take the next step in their buying journey with you

If you do this, you will end up with an integrated marketing plan that allows you to engage with your buyers sooner, to build deeper relationships that lead to more low-cost happy customers.

Republished with permission

Published at DZone with permission of Michael Brenner, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)