What gives me the right, you may ask, to make predictions when it comes to B2B social media? As the CEO of purechannelapps, the provider of socialondemand®, the innovative social media amplification solution for B2B2B or B2B2C brands, I meet a lot of people every day who come to us with social media issues and sometimes even great ideas. These often include very large global brands with thousands of sales partners (dealers, retailers, distributors, etc.) and employees who have a vested interested in making social media work for them. So here I share with you my thoughts, findings and predictions for 2014, which I believe will be a phenomenal year for B2B social media.
Prediction 1: Social media will become more of a strategic B2B marketing tool.
Enterprises currently run mass email campaigns or engage their sales partners in co-marketing activities to generate new business. The success of these activities is typically very limited, as they are often costly, untargeted or resource intensive. Social media, if done properly and via influencers (see prediction 2) allows brands, whatever their size, to promote and engage with a wider audience, in the same space, for a fraction of the costs (lower than typical PPC).
Prediction: In 2014, B2B marketers will fully leverage the power of social media and include it in all their marketing activities (targeted at end-users, sales partners and influencers).
Prediction 2: Social media to turn ‘indirect’.
Social media has so far been used as a means to engage customers via the brand’s own Twitter handles, Facebook accounts, YouTube channels, etc. In the B2B space and in 2014, these ‘direct’ social media activities will be complemented by ‘indirect’ campaigns whereas the brand content will be distributed and amplified via the brands’ selling channels and other influencers. The key reason for this being the vast social networks these partners have built and have access to.
Prediction: In 2014, B2B marketers will fully leverage social media amplification/ syndication enterprise software that will let brands provide rich content to all their ‘feet on the street’.
Prediction 3: Less ‘story’ and more ‘promotions’ for B2B social media.
From a B2B perspective, social media is much less about an emotional ‘story’ than it is in B2C. B2B social media is more about adding value for the reader and delivering key information than creating an experience. Content should be about ‘what will make a difference’ to the followers/ friends/ contacts who are all potential buyers.
Prediction: In 2014, B2B marketers will begin to understand that B2B social media is very different from B2C. They will create content that will influence their prospective buyers.
Prediction 4: Less focus on ‘listening’ and more on ‘content enablement’ for B2B social media.
In B2B, followers actually know who they follow. Friends are actual business contacts. People know the real persons behind the social media profiles. If there are questions, those have already been addressed offline and off social media. If they are queries, customers and prospects will use ‘direct’ communication methods (email and telephone) to find answers. Social media, for B2B organisations, therefore should be used as a place where ideas and news are ‘pushed’ … a one-way communication platform… not a listening/ interaction platform.
Prediction: In 2014, B2B marketers will spend more time on creating new content and amplifying its reach, rather than investing in ‘listening’ tools/ strategies.
Prediction 5: Sales employees will become ‘social amplifiers’.
Many large B2B brands have already set internal social media policies, best practices and training programmes for key employees/ brand advocates. Sadly many of these same policies are limiting in terms of real social activity as the organisations are forgetting that their sales teams have huge social networks themselves (mainly LinkedIn) that could be used to amplify the brand messages to very large audiences, whilst guaranteeing content compliance.
Prediction: 2014 will be the year where sales staff are ‘socially enabled’ and have access to compliant corporate/ brand content for them to post.
Prediction 6: More PPC budget will be invested in social media.
PPC has been adopted heavily by B2B organisations. With the advancement of social media amplification and syndication platforms like socialondemand®, generating impressions and clicks via social media is proving far more attractive than PPC advertising on search engines. B2B Marketers will start to think about where they invest their budget.
Prediction: 2014 will be the year where social media budgets will grow for B2B brands and will have a direct impact on traditional PPC spend.
Prediction 7: Social Media Manager roles and responsibilities will change drastically.
As B2B businesses accept and embrace social media marketing as part of their wider marketing strategy, we will see a change in the responsibility of the Social Media Manager and their respective team/job roles. Social media marketing will include more activities, both direct and ‘indirect’, to include the training of and engagement with ‘social’ employees, indirect sales partners and other influencers. More emphasis will be placed on the measurement of social results/impact. Social Media Managers will become more accountable for their activities. Gone will be the days when their sole responsibility will be to grow the brands’ Twitter handles/ followers, etc. Thus, the knock on effect of additional investment in social media will be that of increased importance placed on the recruiting of social employees.
Prediction: In 2014, Social Media Managers will be responsible for the ‘whole social media landscape’.
Prediction 8: Micro-videos will become more important for B2B promotion/ influencing.
YouTube and Vimeo are the two ‘Video Blog’ giants. However there is a new kid on the block: a shorter, snappier, more immediate contender, run through a native app and quintessentially ‘social’. So with a general shift to niche networks and networks used for a specific purpose, alongside the explosion of the importance ‘micro-interactions’ in social activity, the one-size-fits-all video giants will start to see more mini- and micro-video platforms being embraced by businesses.
Prediction: In 2014, micro-videos will be more widely available and used across many new/ traditional social media platforms.
Prediction 9(a): Social media platforms will better segment ‘personal’ vs. ‘professional’ networks.
One of the things that social media platforms do well is provide users with a single place for sharing different types of content. However, many fail at ‘restricting’ users to either personal or professional profiles, rarely linking (effectively) between the two. As users become more savvy (and demanding), we will start to see a mutation of profiles, allowing users to manage/access/showcase personal and professional profiles all from one place, without the need for separate accounts or pages. We will start to see more social networks enabling business and some of the business networks enabling social.
Prediction: Social media platforms will enable better ‘personal’ vs. ‘business’ segmentation/ community sharing in 2014.
Prediction 9(b): Google+ will start to gather (more) momentum.
Who knows how Google+ works? Well, if not already, we believe now is the time to start looking at Google+ as it will become more and more prolific among social media platform users. What Google+ plus does effortlessly (where others fail) is to give the user the opportunity to add people they know to different ‘circles’, allowing for segmentation of contacts, friends, family, work colleagues, etc. (as per Prediction 9a). As people demand more from ‘social networking’ sites across all their contacts this separation of contacts will become more and more valuable to users.
Prediction: Social media platforms that enable people to network in separate community groups, from the same, single, place (like Google+) will explode in 2014.
Prediction 10: Social media to enable B2B selling.
Social media is already perceived as adding value to the sales cycle and being a great tool for sales staff to influence their contacts and prospective buyers. In 2014, social media networks and amplification/ syndication platforms will further support the selling process by enabling direct/ indirect sales teams to generate and capture business leads via social media. Brands will be able to issue promotional vouchers and buyers will be able to redeem these online or in shops. Whilst this is already happening in B2C, 2014 will be the year where social media becomes a B2B selling tool.
Prediction: Selling via social media to become a reality for B2B in 2014.
Prediction 11: More analytics across all social media platforms.
With social media marketing forming an ever larger slice of the marketing budget pie, social media networks are going to have to offer ever-increasing amounts of standard analytics in order to retain activity on their network from B2B users. Things like language-based aggregation tools are already becoming integrated in networks, where in the past were provided outside the network independently.
Prediction: 2014 will see a massive change and improvement in the type of analytics offered as standard by the major social media networks, including language-based aggregation analytics.