For B2B decision makers, it's not the social channel but what is being shared or read that influences most

As decision makers begin to look to and use social media for both professional and personal reasons, a marked shift has also occurred in the way B2B decision makers find their information. A recent report by Hotwire and Vanson Bourne notes that as social media is now considered a very important start of any purchasing process, decision makers who are more comfortable with using social media are looking to absorb as much information as possible on channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms. The challenge and the difference today, according to the report, is that it is increasingly less critical which channel the information is coming from or being shared to, but it is more important which or who's content is being shared and considered relevant.

Hotwire logo / Hotwire

The report looked at 1,000 decision makers and stressed a stronger preference today for opinion — and media (including social media) are considered to be an impartial, reliable source of opinion, the report suggests.

It also found that, when asked which social media platform decision makers consult when making purchase decisions, it is clear that they are more concerned with the information they are seeking than what social channel they found it on.

However, when asked which one channel decision maker’s use when seeking information on a purchasing decision, one in four said that Facebook is their social channel of choice. Further, this puts Facebook farther ahead than LinkedIn and Twitter, despite decision makers saying they are using the latter more than ever.

In the course of the research, it was revealed that one reason why more purchasing decisions are made after research or reading on Facebook is that decision makers are on Facebook more often — about 18 days a month, the report suggests. This compares to 13 days per month for LinkedIn and Twitter. This indicates that decision makers look to the channels they are using as part of their daily routine and do not necessarily check entirely new sources for information if they don't have to. It is clear, according to the report, that this pattern will continue to happen more often as time goes on. In fact, 51 per cent of senior marketers and 39 per cent of IT decision makers think they will be making more use of Facebook to help with making purchase decisions in a year's time.

No doubt one reason Facebook may be surging ahead is that it is a very business-friendly platform with new tools like Facebook Live. Facebook’s success as a publishing platform is expanding its reach in the B2B marketing community as well. Because it has the user base, it has the innovation — and its paid targeting ability is unmatched, the research suggests.

Although decision makers go to Facebook first above all other channels, the study found that 70 per cent of marketers still see LinkedIn and Twitter as their "go-to" channels for digital B2B marketing with Facebook coming in fourth. The research found that the power of social media occurs in part because the initial interest or draw to the information is very powerful. Further, the breadth of information comes from relationships that are made on social media channels, making them more relevant because they are posted by people with whom decision makers may have a relationship, feel comfortable or have a rapport.

Additionally, a third of senior marketers will make use of social media in helping to decide on which vendors to shortlist, the research suggests. This means that a marketer’s social media strategy must focus on raising awareness amongst new audiences or provide top-level information on social channels.

While traditional media has struggled in the digital age, it remains highly valued by B2B decision makers, with 87 per cent cited as seeing traditional media as highly important and 71 per cent saying that earned media coverage influences their purchasing decisions.

Additionally, 50 per cent of decision makers surveyed said they would like to see more impartial and independent commentary being issued by vendors to assist with the purchasing process. Further, 75 per cent of marketers and 71 per cent of IT decision makers view small events like seminars and briefings as extremely important. What this means for vendors, the report suggests is, that by sharing more external opinion as part of their overall marketing strategy, they can clear a path for decision makers to identify relevant thought leaders or advocates who can talk about a business and what it's done, either for them or for the industry.

The study shows that decision makers like a more personal feel — and this is where Facebook can become a powerful part of a B2B marketing strategy. It is not a channel to churn out company news, but instead can become a key distribution point for case studies, earned media coverage and third party endorsements. Finally, because the report reflects that decision makers increasingly opt for Facebook as their sole social media source of information, a brand that isn't using Facebook is missing an opportunity to engage directly with existing or future vendors, customers, and clients.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.