Social Media: Reinventing the rules for B2B players by Hari V. Krishnan

Hari V Krishnan is Country Manager, LinkedIn India. This article is originally a part of the IndiaSocial CaseBook 1 featuring over 22 Social Media case studies in India. Click here to download your copy.

To understand the way in which social media is fundamentally altering the way in which B2B marketers operate, we need to first examine the evolution of the internet from an essentially open world wide web to a connected but distinct group of “walled gardens”.

While the open web provided an ideal platform for ubiquitous information access and proliferation, it also built up the need for closed forums where like-minded individuals could focus more on the quality dimension of content sharing and creation. Forums such as LinkedIn Groups have resulted in incredible value creation opportunities for marketers and in particular B2B marketers.

Traditionally, B2B organizations have relied on trade publications and events to engage with stakeholders to drive business development and customer engagement efforts. The emphasis has always been on a controlled, quality experience with the implicit need for these platforms to help them scale of course. They have traditionally shied away from the large scale “Above the line” marketing channels and used them more for over-arching branding needs.

For these B2B marketers, platforms which provide a controlled quality experience while still achieving massive scale can be the perfect solution. It is therefore no surprise that social media has proven to be wildly popular in the more developed economies for B2B marketers. In India too, early signs are promising.

According to a recent survey, 2 out of every 5 companies globally have successfully used professional social networks to find and acquire new customers. In India, 52% of the respondents claimed new customer acquisitions through social media. In addition to these findings, the importance of content is visible from the 64% of respondents, who have audio or visual animations on their company’s profile.

B2B marketing spending on social networking sites is predicted to rise 43.3% in 2010 with 39.2% of B2B marketers say they plan to boost their marketing budgets in 2010. As B2B marketers begin to increase online marketing spends, a full 60.3% plan increased spends on social media.

The ability of social media platforms to reach out to and engage with stakeholders irrespective of geographic barriers can create a multitude of opportunities for the B2B industry. In an eMarketer article it was found that 45% of North American B2B companies have acquired a customer from LinkedIn after using it for marketing. In India too, social media platforms have enabled businessmen to find partners in international markets to source and sell products. Rajeev Gangal, a LinkedIn member wanted to know what professionals in the niche molecular discovery field, pay for an insilico physio-chemical property lead optimization service. An activity like this would have been near impossible for him using traditional channels and the cost would have been significant. Instead, he activated a poll on LinkedIn asking fellow professionals for their insights. This helped him decide the right price for his service for a nominal cost, while also providing him with an attractive list of “warm leads”.

So how can B2B professionals benefit from social media platforms? For one, the core of social media platforms is about creating engagement opportunities for members, whether it is in a social or a professional setting. Whether it is LinkedIn , Twitter or B2B marketplace AliBaba.com, as a professional seeking to showcase market expertise, it is essential to engage with fellow users and showcase thought leadership where possible. As users post queries and seek advice, your response can be seen and valued as having knowledge about your industry. Engaging in forums and groups by asking and answering queries will fuel professional growth but also helps develop yoru sphere of influence. Some of the most valuable business insights can be gleaned through engaging in these forums.

Apart from sharing insights, social media platforms can be used to drive business development efforts. This is evident from the fund raising activity conducted by Viedea Capital Advisors who first looked to LinkedIn when they needed to find investors for a Mumbai based digital media firm. With the help of LinkedIn’s network, they identified investors from Europe for the media firm while sitting in their office in Bangalore. Today they use LinkedIn to drive more than 50% of their business development efforts.

As a B2B professional looking to establish your expertise on a social media platform, content can play a large role in driving your company image. High-impact and shareable content can help establish you as a leader among peers. The high impact of multimedia coupled with the multiplier nature of social media, allows simple webinars and podcasts to take your message to a large audience in a cost-effective manner. Your content needs to be relevant since B2B professionals comprise of niche audiences. File sharing services like Box.net or Huddle-Space when integrated with your LinkedIn account enables you to share white papers and presentations highlighting your proficiency in a particular subject and showcase thought leadership.

As social media usage in India increases, the potential of this platform will only grow. As B2B professionals continue to increase their presence and engagement levels, we believe the online channel will help create a phase of scalable, sustained growth for them in India.

Note: Views of authors are personal, and do not represent views of IndiaSocial or its partners.

  • http://sminorgs.net Courtney Hunt

    I agree with your perspective, Hari. You and your readers may be interested in a white paper I wrote that provides additional food for thought for BtoB enterprises. It’s called “Trickle-Up Socialnomics: Leveraging Social Media in the BtoB Context” and can be accessed via http://tiny.cc/TUSpaper.

    Courtney Hunt
    Founder, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community