When it comes to social media’s role in business-to-business operations, the research is conflicting. One recent report from business research firm CEB declared social media as “an untapped gold mine” for B2B sellers and marketers. LinkedIn, the world’s leading B2B social media platform, announced the launch of the LinkedIn Lead Accelerator to aid B2B sellers and suppliers in their migration online, hinting at a new industry push for suppliers to start targeting potential buyers through social media. A separate study released by Content Marketing Institute revealed that 91 percent of B2B sellers use LinkedIn to distribute content about their products and services in hopes of attracting sales.
But this encouragement for B2B sellers to nab new business through social media platforms could be misguided, according to one new study released by KoMarketing and BuyerZone.
The firms published a new report on B2B Web usability this week and revealed that blogs and social media sites are rarely B2B buyers’ first point of contact in researching and procuring products. According to a survey of 262 B2B buyers that do their purchasing online, just 12 percent said a blog aided in their search for suppliers. More than one-third (34 percent) said a blog is of no use at all in this research.
When it comes to social media, less than one-fifth of respondents said the platform is useful in discovering vendors, while 38 percent said social media is not helpful at all.
And it’s not just the area of vendor research in which social media and blogs come up short for B2B buyers, as only 18 percent said blogs help establish the credibility of a supplier, and even fewer (10 percent) said social media does so. Nearly half of respondents said that a seller’s blog or social media presence does not factor into procurement decisions whatsoever.
The research shows that less than 20 percent of B2B online buyers agree that blogs and social media are helpful in discovering new suppliers, suggesting that suppliers’ efforts to promote their products and services through these channels may be a grave misappropriation of resources.
Instead, sellers should be focusing on improving their own websites, KoMarketing and BuyerZone’s research suggests. Procurement officials are targeting suppliers’ websites now more than ever, but, according to the most recent survey, more than half of B2B buyers said that contact info – basic, but crucial to include on vendor websites – is most often missing on supplier homepages.
A slew of research shows that buyers are digitizing their procurement efforts, but crave an improved user experience on vendor websites, and are actually shunning social media in their purchasing journey. Buyers have been vocal regarding their concerns of being flooded with supplier advertisements on blogs and social media platforms. A research study by Acquity Group also found that while buyers prefer to procure through a vendor website, 35 percent of procurement officials surveyed have abandoned an online shopping cart because a webpage did not load properly, while others cited a confusing checkout process.
These findings present a troubling picture when presented in the context of other research that shows how suppliers are focusing their growth efforts on social media, not on their own websites.
According to Forrester Research, for example, 51 percent of B2B marketers said their social media spending is expected to increase in 2015, despite another study by CMO that revealed that 45 percent of these marketers have not yet seen how social media impacts their business. KoMarketing and BuyerZone’s latest report seems to provide even more evidence that suppliers are misguided in their social media investments, and perhaps should listen a bit more closely to what their customers want.