We recently came across a good article in Chief Marketer that focused on an IBM initiative to use social media with inside sales teams. This got us thinking – -does social media really work in B2B markets?

From Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, companies everywhere are using and experimenting with social media. There has been an explosion in use by individuals across the globe. Companies that are consumer facing are continually monitoring and using social media tools and platforms to interact with their clients and prospects. However, on the B2B side, it is not clear if there are many companies putting all this into practice – never mind many success stories.

Think of the B2B sales challenge where (typically) major accounts are assigned to individual account managers and teams. All of those have quotas and in most cases they look to marketing to bring leads. It is doubtful the sales/account teams will be engaging in social media save for finding new contacts at these key accounts. At the same time, the company marketing forces may be developing and posting content and counting followers which is all great but may not be that helpful for the major account sales activity.  A smaller firm or one without an enterprise effort may well find their social media activities useful in getting attention and in the door.  It really comes down to the objectives of the firm for sales and marketing — who has account control for the major accounts.

The challenge of using social media gets more difficult today outside the US.  Consider these stats from our Global 5000 database.  For each company in the database, we look at the number of employees and the number that have a LinkedIn profile as one measure of social media use.  The data below shows % of employees on LinkedIn for Global 5000 companies by region.

  • North America – 17.4%
  • South America – 5.1%
  • Europe – 9.4%
  • Asia Pac – 2.7%
  • Middle east/Africa – 5.5%

The bottom line here — social media is exciting and has lots of potential, but for reaching out and selling to large, Global companies … not yet.