Social Proof’s Role In B2B Social Business

(source: Brian Solis)

Social proof is a concept in psychology that suggests people look to their peers to inform decisions that they make. The higher the risk or uncertainty, the more important evidence from your peers will be in making your decision. In a virtual environment, forums and review sites may be a part of your decision making process, but the people in your social graph and peers are likely to have the biggest impact.

If you’ve ever gone through the process of making a big purchase such as a car or home, you likely went through the process of researching online, thumbing through reviews, and of course asking your friends and family for guidance. This is where the marketing piece of social business comes into play.

The idea behind social business is integrating your customer base into different aspects of the business. In my mind, the most compelling opportunity for social business lies in product development, support, marketing, and intelligence. In this post, I’m going to give a couple pointers on just one of those pillars for social business: marketing.

Missing Opportunities To Utilize Social Proof

(source: David Brum)

A common mistake I see occur in B2B environments is the misuse of social channels as a means to drive end actions. By “end actions” I mean event registrations, whitepaper downloads, case study views, webinars and so on that generate leads and move prospects closer to purchase. The common approach most marketers take is pushing out a few tweets that look something like this:

“Join X product tomorrow for our webinar on solving for business issue Y #business”

This approach requires multiple tweets or posts at optimal times. Unfortunately, tweets like this one come up a little short for a few reasons:

  •  Each time sensitive tweet or post displaces other short form content that could be doing more to energize your followers and reach your target audience
  • Doing this for every webinar, event, etc. might be of value to a certain segment of your audience, but ultimately a large chunk of your following sees it as noise.
  • This message isn’t optimized for social. In other words, it doesn’t do much to sharing among peers within your target audience.

In general, tweeting or posting on Facebook, to generate demand for anything that is intended for prospects, not only looks like spam, it’s also reaching an audience that has likely already purchased what you’re selling. A study by Chadwick Martin Bailey estimated that 64% of followers are current customers. Prospects may be following your brand for a variety of reasons that are important to understand. That said, once you take into consideration the number of followers that are either partners, current customers, employees or inactive, it becomes clear that the amount of qualified prospects you drive to commit an “end action” doesn’t make up for the potential damage you’re doing to your social presence.

Activating Advocates & Fans

Despite the fact more than 3 of every 5 of your followers are likely to be current customers, utilizing social as an element of your loyalty program or customer service under-utilizes the value of an energized community. The same study by Chadwick Martin Bailey also revealed that 60% of customers that follow a brand on Facebook or Twitter are likely to recommend the product to friends or peers.

The key is to motivate and enable those fans, advocates, and partners to share your brand’s story with their audience. To do that you have to generate content that taps into your audience’s motivation for sharing in a way that jives with your product.

Coca Cola does a great job at posting content on their Facebook page that does just that. If you take the time to check out it’s Facebook page you’ll see a flurry of images that aim to tap into it’s customer’s emotions or motivation to share things they feel represent how they want to be perceived (notice I didn’t say “represent who they are”).

Accomplishing the same goal is more challenging in a B2B environment, but the same concepts hold. The only issue is that B2B is slower to adopt & adapt best practices because the connection between social and revenue can be hard to track, but it’s there. Whether the customer is an owner of a small business, the CIO of a Fortune 100 firm, or an IT admin at your company, they all look to their peers during time of uncertainty to inform their decisions. You just have to give your customers the right tools to signal that choosing your brand was a decision they would make again, even if that message is delivered by a ‘Like’ on a photo you shared.


2 thoughts on “Social Proof’s Role In B2B Social Business

  1. Interesting thoughts about using social media for lead generation Nick. I’ll guess I have to follow up later on this one as I am currently using HubSpot which does exactly what you are preaching not to do haha.

    • thanks for the comment, Alonso! Let me know how that goes. I haven’t had experience using HubSpot so I can’t really speak to their solutions so I’m anxious to hear how much value they bring to your biz.

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