Getting social in B2B: 58% recall B2B messaging for their chosen brand on Facebook

Social media grows in importance for B2B marketing and communications as research reveals that three-quarters of millennials use social media for work purposes at least once a week, but other generations are cashing in on the trend.

Millennial decision makers in B2B markets rate social media as their top communication channel, with almost a clean sweep of respondents to a new survey claiming they use social media for work.

The research by B2B International, part of Merkle B2B, found that 94% of millennials stated that they used social media for work, with over three-quarters of respondents doing so at least once a week.

However, across all age groups, 85% of the more than 3,500 decision makers questioned for the research use at least one form of social media for work, with 59% doing this weekly.

Linkedin is the most used social media platform (62% of those surveyed) followed by Facebook (54%) and YouTube (53%). But when asked to think back to the B2B marketing they saw from brands they chose to purchase, Facebook had the highest hit, with 58% of respondents stating they saw messaging there, compared to just 38% highlighting Linkedin as the channel where they saw marketing.

The report states that “winning brands were 65% more likely to have communicated to the buyer via social media during the decision-making process than the losing brand”. It added that two-thirds of those surveyed considered the quality of B2B content on social media to be better or at least the same as other types of B2B communication.

Millennial respondents told the survey that their top preference for receiving B2B communications was social media, followed by rep visits and videos. Conversely, Baby Boomers preferred personalised meetings with reps followed by events, webinars and reports. Whitepapers and infographics topped the communication preferences for Generation X decision makers.

Branding is the number one strategy for B2B marketers

The research also reveals that brand building and positioning has become the number one strategy for businesses this year, ousting customer experience (CX) from its 2019 and 2020 top spot, though this remains second in strategic thinking.

B2B International concludes that the rise of millennial generation decision makers in the workplace alongside the importance of digital in B2B marketing has been the catalyst for the thrust in branding as a strategic direction. It also revealed that a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) communications has become more pronounced, with one in four of those surveyed saying it is their focus for 2022.

Most triggers to look for a new supplier involved internal circumstances, said the report, with half of respondents citing cost reductions, new business requirements or organisational growth as reasons to switch. However, one in five stated an external reason, including compliance with regulations or keeping up with competitors, and a further 16% said they were encouraged to change suppliers by being approached or targeted by their communications.

Millennials mulling over the purchase

The research found that on average each part of the buyer journey takes “around 2.5 months with various people influencing the decision”. But younger decision makers in Gen Z or millennial age groups take almost 90 days longer to make a decision, as they review a wider range of information sources than their older counterparts. 

On average, decision makers use 10 sources of information ranging from supplier-generated content to public content including reviews, news articles and social media and industry sources. B2B International highlighted that one in five mentioned events and webinars as a source, though this, in its view, is likely to look very different with younger generations preferring online events and the majority of respondents preferring a hybrid approach.

Going ‘full funnel’

The report recommends a ‘full funnel’ approach for B2B marketers, which sees brands succeed when they interact across a number of channels, and with more personalised contact. Emails, web search and direct approaches from reps were the most mentioned types of communications by those surveyed.

But social media and online advertising charted just outside the top five of most mentioned communication types – ahead of ‘traditional’ B2B methods such as publications, industry events, webinars and sponsorship.

The report concludes: “Winning brands are successful because they understand the ‘full funnel’ approach to marketing along with ensuring their messaging resonates with their brand position. Successful brands not only need to meet the business needs but also the buyers’ needs with ESG and brand purpose being key factors when choosing a brand with whom to do business."