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May 19, 2010

Is it Time for B2B Marketers to Give Facebook Another Look? 3 Trends to Consider

SUMMARY: Facebook doesn’t play a big role in most B2B marketers’ social strategy. Instead, blogs, Twitter or professional networks like LinkedIn command the most attention. But this may be changing.

Read three trends that might make B2B marketers revisit Facebook as a potential channel in their social marketing mix.
by Sean Donahue, Editor

B2B marketers who have embraced social marketing in recent years have focused on channels where their prospects congregate. Typically, this has meant blogs, Twitter, relevant message boards or professional networks like LinkedIn.

Facebook, on the other hand, hasn’t been as successful a channel. Most of the B2B marketers we’ve interviewed in recent years have said something to the effect of: "My audience isn’t really on Facebook."

But while researching and writing our new Social Marketing ROAD Map Handbook during the past several months, MarketingSherpa Research Director Sergio Balegno saw the social landscape begin to shift.

"If you had asked me one year ago or even six months ago, ‘Should B2B marketers be using Facebook or LinkedIn for social network marketing?’ I would have said, ‘Choose LinkedIn -- it’s where business people are congregating to discuss business issues,’ says Balegno. "Now, the choice isn’t necessarily either/or."

Here are three trends Balegno is watching that could make Facebook potentially more attractive to B2B marketers. Consider these factors and keep an eye on the network’s continued evolution to determine if a Facebook brand page has a place next to your Twitter account, LinkedIn profiles, and other social media efforts.

Trend #1. Size and rapid growth

Facebook topped 400 million users in February 2010 -- more than doubling its user base from the previous year. Facebook watchers expect the network to hit 500 million users in June, representing another 25% increase in just four months.

With so many users already on Facebook and more joining every day, it’s likely that a portion of your customer base and prospect list are participating in the network. And the adoption of social sharing tools, such as buttons that let blog or newsletter readers share content with their social networks, is helping blur the line between the personal and professional on social networks.

Facebook’s recent moves, such as new social plug-ins that let companies place the Facebook "like" button on their own websites, point to a further blurring of person-to-person and person-to-brand interaction.

Trend #2. Discussions are front-and-center

Brand profiles on Facebook offer some nice features for marketers. First, the central "wall" feature highlights new posts and discussions around those posts -- making content and interaction the most prominent features of the page.

By contrast, member interaction is not the always the first thing visitors see when they land on your company’s profile on another network. Discussions on LinkedIn, for example, tend to be separated from brand profile pages and found under sections for industry or brand-specific groups, or topical Q&A.

Facebook wall posts also give you more leeway to talk about your own brand and products without fear of backlash. Such self-promotion is discouraged on LinkedIn groups, for example, which are instead places to exchange ideas and answer questions in a non-promotional way.

Trend #3. Social profiles offer SEO benefits

Adding a Facebook brand page to your stable of marketing assets also can help you capture more links on the first page of a search engine results page.

Search engines will index the relevant keywords and website links that you place in the company description of your Facebook profile. Then, searchers who type in your brand-related keywords are likely to see a host of options among the top ten results -- your homepage, other popular areas of your website, your blog, your Twitter account, your Facebook page, etc.

For example, the accounting firm Freed, Maxick & Battaglia maintains a Facebook profile alongside its Twitter account and LinkedIn profile. A Google search for the phrase "Freed Maxick" returns three links to the company’s website first, then the link to the company’s Facebook profile, then the link to its LinkedIn profile.

We’ll continue researching and reporting on the evolving role of Facebook for B2B marketing during the year. In the meantime, if you’ve got a Case Study or lessons learned to share, please let us know and you could be featured in a future newsletter.

Useful links related to this article

Members Library -- Social Media and SEO: 7 Tactics to Boost Rankings and Generate Links

Members Library -- Lead Gen with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogging - 6 Key Takeaways

Freed Maxick & Battaglia



See Also:

Comments about this Article

May 19, 2010 - Sarah Payson of PostcardMania says:
I agree that Facebook has its own benefits even for B2B marketers but it still can't complete with business centered social networking sites like LinkedIn for two reasons. 1. for prospecting, it is almost impossible to use Facebook as you can't see relevant business information about the person. Most profiles don't even list what company or industry they are in. 2. On LinkedIn, members are there for business reasons only and are much more open to discussing business, where as on Facebook people are there for fun. Facebook still seems like it is most effective from a marketing standpoint for B2C marketers. While we continue to work on it, we still haven't nailed social media for B2B and is hasn't yet been able to touch our PPC and our oldest and most trusted marketing form, direct mail (which never lets us down!).

May 19, 2010 - Chris Hewitt of Lumension says:
Nice article and a great topic for discussion. To me, however, the SEO example given is not the best representation of a potential benefit. It is highlighting an example of a ‘branded’ keyword search. The person executing the search, in all likelihood, has some specific knowledge about that organization. They are actively looking for the company (and it's corporate website) but may not know the domain name. In which case, multiple results aren’t necessarily a good thing; they can potentially fragment and confuse highly relevant visitor traffic (especially if the social media properties are not aligned to the brand message). I believe that the SEO value is still a great point. However, a stronger example might be for a B2B service or product (vs. company name) where different social media properties - like Facebook - can provide a visitor with different, yet valuable perspectives on their area of interest beyond just a 'static' corporate website (e.g. Fan Page dialog among users of B2B software).

May 20, 2010 - Ian Hendry of WeCanDo.BIZ says:
Interesting article but I disagree that Facebook is worth too much time to B2B marketers at this point. It's not about the volume of users on Facebook - which is massive, with some 450 million users now with profiles - but about their willingness to engage with you there. Most people got invited to Facebook by friends and family and use it to keep up with those people, share events, share photos and the like. They don't use Facebook wearing a suit. Ad click rates for B2B brands are low - it's like you're gatecrashing a christening! - and people are just not likely to "like" their account or water cooler supplier as much as they are Prada, Mini, Aston Martin or other consumer/aspirational brands. I think Facebook will come into its own a little more once the whole web is "social" and Facebook is doing its bit to ensure it provides our identity and news feed for the Social Web, but for now I'd point B2B martketers to Twitter instead. Take a look at this video for using Twitter to find sales leads: Ian Hendry CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ

May 20, 2010 - Mike Volpe of HubSpot says:
I have been using Facebook ads for a long time, since they were first available to the public on a CPC basis. B2B marketers often forget that B2B leads are people too, and they do things like use Facebook. Facebook has a lot of targeting, including the ability to target people by what company they work at and their interests, age and geography. So you can screen out many of the audiences unattractive to B2B. I have found that the per click cost on Facebook is 5-10 times lower than on Google AdWords or LinkedIn. The conversion rate is also lower because the traffic quality on Facebook is not as good, however for most campaigns the cost per lead end up being about the same, making Facebook a good channel to use.

May 24, 2010 - Richard Frederick of says:
The problem with Facebook is "guilt by association." Anyone with a teenager (like me) knows that. Facebook, for all of its merits, is TOO SOCIAL for serious business. Until Facebook "carves" off a unique space strictly for B2B, too many professionals won't touch it with a "ten foot pole." Most of the Professionals who I work with are getting really angry that they are having pictures of themselves from purely social settings be "tagged" on Facebook by others who put the pictures online aka "guilt by association." LinkedIn, however, is quite "boring" because it doesn't allow that type of activity, and in business, BORING is Good!! Don't buy the hype on Facebook until Facebook puts in SERIOUS privacy controls (which is probably never) as the company continues to push the edge of what is acceptable.

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