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



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